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The Story

Tech Day for Sherlock

“Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear” opens Friday at the Rep, ready or not. Except that we’ll definitely be ready. We always are.

It’s been a challenging week and a half, trying to promote a book while doing a show and having a job, but at the same time it’s felt amazing to be surrounded by my theatre family during this awesome time in my life.

And it’s also pretty good to know, that today’s tech couldn’t possibly be as hard as the one I had to put poor Emma through! She’s stronger than I am.

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Launch Day Was Amazing

I was so thrilled and overwhelmed by the positive response I got to my book launch! People liking and sharing, saying they ordered a copy, even sending me photos. After I put in so much hard work, trying to tell the best story I could, it felt really good.

I have lots more plans to promote it in the coming months, and hope to find as many readers as I can. But even if this is all the attention it ever gets, it was already worthwhile.

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IT’S LAUNCH DAY!!!!


When I realized October 10 is International Stage Management Day, I knew I had to make sure my book was ready to launch by then. It was just too perfect.

So today, I’m thrilled to announce that my novel is available to the world! I hope at least few people read it, and enjoy it.

If you like the book, and you want to help me spread the word, I’d really appreciate an honest Amazon review. Only if you would sincerely recommend it to others, and you won’t hurt my feelings if you have critiques. Thanks.

OH MY GOD I WROTE A BOOK

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999101919/

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Inspirations

When I decided to write a story about theatre from the perspective of the crew, and specifically from that of the stage manager, I started by listing all the interesting things that had happened in my own theatre career, hoping to find some inspirations.

My first instinct was to talk about the way I felt on the triumphant opening night of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 2007,  up in the attic after the performance. That’s a long story for another time, but that was a moment where I felt some very strong emotions for what I think are objectively interesting reasons. It was a good illustration of what stage managing can be like.

But there were also the seeds of a good story in the very first time I stage managed a show. That director was an arrogant idiot, who assured me that all the tech stuff was already finished and I didn’t need to do anything. The Rep had no staff or support for me, because a financially-irresponsible Artistic Director had just almost ran the place into the ground, so no one was there to tell me the director was wrong. I walked into Tech Day to discover I’d already made several huge mistakes, and I was about to make quite a few more. I still feel bad about a lot of it.

So that could be the main framework of the story, a first-time stage manager thrown into the deep end of the pool while the theatre’s in crisis, and we watch her try to sink or swim. Then I could still put her into that emotional place I felt on “Cat,” but under different circumstances.

And while I was at it, everyone likes a romantic sub-plot. I could throw in a love triangle, based on how I met Brad doing Arcadia. There he is in the photo above, in the brown jacket, and sitting at the table was my competition. That scenario would be a fun way to put some extra stress on my poor heroine.

There were of course lots of other inspirations, big and small, but those were the initial building blocks of the story.

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Where It All Really Began


In the winter of 1999, I moved back home to Toledo from metro Detroit. My first marriage had just ended badly, and at the ripe old age of 26 I felt like my life was over. I moved in with my sister Cheri and tried to rebuild.

Poor Cheri had been abandoned four years earlier, when my parents left town at the same time I did, and most of her old college friends moved on to different things. She needed to meet new people, and she’d always been interested in theatre, so one day, in what I consider to be a badass move, she called up The Rep to ask if they had any volunteer positions available. They responded with, can you be here tonight? After that, working backstage as a techie became a huge part of her life.

When I came back she said, you have to do theatre. Come with me and do theatre.

Now, I’d been hearing all this time about the huge commitment and the late nights, and was definitely not interested. I wanted stay home on the couch and feel sorry for myself. But she kept insisting, and I’ve always done what my big sister tells me to, so in the end I agreed to be 4th spotlight operator on The Who’s Tommy.

I was having fun at first, but not really getting why this was worth all the effort, when somewhere in the middle of the second weekend it hit me. As the show ended and the audience rose to their feet in applause, I felt this elated rush of joy. I was a part of this amazing thing that we’d all created together, and it was incredible. I ran down the stairs and backstage to find Cheri, so I could jump up and down and yell, I LOVE THEATRE!!!!!

I was hooked, and still am today.

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Book Excerpt – Rehearsal Scene

“Should we get started then?” Maggie huffed. As if these delays were all Emma’s fault.

