Kitty Felde – January 18, 2011
I keep coming up with ways to trick myself into writing.
I have an act two problem with a play I’ve been struggling with for several years. It’s the one about which my husband keeps saying, “why don’t you just let it go?” But you know how it is. It’s like the troubled kid you know you can see through the bad times so he’ll become an upstanding citizen when he’s done growing up. So I know I’m committed to that play.
But I’ve been stuck for months trying to finish act two. And not writing a thing.
So I’ve decided to trick myself.
The very first play I ever wrote was a melodrama, “Shanghai Heart.” As an actor, I had played a season in lovely Oceano, California with The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville Theatre, playing 12 year old ingénues (I had just graduated college!) Some of the plays were classics, some newer knock offs.
Melodramas rarely get the kind of serious dramaturg attention that other genres get. Even musical comedy is taken more seriously. So when the urge came for me to write my first play, I chose a melodrama. I knew the style. But more importantly, I told myself, if the play stunk, no one would know. It was a melodrama, for heaven’s sake.
This kind of ploy worked pretty well when I was freelancing as a journalist for several years. The days that my story ideas were rejected, I told myself I wasn’t a journalist, I was really a playwright. When my plays came back in that sad, beaten up envelope, I told myself I wasn’t really a playwright, I was a journalist. Schizophrenic, but it worked for me.
Of course, in my heart of hearts, I was going to write the BEST melodrama on planet earth. And with a cast of ten (TEN! What was I thinking?) I had a lot of characters to create and plots to keep straight. But in the end, my tale of mistaken identity and love on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast was a hit.
The Los Angeles Times said, “Felde knows the melodrama form and has created an admirably intricate plot involving lost children, double amnesia, filched land deeds, a displaced Mountie, vamps, chorines, an evil foreigner, revenge and love triumphant.”
Drama-Logue raved, “clever, talented and resourceful Kitty Felde…we should be hearing more from this versatile young lady.”
I went on to write ten other plays.
And then got stuck in act two hell.
So back to my solution.
I decided to choose another genre that’s gotten short shrift: plays for young audiences.
I’m a Helen Hayes judge here in Washington (kind of like the Ovations or LA Drama Critics Circle awards) and because I’m on the New Plays committee, I see a lot of new kids shows. And unfortunately, a lot of them are bad. (I know because the kids I’ve borrowed as my theatre companions tell me that on the drive home.)
So I decided to write a kids show, using the same rationale I used to write that very first play: if it was bad, who would know?
Now, before anyone gets all hot and heavy, I know kids’ theatre should be the BEST we have to offer. Otherwise, why would kids ever pay the big bucks to attend theatre as adults? And I have seen some WONDERFUL theatre designed for kids that’s MUCH better than the dreck offered to adults. In my heart of hearts, that’s the play I want to write. But I won’t admit it to myself. Not just yet.