ON STAGE, The Drama, The Music

October 30, 2008 at 11:35 pm (Uncategorized)


Queen Olympias on Ancient Coin

Queen Olympias on Ancient Coin

OLYMPIAS

Queen of Macedon

Mother of Alexander the Great

Grand Theatre

Olympias, Script of the Libretto & Drama

Composer: Malcolm J. Hill — Librettist John F. Deethardt

The musical composition for the chamber opera, Olympias, and the grand opera, Chauvin, are by Malcolm J. Hill, of Bath, England. He is currently on the graduate faculty of the University of London, formerly of the Royal College of Music for many years.)

“Human life, which is above all the mystery of undeserved suffering.”

(Edith Hamilton)

OLYMPIAS

Olympias is an original, full-length, and unproduced drama of the mother of Alexander the Great. The 2004 Olympics in Athens made much of the ancient athletic arena called Olympia. Her husband Philip had won a chariot racing event there; he was so elated he changed the name of his queen.

She is the historical character of heroic ancestry —there are two traditions in regard to her character, one hostile and one friendly. Of Olympias, Alexander once said, she charged pretty high rent for the nine months’ lodging she had given him. I have some empathy for her situation.

The play has two acts over seven scenes and an epilog, is set in the years following 316 B.C., and plays within the composite setting of an ancient Greek amphitheater.

Getting into her shoes brought me great amusement; I wasn’t as hard on the lady as later writers have been. She gets stoned at last, and I don’t mean from the unmulled wine she drank profusely, but she does show a little twitch of dignity for a moment before the lights go out. In the end, I see her somewhat as a victim of the times, as much as of her own arrogance. Pity. Terror. Awe.

Read the complete text of the drama written for the opera and the theater stage, to be found on the list of pages on the right side of the screen.

Act I, Scene 1, Bacchantes & Satyrs
Act I, Scene 2, Antipater

Act I, Scene 3, Love

Act I, Scene 4, Murderous Olympias

Act II, Scene 5, Under Siege

Act II, Scene 6, The Siege Is Broken

Act II, Scene 7, Death

Epilogos, Scene 8

Why put the script on the WWW?

I asked a web-based group of playwrights to visit my web site and tell me what I do not seem to know as judged by what they can see there. I needed to know if it was a presentation effective enough to get some serious interest in producing the plays I have written. I have had many visitors, but no interest in anything but material there not germane to my purpose.

These are the comments that have convinced me to put up the scripts.

The first puts it in a nutshell.

(She is a renowned movie actress.)

“Well, I couldn’t see anything particularly wrong with the site myself. But I wonder if this is the best way to try to bring your work to the attention of potential producers/directors. Why are playwrights so scared of making their work available for reading? Do they really believe that there are a bunch of evil folk out there who will steal their ideas or produce their plays without acknowledgement?”

More Comments

“There’s nothing wrong with the info or design of your site. It is advertizing, though, and for a very specialized product. I don’t believe that the very tiny % of people interested in such info ever surf the Net looking for it. Full length plays for production, operas? An historical subject with a cast of 32, plus supers and walk-ons? Only a huge– and likely hugely subsidized— theatre could even consider such a project! I’ve seen exactly two such productions in my long life– Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” and Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”, both at London’s Royal National.

“I write ambitious plays too, and b/c I am also an older writer and no longer cherish the hope that I will attain the haven/heaven of production as a natural part of the cream-rises-to- the-top “process”–

whatever the hell that process may be– if there even IS one– I have put my scripts on my web site, Stagepage.info. The full scripts, not just a description of them. Over a couple of years, a few hundred people have stayed on the site/page long enough to read each of my full length plays. I consider the probability that any of those people who’ve been interested enough to read through one of my scripts is also in a position to produce it to be, essentially, nil. (Emphasis added by me, JD.)

“Producers are constantly bombarded with scripts by colleagues, friends, and agents–why would they bother with mine? So why put them on a web site? Because some eager readers are better than reluctant readers or no readers at all.

“I find it a humiliating chore to package up a script with a cover letter and resume and send it off with an SASE and possibly a reading fee to be opened by someone who is likely to see the envelope and think, ‘O, shit, another damn script to get through.’ I take pleasure in imagining young people stumbling onto my scripts on the web and reading them for aesthetic pleasure and not because it is their duty or their paid position.

“In our vanishing-subsidy theatre, the payment for the overburdened but dutiful script readers increasingly comes from playwrights desperate to be read, eager to maintain some semblance of a “process” and the hope that is based on it. I prefer to pay for a web site.

The real and practical use of my web site is that high school and college kids, who are more comfortable using their computers than the library, discover my posted monologues and short one act plays and perform them– usually as part of their classroom work. They don’t give a hoot who the author is, and they certainly don’t expect to negotiate a contract or pay me royalties.

