Thoughts on “Curtain Call”

(My play, Curtain Call, a comedy about famous actors worrying about their performances, will be part of PlayZoomers evening of live, online theater, Friday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m., ET, and Saturday, October 23, at 9:30 p.m., ET. Tickets are on Eventbrite. Visit www.playzoomers.org for more info. I hope to “see” you there.)

Thoughts on “Curtain Call”

I posted on Facebook the fact that a play I have written called “Curtain Call” is being performed later in October.  I mentioned that the play is about actors who are worried that their performances weren’t up to their usual standards.

That resulted in a friend of mine commenting that “Are people really interested in what actors think?”

Fair question.  I never really thought of it that way.  “Curtain Call” is what we call a “backstage” comedy, revealing the behind-the-scenes action.  It’s a device that gives us the true motives of the actors performing in a play that are often far different than what they present on stage.  Plenty of playwrights have used this backstage contrivance to advance their play, such as “The Royal Family” by Kaufman and Ferber, “Present Laughter” by Noel Coward, “Noises Off” by Michael Frayen, “A Chorus Line” by Hamlisch, Kleban, Kirkwood and Dante, “Kiss Me Kate” by the Spewacks and Cole Porter.  Now perhaps I shouldn’t compare my play to those above, but the principle is the same.  Audiences will care what actors think as long as it’s entertaining them.

Providing the entertainment in “Curtain Call” are three actors, two of them who are based on the true antics of perhaps the greatest acting team in American theater, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and the other is based on Noel Coward.  They were perfectionists, constantly talking about their roles, day and night, and how to improve their characterizations.  On the day before one of their long-running shows was about to close, Lynn mentioned to Alfred that she was going to change an inflection on how she delivered one of her lines to get a bigger laugh.

In “Curtain Call,” my character, Lydia Francis, ever the perfectionist, tells her husband, Allen Hart and the playwright, Neil Collins, just how Allen threw off her performance.

                   Lydia

It started in Act One.

                   Allen

Scene Five.

                   Neil

The lunch scene.

                   Lydia

Yes.  Allen placed the glass on wrong side of the serving tray.

                   Allen

I don’t know what got into me.  A total lack of concentration, I suppose.

                   Lydia

That concerned me.

                   Neil

Oh, it concerned you, did it?

                   Lydia

Yes.  I saw it right away.  Of course, I looked at Allen and saw the terror in his eyes.  That threw me.  I panicked as well and before I knew it, my head was moving back and forth as I delivered the lines.

                   Neil

Back and forth?

                   Lydia

Ever so slightly. 

                   Allen

But it threw me off.  I nearly forgot to serve the finger sandwiches at the proper time. 

                   Neil

I don’t know how you ever recovered.

                   Allen

I didn’t.  I was thinking about it for the rest of the play.

Hopefully, that answers the question “are we interested in what actors think”.  We need to look at them as not just actors, but as characters about which we care and take an interest and laugh at their hard-driven perfectionism.

I hope many of you will “stop by” to see the play. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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