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A Disappointing Turn

September 15, 2022

I had mentioned in my previous post that my play “Invincible Summer” was being performed this fall at a local community theatre. Unfortunately, I have learned recently that the theatre had changed its mind about staging my play, citing the “inappropriateness” of my script for the theater’s target audience.

As you can imagine, this was quite the gut punch. Not only is it a grave disappointment to be told this, but how the theatre carried it out is perhaps the worst part. Back in June, a director I know called me to tell me that Nelson Hall Theatre in Cheshire, Connecticut had agreed to stage two performances of the play. The theatre’s entertainment director read and loved the play, and set aside a day in October for two performances. We knew Nelson Hall was a conservative institution, so I went to work doing some rewrites to satisfy objections they were likely to have. I had to remove some of the foul language and sexual references, and while there were some passages and dialogue I was sad to give up, I felt the play was still strong, and still worked as rewritten. I even had to change the ending, and decided what I came up with was even better than what I had. One of the things I learned writing plays for play-in-a-day festivals is that constraints can also be opportunities.

The director and I were happy with the changes, and we sent them off to the theatre at the end of June. In August, we began rehearsals, the tech and stage people at Nelson began working on the stage, sound and lighting, and the marketing department began working on the promotional materials. There was even a two week window left open on the theatre’s schedule for theatre rehearsals, tech week, and the performance. Everything was in motion–and then the plug was suddenly pulled.

But what really pissed us off was the fact that Nelson Hall had the script for two months, allowed all of those balls to be put in motion and then they finally decided to tell us they don’t want do it. Why the fuck couldn’t they have told us that in July? Or, at least given me the opportunity to address any further concerns they had in the script? But instead, they decided the best course of action was to handle it this way.

I guess I am not completely surprised by their reaction. A director who worked there once told me that he was directing “Arsenic and Old Lace” at Nelson and they asked him to take out the part where two engaged characters kiss because they were not married. My play also has a kiss between unmarried persons, references suicide, divorce, and includes a joke about a bris and another about an STD. So, from that perspective, I could see their objections–but then why agree to do the play at all? Especially when so many people–with whom they both contracted and whom they employ–had began working so hard.

I think the primary reason is that the entertainment director who contracted with us to do the play quit working at Nelson Hall this past summer. I think at that point the play lost its champion on the inside. Perhaps she thought she could navigate the play through those who would object. I suppose we’ll never know. One thing I do know: Nelson Hall’s supposed religious values clearly don’t include competence and treating people with whom they hire with respect.

And I do realize writing these words in public means I have ruined any chance of working with them again. However, it appears clear that my work will never be a good fit for them as it is. Thus, if I just burned my bridges, I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a fire more.

I don’t wish to leave it there, though, because there is good news: the director and the cast are very enthusiastic and really want to perform the play, so we are determined to find another venue. I can take the best of the earlier version of the play with the revisions I did for Nelson Hall and create a strong fusion of the scripts, especially if we find a theatre acutely aware of what century this is. I have to say I am touched by the energy and enthusiasm of the actors–their dedication honors my work in ways I could never truly express. I learned so much watching the director work with the actors, and I was moved to tears at one point because it became abundantly clear how much he truly gets my play–on every level. That was a new experience for me.

I am very lucky indeed to have such amazing, creative people interpret my work, and I look forward to the day we can be on a stage and share it with the world. Or at least, our little corner of it.

Note: I have intentionally left the name of the director and actors out of these piece, in case they wish to work for Nelson Hall again. I don’t want to ruin any future employment for them by being associated with my uh….shall we say, brutally honest critique?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy Simard permalink
    September 20, 2022 10:58 pm

    Hi Kevin, Do you have any connection to the Chestnut Playhouse in Norwich? My daughter-in-law’s mother, Carroll Brogan Mailhot, is on the Board and knows so many people, including Broadway folk. Just throwing that out there. Her entire life is devoted to music and theater. Wishing you all the best, Luce This was so infuriating to read, Kevin. What an unprofessional approach to a commitment made. Ugh.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. September 20, 2022 11:02 pm

    Hi Lucy–I don’t know anyone there. Do you know if the are open to doing new plays?

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