One of the things about my writing "career" is just how random it is. I'm not an aggressive person. I'm not a go-getter. I'm easily dissuaded. Yet I keep thinking I can pull this off. One of the odder adventures was getting involved with a movie short, a project that went from a creating a spark of hope to winding up as a memorial for a horror icon.
Technically, this tale starts back in 2009, when I first crossed paths with Beverly Bonner, only I didn't know what that meant. In early 2009, I answered an ad on Craig's List:
Seeking Sketch Comedy Writers for Baby Boomers Sketch Group (New York City)
Okay, I've got a hard drive full of comedy sketches that can use a home. So, what's up?
I should mention here that I was in a funk at the time. I was dealing with a family illness. Writing-wise, I was still writing jokes for NewsBusters on a right-wing website (which does nothing to help your self-image). I was submitting short sketches to radio producers with occasional. All frustrating and leading nowhere. I mean, hey, I was answering ads on Craig's List. But once I was given an opening, I went all in, to the point I ignored what were some distinctly red flags. I knew nothing about Beverly Bonner or her background. She was doing a sketch show and had a "head writer." The head writer recommended I submit other material, maybe go more "topical," saying the show was "kind of an odd one" and he didn't think the "performers will be able to handle the complex memorization required in the Abbott and Costello/Shakespeare bit." Through April and May there were skits submitted and interview dates set and cancelled. She was shooting for a June show time. Oh, and no pay. It was a showcase. Maybe she'd be able to give me something out of the box office, she mentioned.
I was submitting material, reworking some sketches and dealing with family issues and my day job. Beverly set up a rehearsal schedule, but I wasn't able to attend. I knew I had sketches going in but couldn't find out which. The show was going to be a variety show; songs, skits, stand-up, novelty acts. Then I did something weird for me. I started to invite people to the show. Co-workers, friends from the Writers Guild, my wife and kids. It had been so long since I had anything of mine put up on its feet, I decided this wasn't the time to hide my light under a basket. But, not having seen any rehearsals, I was going in blind, frankly. I should mention here that Writer Dan and Day Job Dan were very different people. Not many at work knew what I did on the side. I had a friend who did the same. He considered being a writer his "secret identity." For me to reveal my secret identity was a big change.
At some point I volunteered to make copies of the program for Beverly on our company copy machine (It's something I did a lot in my early years of writing, when everything was on paper. I plan on thanking them for all the office supplies in my Oscar acceptance speech). I confirmed I had 3 sketches in when she emailed me the originals for the playbill, but the head writer had a slew of skits in. However, I was learning that there were issues; an actor dropped out at the last minute, some weren't taking it as serious as they could, some weren't up to the job. I might have known this if I had schlepped into the city for practice or two.
Then came the day of the show. My family met me in the city. We had a fun dinner. At least they did. Before we went to the restaurant, I had to drop off the programs so they could fold them and get them ready. I walked in the theater alone and met Beverly Bonner for the first time. Big, bold and brassy. Frankly, she scared me. But she was delighted to finally get to meet me. It was chaos, as the cast and crew were preparing for the evening's performance. The show didn't look anywhere near ready and they were going up in two hours. My heart sank. I rejoined my family and we ate. The dread was gathering. As were my friends.
It was a mix of people; co-workers, family, and fellow writers. The good thing about inviting fellow writers is that you don't have to explain to them what went wrong. Much went wrong. I'll have to pull out an old email to fully explain my feelings at the time...