“Sometimes they write and tell me how much they enjoyed doing the play, or how they got a lot of laughs or a good grade with the monologue. Sometimes they even ask for formal permission to produce a one act in a school/college festival of some sort and we actually execute a simple contract and I get paid a few bucks. Sometimes they write and say they were moved and inspired– that my words have changed their lives.

“Who knows? Maybe one of these kids is a genius director and/or a brilliant producer, and will produce my big ambitious plays some day when s/he grows up. By then they will have learned about authors and copyright and permission and contracts– all that is on my site, too–it’s just not what the kids are looking for when they stumble in.

“It seems to me that however unlikely a source of production the web is, it is still more promising than the SASE slush pile. 1000 visitors come to Stagepage per day during the school year, and about 1/3 of these stay long enough to read a monologue or short play.”
G.L. Horton, playwright
Newton, MA

My Response to Them:

What a wonderful rationale, from the voice of experience. There is a certain giving in and giving up, defeatist feeling that I have resisted mightily. Your comments are right for me and my situation. If I have confidence in the quality of my work, then I should submit the original material for perusal and expect my confidence to be justified. I have that theatre in my head, and the action I have written amuses me as it is portrayed on that stage, and I believe it would amuse others. But it would be magnificent to see it on hard, wooden boards.

Oh, well, what do I care, now that I have a fore-shortened future. I, too, would rather have readers than the nothing I’ve had. They really are monsters to stage in these tight times even though I have cut them down a bit. They’d probably be better for the cinema or opera stage anyhow. But now I hope to have a few readers. Thank you for your critiques.

Another response from the group

“I was sent this link yesterday by one of the playwrights who has plays up on ProPlay, the site I run:
http://www.twinbeachplayers.org/auditions.htm
“As you’ll see, they found four of the six plays they’re producing in their One Act Festival at ProPlay. Now, this is a small and, I’m supposing, non-professional company, so none of the playwrights are going to get rich or famous (yet). But they will all get a royalty of some kind, and their plays will have continued life. A play of mine is being produced in Los Angeles in Oct./Nov., again because the producer found it on ProPlay.

“That too is a smallish, Equity waiver production, but I’m still pleased as hell about it. And, while I agree that major LORT or PACT productions are less likely to happen this way, I don’t agree that it’s *that* unlikely. One of my plays received productions at three major houses simply on the strength of actors passing on the script to the artistic director. The web is an excellent way to get your script to actors and others in a position to do the same thing. I also know that having the script online expedited the production of another of my plays at another major house: the artistic director saw a reading of it, had his literary manager pull it off the web a few days later and read it (note: I didn’t have to do the print out and mail a copy thing — wheeee!), and it was in their season a few weeks after that.

“The convenience factor is not to be underestimated: if I’m in a strange city and want to pass on one of my scripts to someone, I can pull a copy off the Web just like that. (Mind you, I have my scripts print-enabled on ProPlay; other writers choose to make them readable onscreen only). Last time I did a reading, I didn’t have time to get the scripts together before I left home, but it didn’t matter: when I got to the city where I was reading, I just printed off the four or five pages I needed from the Web, and I was set. (I didn’t have to lug a whole bunch of scripts home, either.)

“It seems to me that revenue from traditional publishing is a factor for only a handful of very high-profile playwrights. The small amount I might be losing by making the scripts availble on the Web for free (including the ones that are traditionally published) isn’t worth considering. The real money for most of us is in production royalties. And schools and universities still tend to buy the traditionally published version when an instructor puts in on a course reading list, anyway (though knowing how poor many of my own university students are, it doesn’t bother me at all that other students out there might be saving a few bucks by accessing the play on the web).

“The ‘but what if my ideas get stolen?’ argument doesn’t wash for me. Presumably most playwrights would be quite happy to have their plays published the traditional way, and then — guess what? — they end up on a library shelf where they can be had for free (and photocopied for not much). I don’t see any significant difference between that and having the play available on the Web — except, of course, that it is liable to be read by oodles more people the latter way. If that increases the risk of infringement, it also increases the opportunities for productions.

“The traditional method of play publishing tends to favour a small minority of playwrights, most of them in theatrical metropolises. For the rest of us, the Web is a healthy and in most ways superior alternative. Or so it seems to me.”

Bottom Line

So — HELLO OUT THERE — ANYBODY LISTENING? — Nah! Reality has set in. Hope is a self-indulgent fantasy. Here I am (JFD, author of this web site and bog–oops!–blog), convinced that my work may be read by two people out of the 6,000,000,000 people on earth and at least one of the two will not be a crook who will steal my intellectual property. Here are the plays-librettos, in all their gory–oops!–glory.

I think I am a good writer. I like what I read

when I read my own words. I amuse me very well.
I get my kicks seeing my material in HTML print with a nice, beautiful skin (not wrinkly like mine). Lotsa work, but fun. And I keep my elderly brain alive.

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