less artsy, more fartsy

THE SINGULARITY, my play featuring dark matter, is getting its first production this fall. Science Fiction Theatre Company is producing the show for a three-week run, September 19 through October 5. And now I have a great excuse to go to Boston. Cannot wait.

The production came to me in a roundabout way. This theatre isn’t one of the dozens I’ve sent the script to in hopes it might float to the top of someone’s slush pile. Instead, they reached out to me after hearing about the play from an, as yet, unnamed source. Funny how that works.

Now that THE SINGULARITY has an upcoming production, I’m revisiting a comment an actor made after the Great Plains Theatre Conference last year. She told me she didn’t like the title. “Hated it,” was actually the phrase she used. I expected feedback on every page of the play except the title page, so I was a little surprised. I filed the comment away for later dissection. Here we are.

The most useful feedback from that conference came from one of my peer playwrights after my reading: “You had a lot of obvious jokes in there, but somehow you made them work.” I think he meant it as a compliment, or perhaps was damning me with faint praise, but either way it grabbed my attention. And the first thing I did when I got home was go back through the script and try to kill every line that might have been obvious or the result of lazy writing. There were more than I care to admit. They’re dead now (I don’t save old drafts).

So we’re back to the comment about the title. There are many definitions of singularity.

  • a point where a measured variable reaches unmeasurable or infinite value
  • a point in space-time at which gravitational forces cause matter to have infinite density and infinitesimal volume, and space and time to become infinitely distorted
  • the mathematical representation of a black hole
  • the quality of being strange or odd; the state of being singular

You can apply each of those definitions to the content of the play, directly or indirectly. So the title fits. But maybe it’s not very marketable. I spend my day writing marketing copy. I understand the importance of leading with something strong that captures the imagination. You know, something catchy like THE GAY NAKED PLAY.

I could change it to THE DAY MY UTERUS EXPLODED or WHAM BAM BIG BANG, and maybe that would make someone at the local alt-weekly chuckle and ask for an interview. That’s why the Houston Press interviewed me when I did a show called IN A JAR…AT THE SMITHSONIAN. And I delivered, letting them know it was a reference to the urban legend about John Dillinger’s penis. Which is funny and all that, but I guess I don’t want to make the title of this particular play something that would look good on a t-shirt.

I’ve seen plays where the only clever writing was in the title and not in the script. I don’t fall for that anymore. I base my play selections on 1. trusting a specific theatre company to put on shows I want to see, 2. going to things my friends recommend and 3. seeing productions written by/featuring people I know.

I realize not everyone uses the same criteria, and maybe I need to keep that in mind going forward. Maybe I need to pay attention to new play conversations happening in the field that always seem to mention the importance of a catchy title. But I’m not making a retroactive change.

The title stands.


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