Thursday, December 1, 2016

At the Rex

I went over to the Rex Hotel on Queen St. last night to catch the early set (the Allison Au Trio + 1).  There have been a few times I saw a group on the calendar that I wanted to catch, but invariably it was for a 9:30 show, and I just am not interested any longer in staying out that late.  I'm not sure they ever got a lot of major acts (10 or more years before), but now it is fairly rare, and the focus is certainly on local acts.  That said, I enjoyed it.  There was no cover and no hassle about a 2 drink minimum (I just ordered some decent quesadillas), and I was able to sit quite close to the small stage.  Allison's group was quite good, though I only stayed for the first set.  I might go back from time to time, though it probably is best not to have one's expectations set too high, particularly for the groups that get the 6:30 slot.

One thing that I like about jazz clubs with actual tables is I can haul out a notebook and write (the music helps me get those creative juices flowing).  Last night, I was able to write out almost all of the ending of The Study Group, so I have the first quarter and last few pages done now, which is a good feeling.  I'm still having a bit of trouble deciding how to recover from the Back to the Future gag.  And also whether this should unfold "in real time" or should I put in a break to allow for the passage of time.  If they are supposed to be studying all afternoon, how can this be accomplished in an hour (or even 70 minutes) of  stage time?  I can't think of any natural break, at least not right now.  Maybe one will reveal itself as I write the middle bit.

I don't know if it is possible to SPOIL an unwritten play that may never be produced, but if you don't like endings being revealed, then turn away.

I'm fairly happy with the second-to-last part.  The math whiz, Kim, had sort of tentatively been coming out of her shell to Trevor, the science geek, and was hinting that maybe she would like to go to Prom with him (she's pretty awkward and may not even be fully aware of what she is doing).  He says he has to study for A.P. chemistry test and can't be distracted.  This sort of happened to me in reverse.  I was sort of dating a girl my Junior year and did ask if she wanted to go to the Prom, but she blew me off with that excuse.  I was also taking the AP exam (and scored quite well), but I didn't think it required my whole attention.

Anyway, as the play is winding down, one of the regular kids encourages Trevor to hang out with Kim, since he is pretty sure she likes him.  Trevor is paralyzed between thinking that they are making fun of him (setting him up and having a huge laugh when she rejects him) and the possibility that it might be true.  This also happened to me with a guy I knew a little said that this high school Senior thought I was kind of cute.  I never got the nerve to really probe if it was true.  Now it didn't help that I wasn't in any classes with her at all, and I had absolutely no interactions with her, so there was no obvious reason why she would even have known who I was.  It definitely felt like a set up.  I still remember that I was out with my mom, towards the end of the school year, and we ran into this girl and her friends in a donut shop, and I was feeling totally humiliated (at this point I could drive myself).  Note to self: it doesn't take a lot to upset teenagers with all those hormones rushing around and I might try to squeeze a bit more of that into the play.  I doubt that I would actually have managed to talk to her with her friends around, but it felt like a missed opportunity.  So I am giving Trevor the shot at redemption I didn't get (or take).

But after this, Will (who has been a bit annoying throughout the play, feuding with his ex-girlfriend) gets a fairly brutal put down and finds out that his friend (or someone he considered a friend) is taking his ex to the Prom.  I'm thinking about leaving him alone in the basement and then having the lights go out, as a particularly stark reminder of how it can feel to be on the short end of the stick when it comes to childhood cliques.  On the other hand, the tone overall has been fairly light, even with minor currents of aggression surfacing throughout, so maybe it would be a better ending if they relent and ask him along to go to the movies.  I honestly can't tell, so this might be something to take to a workshop, like the Toronto Cold Reads folks.  If you have an opinion whether I should go with the darker ending or the softer ending, feel free to comment on this post.  Thanks!

Edit (12/2): I think I have come up with a way to have my cake and eat it too (to borrow from a term much loved by Boris Johnson).  Early on in the play, I introduce an 8-sided die (the singular form of dice) from Dungeons & Dragons (quite popular in the 1980s) and they pretend to use it during the play (the die rolls are fixed in the script).  I am thinking that Will rolls the die for real (as a saving throw) and announces what the actual number is.  There are a variety of ways to do this, but I am leaning towards 1-5 leaving Will in the basement alone, 6 means a couple of his friends come back and ask him to go to the movies, 7 means Kim comes back and he offers to coach her in English grammar (it's implied that he will make a move on her, but it is left open ended) and 8 means that another friend comes by and wonders if Will is interested in going to the Prom with his cousin.  I could adjust these settings or even add yet one more outcome, but I think leaving it up to chance it somewhat satisfying.  It could be considered a bit of a tribute to John Cage, though Cage would probably have make large chunks of the play dependent upon the roll of a die, but I think that would be too much of a challenge, particularly for younger actors.  (I have seen this done occasionally (and I really should have gone to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind when I lived in Chicago, since it follows these principles), but it puts too much focus on the gimmick as it were.)  Anyway, any thoughts on this approach are also welcome.

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