“Yes, definitely,” Emma said. “The tea things are all set now and we can deal with the rest of the props later.”

“Is there water in the pot?” Julia asked. “So we can work with drinking the tea?”

“I GOT IT!” Lucas came out of nowhere and swept the pot away downstairs.

The actors set themselves, while Emma pulled her coat over her shoulders and sat down with her script. They started rehearsal with one of the annoying parts where Algy and Cecily flirt in the garden. Emma was torn between enjoying Andy’s performance and wondering how much they were really acting. Megan was clearly into him — was he into her too? Was he even single? Or straight? Had Emma made a complete fool of herself during that last conversation, or just a partial one? How was she going to get to know him better when all they did every night was work and go home?

Rehearsal moved on, through more arguments and more flirting, until they got to the scene where Cecily and Gwendolen have tea. Frank brought out the tray with the pot, and stood behind the table that was between them.

“Shall I lay the tea here as usual, Miss?” he said.

“Yes,” Megan replied. “As usual.”

He set the tray down on the table, then he turned and walked back off stage.

“Frank.” Maggie called after him. “FRANK!”

It took him several seconds to recognize his name and turn around.

“What?”

“You don’t exit yet, dear. Stay out there with them.”

“But that’s my only line.” He looked totally perplexed. “I’m done after that.”

“No. No you’re not. You have to stay so you can hand Gwendolen her tea and cake.”

Frank sighed and walked back out on stage. The ladies gave him a moment to set himself, then went on with their lines. After they sniped at each other for a while, Megan picked up the pot and poured the water into a cup. She mimed dropping in sugar cubes, then primly handed it to Frank, who delivered it correctly.

Julia took it and drank, immediately spitting it out all over the stage. Gwen was supposed to turn up her nose at the excessive sweetness, but Emma guessed spitting was a valid choice, too. Whatever worked for the character. It took her a second to realize that this wasn’t part of the scene, that Julia was genuinely spitting and wiping her tongue.

“This is full of dust!” she exclaimed.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” Emma ran up to look. Of course, these weren’t cups she’d taken out of a cabinet in someone’s kitchen. They’d been sitting in the filthy attic for god knows how long. They had to be washed first.

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The Great American Pitchfest, 2014

Great American PItchfest

I’d turned my idea of a TV show about a theater crew into a pilot script, and set off to try and sell it at The Great American Pitchfest. This was a weekend-long event in Burbank. It started with a series of workshops about pitching and writing on Friday night and all day Saturday, and ended with the actual Pitch Day on Sunday. 

The workshops were interesting and I met some very nice people. Mostly weird, deluded people, but nice.

On Pitch Day, they filled a giant ballroom with 120 agents and producers, seated at numbered tables. We were given a directory with their details ahead of time, so we could pick our best bets.

Out in the hall, they had poles with the numbers hanging (see photo), and starting at 10am, several hundred hopeful writers lined up behind their chosen numbers. Someone rang a cowbell, and they ushered the first group into the ballroom. Everyone had ten minutes to find the right table and make their pitch, and then the cowbell rang again. The first group had to get up and leave out the back, while the second group came in the front. Then we could go get in another line, as many times we wanted, until things ended at 4pm.

When my turn came I went in, sat down, and energetically made my first pitch, now finely tuned by what I’d learned in the workshops. The guy really liked the idea, but then nicely explained why it wasn’t his type of project. I thanked him, left at the cowbell, and immediately had to find a chair so I could put my head between my knees. But then I got up and found another line.

I ended up doing fifteen pitches throughout the day, three of which ended with script requests, which I think was a pretty good return. I went home the next morning, feeling really good about myself, and so excited I got to have this cool experience.

But then you’re supposed to play this game where you email them but they don’t respond, and you have bug them every two weeks, to prove that you’re really serious. And after spending more time immersed in this world, I realized that the dream was even more unrealistic than I’d originally thought.

Which was totally okay. I’d tried something, and had an adventure. But after sending three or four reminders to these people, I decided to quit the field. 

But while I’d been writing the script, I’d had a bunch of ideas about the ending, and in particular a clear and beautiful vision of exactly how the final scene would go. I wanted to write that scene, and finish the story. And while you need other people and lots of money to make a TV show, you can write a novel all by yourself. 

I’d never written a novel before, but I’d also never written a pilot script or pitched to a producer before. How hard could it be?

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