Friday, September 05, 2014

Writing My First Full-Length Theatre Script

To clarify, it really isn't my "first," but the first one that may just hit the theatre stage. In the late-90s, I wrote one full-length piece as an entry to a script contest in Singapore. But that didn't get in--it was horrrrrrrible.

This new piece, which I just submitted to the producers for initial review, is the full-length musical adaptation of my one-act play, "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady," translated as "How I Became Leading Lady." The one-act was well-received when it premiered in last year's Virgin Labfest, meriting a restaging last June. I was approached by one set of producers for a full-length version, but that didn't push through. Then another set of producers came knocking, and it looks like things are moving forward.

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" is about a maid hired by a superhero team, which might remind you of a sketch performed many, many years ago by Fil-Am stand-up comedian Rex Navarete. His take on the concept, "Maritess and the Superfriends" is too hilarious for words, but there's no basis to compare his work and mine.

How I Expanded the One-Act Play

When I write a story, I like to place a lot of layers. Mostly inconsequential nuggets that don't figure much into the plot, but add some depth, some color, some nuance to the overall story experience. And it is through these nuggets that I placed in the original one-act that I was able to draw out a bigger plot, with the one-act sitting neatly post-midpoint.

So all those nuggets ended up as clues to the past, and the result of mining and processing all that info became fodder for what happens in the future.

Stories Don't End

I think it was Robert McKee or Alan Moore from whom I first heard this principle. A story is the entire continuum of existence, from birth to death. A plot is a section of that whole story that's worthy of exploring as a dramatic narrative. So if the "story" covers the events of a teenager's experience in high school, a plot could zero in on an event or string of events where, as one film director put it, "something goes wrong," with the teenager going on an "adventure" to fix it. All those other parts of the story, those times when the teenager's asleep and dreams of hamburger-eating cats and other minutiae, are no longer important to the plot. (Unless, of course, those dreams actually affect the character's circumstances and/or choices.)

For the "Leading Lady" musical, it was finding the story where the plot of the one-act could fit in.

My Language Extra Challenge

I'm more comfy writing in English. I think in English, mostly. (My editor confirms that.)  Writing the Zsazsa Zaturnnah stories required double my brain power just to get the tone, syntax, and vocabulary right. It's no different with the "Leading Lady" script. You could say my choice of having the superheroes speak in English was deliberate, only because it was easier for me. In the full-length script, I had to write a whole superhero team's dialogue in English. That was fun. But when it came to the Filipino side, well... I was pulling at every nose hair I had, to the point that I was running out of vocabulary. It didn't help that this is a multi-character story, so most of the characters had to have their individual tone and rhythm of speech. But I think I nailed it (stress on "think"). Anyway, it's a first draft, 120 pages long, which I hope will go through proper iterations.


Auditions are set for the 15th, and already I've received word that a lot of the invited actors will be trying out. I'm getting anxiety attacks, especially when I think about the names that had been tossed around.  The producers tapped Vince deJesus as musical director, as well as for music and lyrics. I hope to get valuable input from him on what I've done with the script, as far as the song placements and messages are concerned. He's won awards doing this kind of thing, so it's a great opportunity to learn from the best.

And director Chris Martinez will be at the auditions, too. What he did with the one-act play was mind-blowing, so I hope he'll like the full-length script. He's also one of the best in the business, and I'm looking forward to picking up a few tips.

I don't know if the original actors will be there. Kiki Baento, Skyzx Labasstilla, and Hans Eckstein were all wonderful in their roles. I'd be sad if for any reason they couldn't be part of this.

But those are things to worry about some other time. Right now, I can continue drawing more pages for "Zaturnnah sa Maynila." That's another lovely monster I don't mind tackling.

- - - - - - - - - - -

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical" is scheduled to open in the 2nd quarter of 2015. Direction by Chris Martinez. Musical Direction, Music and Lyrics by Vince deJesus. The cast and other principal creatives, venue, playdates, and showbuying info TBA.

Oh, and the comic book adaptation of the one-act play is still available at major Philippine bookstores. Thanks so much for your support!

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