My 10 minute melodramatic comedy, 'Tis Not Me She Loves (3F, 4M, 1E), available here at Heuer Publishing, deals with the feud between the Hatplains and the McCroys that has been in a slump for some time now. Both families agree that there's one way to reignite the feud that gives them purpose: a forbidden love between Romero McCroy and Julia Hatplain. The only catch is, Julia’s not in love with Romero and Romero’s not in love with Julia. Below we see Romero try to help his best friend Julia figure out how to talk to her true love, Merc.
SETTING Eastern Kentucky, near the big Sandy River.
AT RISE Romero and Julia are standing together but Julia is faced away. She turns suddenly.
JULIA: Romero, I just don’t know if I can talk to him today at the waterin’ hole. Or anywhere. He’s so dreamy. Like one of my pigs.
ROMERO: I wouldn’t tell ‘im that, Julia. He probably wouldn’t find that flatterin’. (Julia takes his hands.)
JULIA: Then can you help me? Help me talk to Merc. So he’ll know my feelings and stuff.
JULIA: Maybe yous could faller me and tell me what to say.
ROMERO: Nah, I’m not good on the spot. The only one that I know that could pull that off is ole Cyrano, and he said he wouldn’t do it no more after well . . . you know. (Julia nods and then turns away dramatically.)
JULIA: Well, I don’t know what to do. I ain’t good at talkin’ to humans. Besides you.
ROMERO: I know, maybe you could shock ‘im. Be bold or somethin’. The way your pigs are when they go after that mud. (Gets an idea.) Hey, maybe we could role play.
JULIA: Role play?
ROMERO: Yeah. You know, like when we was little kids. (Julia runs up to him and hugs him.)
JULIA: That’s a wonderful idea. I’ll be Merc and you be me.
ROMERO: I think it should be the other way around. I mean, when it really happens, you’re gonna be Julia, not Merc.
JULIA: Right. I see what you mean. Now, what do we do?
ROMERO: Well, I’ll walk off and you wait right here. And then I’ll come back, but I’ll be Merc and then we’ll start talkin’. Okay? (Julia nods and Romero walks off. Julia starts pacing a little. She then starts doing pig snorts. Romero peeks his head back out.) Wait, what are you doing?
JULIA: Pig snorts. That’s what I do when I’m waiting. (Romero stares at her.)
ROMERO: Maybe not this time.
JULIA: But pig snorts relax me.
ROMERO: Right but . . . no. Just stand there. Looking pretty.
JULIA: You think I look pretty?
ROMERO: Oh, of course and if we weren’t such best friends then--
JULIA: Thank ya for that. I think I can do this now. (Romero smiles and walks off. Julia waits, looking pretty. Romero, now as Merc, reenters.)
ROMERO: Hi, Julia. (Julia turns and smiles.)
JULIA: Hi, Merc.
ROMERO: So, you wanted to see me?
JULIA: I did. I have something very important to tell you. (At this point, Ty enters and seeing Romero and Julia talking, stops and hides. Julia stares at Romero but is unable to speak.)
ROMERO: You can do it. (Julia smiles.)
JULIA: I . . . I . . . (She grabs him and “kisses” him. Romero and Julia fall to the ground. Julia then pulls back.) I like you. I really like you.
JULIA: Was that good?
JULIA: You think--
JULIA: Good. So four o’clock at the waterin’ hole?
ROMERO: Yep. (Julia smiles, touches Romero on the nose and then leaves. Romero stands up.) Wow. (Romero slowly walks off. Ty enters.)
TY: It finally happened. The forbidden love. This is just what we needed to get the feud goin’ again. Once I tell Cap Hatplain that Julia is in love with that rascal McCroy, it’ll be on again. And maybe they’ll stop making me sleep in the outhouse. I got to go tell ‘em. (Ty leaves as the lights fade.)
Sometimes, I find myself sitting in a quite comfortable chair, flipping through a binder: The Collected Poems of Steven Stack. Yes, I did print up all of my poems that I wrote in high school (and a few in college) and put them in a binder. With plastic sheets keeping them safe. Because that’s something you do with something valuable. You put them in a binder with plastic sheets.
As I sat flipping through them but not reading them, a question came to my mind: “Why didn’t I become a professional poet?”
When I posed the question at dinner that night, 8-year-old Chloe quickly answered, “Probably because of your poems.”
Maggie laughed (a bit too much, in my opinion) and I laughed . . . on the outside. Inside my poet’s brain, however, I was not laughing. I was wondering what Chloe knew about poetry. I don’t see her poems slid lovingly into plastic sheets and collected in a blue binder. So what did she know? Nothing.
Or did she? I decided to revisit my poems to see if they were as brilliant as I thought they were. I selected two that had been published in the 1992 copy of The Kinnikinick, Newberry College’s literary magazine. I have retyped them below, just as they appeared in the magazine, and will critique each one honestly, which will hopefully help me answer the question that haunts me.
The first poem is entitled “Missing.” Oh, I’m instantly taken in. The sign of a good title. I wonder what this holds for me.
WHERE IS IT AT
HAD IT RIGHT HERE
WELL THOUGHT I DID
I KNOW I USED TO
WAS THE PRETTY MATCH
MINE AND YOURS
KNOW YOURS IS STILL HERE
HIDDEN PERFECTLY WELL
COULDN’T JUST LEAVE COULD IT
I’LL KEEP LOOKING
JUST AIN’T LOOKED IN THE RIGHT PLACE
GOTTA BE HERE
THINGS THIS GOOD CAN’T JUST DISAPPEAR
Well . . . that was terrible. How bad could the rejected submissions have been if this one got in? Good lord. And why did I type it in all CAPS? Who does that? That’s weird. I feel like the poem is yelling at me non-stop. And it’s non-stop because I used punctuation only once. What was I even going for here? I’m not sure which is worse: the lack of heart (teenage angst doesn’t count), my use of the word “ain’t,” or the indecipherable line “Was the pretty match.” I’m sure I meant “perfect,” but heaven forbid I proofread something I’m submitting to a literary magazine. And even then, it wouldn’t have made sense.
