Thursday, December 15, 2005

PFC Everyman - or, back when I was a dirty, stinking liberal

When I look back at my career as a writer, I consider PFC Everyman as the very start of things. I was still in college when I wrote the one-act play, inspired by my disgust at the Gulf War and the rumors of the renewed draft. Of course, the Gulf War took place in 1990-92, so you can't say that my ire was that great. In reality, the play was more inspired by my love of Warner Brothers cartoons more than anything else.

But I wrote it and submitted it to a local playwriting competition - the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, which had been around for only a couple of years prior to my submittal. PFC Everyman was just one of ten plays chosen for the festival, and would be granted a week-long performance by the theater company that chose it - in this case, Pyramid Productions. It would be directed by a man who would become my good friend and theater mentor, Ted Hoover. (Happy Cloud Pictures fans will recognize Ted as "Christopher Pope" in The Resurrection Game).

Ted and I sat down and slogged through four more drafts of this play. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to write more than two drafts of anything, and this was a hell of a sobering experience. My ego was exploding to have my first play produced, only to have it punctured by the news that it wasn't yet good enough for the stage. Ted and I argued, and he always deferred to me, while, at the same time, managing to convince me to do what he thought would be best for the script. Ultimately, he was right, and I owe the final draft's structure entirely to him. The original draft was all over the place and had no real method to the abject madness.

So PFC Everyman had its run, the third installment of a three-play evening, three weeks into the four-week run of the festival. Under the way the New Works Festival was set up, the audience members who attended every play could vote on the best one of the festival. Those votes would be tallied up and awards were granted at a special ceremony/dinner at the end of the month.

It was the first event Amy and I attended together. We'd only been dating less than a year at this point. I was happy to see that PFC Everyman had been nominated in every category except "Outstanding Performance by a Female Lead", which was fair because we didn't have a female lead.

By the end of the evening, we had either won or placed in every single category, which included "Outstanding Performance by a Director", "A Screenwriter" and "Outstanding Production". I was all choked up when I accepted the award - a giant glass arrowhead called "The Donna", after the Festival's founder. I actually proposed to Amy for the first time during my acceptance speech (which I hadn't prepared, because I hadn't expected to win).

This launched my brief but successful career in theater. After that, I penned one more one-act (which won a national championship) and a short 10-minute play which again won a "Best of" performance.

And then I dried up completely. I never wrote another play again, because I stopped relating to the theater. My head and heart became firmly entrenched in filmmaking and I have rarely looked back, save in fondness.

Ted continues to write and direct some outstanding pieces of work (he's an outstanding piece of work himself). Most of the cast went on to do other things - for a while, Mia Price was a Radio City Rockette. One of the actors who had to bow out of the production did so for a role in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film, Sudden Death, which was shooting at the same time. I didn't blame him. I haven't heard from him again since, either.

Looking back at the play, I'm still entertained by it. A lot of the jokes are terribly forced. Some of them are ripped off from Beetle Bailey, while others are ripped off from Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges. It's ridiculously heavy-handed in its satire and about as relevant today as it was then. Which is to say, as relevant as you want it to be.

Is it good? Probably not. Is it funny? I think it is. Is it as scathing and revealing as I thought it was when I wrote it? Not in the slightest. When I first wrote it, I thought it was just scandalous, particularly in its views of the church and homosexuality! What a pioneer I was!

I'm less liberal in my thinking now than I was then. Actually, I was less of a liberal than I was an idealist, though I was just as cynical about the military, government and religion as I am now. Nowadays, I consider myself to be an extremist in both camps - favoring capital punishment almost to the point of making mandatory; pro-choice; pro-Gay Marriage; pro-environment; anti-government; pro-Arts; anti-Hollywood...

I've included a link to the play here. You'll have to download Adobe Acrobat if you don't already have it (which is unfathomable to me as I believe that program is coming bundled with newborn babies these days). If you happen to be part of a theatrical troupe and, for some ungodly reason, you find enough merit in it to actually want to perform it, just drop me a line. The rights are available. At any rate, if you decide to check it out, let me know what you think.

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