Wednesday, January 04, 2017

History of a Play: Pretty Theft




Pretty Theft

I wrote it in 2004/2005. It was the first play I wrote after my grad school thesis play (Nerve) at Columbia. I took a class with Chuck Mee at the Flea and we were supposed to write plays about Joseph Cornell and steal each others' dialogue to create our plays. He ended up using some of the class' work in his Cornell play including some of my wife's writing. I used the class more as an inspiration. I didn't steal any dialogue but I took images from the class. Cornell was obsessed with ballerinas and created what are known as Cornell Boxes. Boxes and ballerinas both found their way into my play. And I took the name Allegra from an Allegra Kent quote Heidi Schreck brought in and I took the name Joe from Cornell and probably a lot from my wife Kristen Palmer.

I applied to Juilliard with the play and got in. (I think it was the 3rd or 4th time I applied) The summer after my first year at Juilliard, the play was done in the DC fringe. I was sending it out a lot and I must have sent it to that small company. It was the first year of the DC fringe. It was in the Canadian Embassy I think and the seats were really far apart which made for a really odd but overall positive experience. There were readings.  Evan Cabnet directed one at Ars Nova.  Daniella Topol directed one.  I was working for Judy Boals and she helped me set up a reading.  And then we did a workshop at Juilliard that Moritz von Stuelpnagel directed and Anna O'Donoghue was in.  And then the play had a small production in Seattle.

And then a production in New York with Flux Theatre Ensemble in '09 which had a good Times review so I was able to get it published. It was the first show I did with Flux. They also did Hearts Like Fists and are about to premiere Marian later this month. All three plays with Flux had the terrific Marnie Shulenburg in them.

There have been 7 productions since the Sam French publication at schools and small theaters and there are two more planned. The small but bigger-than-I'd-had-before advance I got for that play still hasn't been paid back but I think maybe with these next two productions it might be.

One more thing. When I meet a high school or college age actress who has heard of me, it is almost always because of this play. Many times a young actress has gushed to me about this play ... which makes me happy it still resonates . . . and . . . I've written 30something plays since then.

At the moment, the play is selling at the rate of about 2 a day.  Which is A LOT more than my other plays like Clown Bar or Hearts Like Fists that both get done much more frequently.


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