At this point, you might be saying that I clearly made the right choice not to become a poet. But you would be wrong. Because, flipping through my binder, I found another poem that I wrote. A poem that makes “Missing” and all its shame . . . go missing from my mind. A poem that makes Angelou, Dickinson, Poe and Silverstein look like talentless hacks. But will it be enough to forsake all that I now know and hit the road as a . . . professional poet? Let’s read it together. (Note: This was also done in all CAPS. My apologies. Try not to yell it as you read it.)
THE DOG IS DEAD
DEAD IS THE DOG
COME ON BOY
LET’S GO FOR A WALK
WHY AREN’T YOU MOVING
THE DOG IS DEAD
DEAD IS THE DOG
FETCH SPOT FETCH
GO GET THE STICK
GET UP NOW
THE DOG IS DEAD
DEAD IS THE DOG
HERE YOU GO
LICK MY HAND
WHY AREN’T YOU MOVING
THE DOG IS DEAD
DEAD IS THE DOG
GOT SOME ALPO
WELL, COME AND GET IT
WHAT ARE YOU?
Well, after reading “Dog,” I clearly feel that this is the best piece of poetry to have existed in any language. Alas, it alone is not enough. Because for every “Dog” I found as I flipped through those crisp plastic sheets . . . actually there was only one “Dog.” The rest were pretty dreadful.
So, Chloe, you were right.
It was my poems.
So you’re looking into doing a melodramatic comedy, but you’re afraid. No doubt you’re afraid of venturing into a new genre that’s only been around since the 1770s. Perhaps you’re also afraid of performing a form of theatre that is actually quite challenging to do correctly. I understand your fears, as I consider myself to be the leading player in my own melodramatic comedy. Because I am.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Alina Deveraux, famed author of The Secret Life of a Secret Whose Sharing Shall Remain Secret: A Love Story and the forthcoming She Writes With Quill: A Moment by Moment Recollection of the Life of Alina Deveraux Up Until Now. I must also add that I’m also a character in playwright Steven Stack’s delightful one-act melodramatic comedy mystery She Wrote, Died, and Then Wrote Some More, which is based on the events that unfolded on the night of my book’s unveiling.
I have taken over Steven's charming blog in order to prevent him from writing another dreadful narrative about Frosty the Snowman, found here. I jest. Though not about that post. It was rubbish. Actually I am here because Steven wanted me to write a few words on why directors should pick a melodramatic comedy for their next performance rather than any other type, and as a writor myself, I was of course more than happy to oblige. Let’s be frank: he wants you to do his play, my story, which of course I do as well – it is the story of my life’s work, after all, and has been called “The Our Town and Hamlet of melodramatic comedies” by . . . no one . . . aloud.
But I digress. I am here is to convince you that the next play that you perform in your school theatre, community theatre, college theatre, professional theatre, outdoor theatre, dinner theatre, or living room should be a melodramatic comedy. So without further ado, I shall now convince you.
First and foremost, melodramatic comedies are simply fun to do. They take a normal, everyday situation and throw in absurd twists – fake murders, bizarre disorders, ridiculous betrayals, ludicrous love stories, the list goes on and on – all of which conspire to render the normal abnormal in a fun and relatable way.
With realism, this wouldn’t be feasible. What enables such outlandish constructs to fully transport the audience, whether into my life or into the world of the play, is that within the parameters of the melodramatic world, such eccentricities are normal and expected. Thus, the characters are never shocked when something ridiculous takes place – while the audience, not inhabiting the same world we characters do, will not expect it and will thoroughly enjoy the absurdity of it. Your audiences will rave that what they enjoy most about a riveting evening of melodrama is how over the top everything is!
Melodramatic comedies will also bring happiness and lifelong fulfillment to your actors. Characters in these types of plays tend to be exaggerated, full of extreme emotions and forced to be very active. For example, they may be asked to destroy a pillow because they have a rare fainting-when-frightened disorder that causes them to attack the first thing they see when waking up from a fainting spell because they believe that the thing that woke them up is said pillow. Hypothetically speaking.
Actors are excited to create roles that verge on the farcical, and as a director, you will also be able to teach them the importance of not being “in on the joke.” When students act in a comedy, they tend to forget that the characters they’re playing are not aware of how funny they and their situation are. To the characters, the situation is quite serious, as with the situation where no one wanted to publish my 1701-page masterpiece written only with quill.
But the number one reason to do a melodramatic comedy is because it’s the right thing to do. For yourself, your actors, and your audience. For the world, really. I can imagine what your non-character lives are like – full of the expected, the routine, and the mundane – while my life, and the lives of all melodramatic characters, are swimming in exciting, controlled chaos. So when you do a melodramatic comedy, you give all those involved – actors, set designers, audience – a certain freedom from reality. An escape, if you will. A festively fun, exhilarating, absurd escape.
So there you have it: that’s why you should choose to perform a melodramatic comedy the next time you’re looking for a play. And yes, I would be delighted to step upon your stage with my quill and nine of my eccentric and esteemed character-mates. It will make for a delightful evening, I assure you. You can find more information about my story here or by clicking on the splendid picture below.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.