T3Writes editor, Kat Edwards, writes about writing to introduce two writers who are writing about writing.
Anybody here know what it takes to develop your own recipe? Taking an idea through trial and error, constantly taking notes and adjusting measurements, watching a friend take a bite out of a version that you love only to have them say it’s too spicy (true story). No? You don’t have to be a cook, but, theoretically, you’re with me on this? Great! That’s basically what it takes to develop a new work.
Whatever gets presented to the audience is the result of months or YEARS of writers writing words, hearing them out loud, cutting things, reading new versions aloud, seeing a potential product on its feet, realizing that you have to let go of something that sounds great on paper but can’t be produced. Writers constantly sacrifice characters or storylines because of [insert artistic or financial reason here].
Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure is technically two years in the making. The idea for Solstice was born in a conference room in December 2016 and developed into a holiday event that was presented in December 2017. Then we took one little ol’ piece from last year’s collection of stories and songs, gave it back to the playwright, and let him expand on it. The once short scene has been fleshed out over the past 11 months, but the story is still very much the heartwarming tale of a widower that finds solace in off-label prescription drug use and the company of the Meals on Wheels delivery lady, there’s just a lot more to love now. There’s music and wild action. The show even pays homage to three-time Grammy nominated R&B singer, Johnnie Taylor (Listen Here! #yourewelcome).
The Solstice that begins previews this week is not the Solstice that you saw last year or even the Solstice that we started rehearsals with. So, as we head into previews, here’s one last tribute from our playwrights, Jonathan Norton and Janielle Kastner, to the sacrifices made along the way:
To All the Ones That Got Away (A Love Letter to the Characters We Cut from Solstice)
By Janielle Kastner and Jonathan Norton
Jonathan Norton: Wow JK! We start previews this week. At this time of great excitement and anticipation, we would be remiss if we did not pay our propers to those fine folks we cut from the show. Their absence is not a reflection of their worth and value. And I am sure we will find homes for them in the future. Let’s start with the show choir! I miss the show choir. Janielle, let’s give the show choir some love.
Janielle Kastner: Oh, my beloved high-school show choir scene!!! I labored over you for weeks!!! I was excited when Jonathan asked me to write a scene in his play, and then thrilled when he told me this scene needed to serve as a bridge from Point A: a young character we meet in a show choir, to Point B: a fanatic religious doomsday cult. (As anyone who has competed in high-school fine art competitions can attest to, it’s not as crazy a transition as you’d think). How joyously I wrote that scene where high-schoolers earnestly and theatrically performed a sensual medley of Johnnie Taylor songs. You never made it past the first draft, show choir scene, but I loved you just the same. You will be missed. Now, Jonathan… you HAVE to tell them about the witches.
JN: Yes. The witches! Greg’s (the son of our protagonist, Stuart) ex-wife Erikka was a witch. Which meant Greg’s daughter Riley, (then called Taylor) was a half-witch. Oh, and there was also a character called the Goblin Qween. It was a sad day when I cut the Goblin Qween. I believe our director, vickie washington, misses the Goblin Qween the most. The Goblin Qween was a fabulously gay bouncer who stood outside NorthPark after dark, guarding the door at Nordstrom. Janielle, ask me why we cut the witches and the Goblin Qween.
JK: Jonathan, why on EARTH did you cut the witches and the Goblin Qween?
JN: That’s a great question, Janielle. I’m so happy you asked. A couple of reasons led to cutting these elements. First of all, Erikka did not appear until the second act and it was just too much new information too late in the play. Oh, and then Erikka’s daughter was trapped in NorthPark after dark, so then it became a play about Stuart helping Erikka rescue the little girl. In the course of all that we lost focus on Stuart and Paulette….and um…. it is their play. So, in addition to cutting the witch idea, I also cut Erikka, too. The actress playing Erikka was supposed to play Misery, as well. Erikka’s presence in the play meant Misery’s role in Act Two was greatly diminished. After our first reading we realized Misery was more useful to the play than Erikka. And Misery doesn’t need the Goblin Qween to get into NorthPark Center. So those are the reasons why we cut Erikka and the Goblin Qween. And going to NorthPark after dark is no longer about finding a missing girl. The purpose of it now is solely focused on Stuart.
Oh, and I forgot, in the first draft of the play, Paulette was revealed to be a witch. But that got cut when Erikka was cut. So, NO MORE Paulette being a witch. She’s just a no-nonsense grandmother from Pleasant Grove. And she loves the Lord. Can we get a hand-clap of praise?
I would like to circle back to the show choir. Can you tell us a bit more about why that was cut? Also, can you tell us about your massive and brilliant rewrite of the scene that ends Act One?
JK: We had to cut the show choir when it became clear that exploring the backstory of individuals who ended up in a fanatic religious doomsday cult in the woods didn’t advance Stuart and Paulette’s journey (and was not particularly festive!!) So, I started from scratch, and instead imagined what kinds of “people in the woods” might surprise Stuart and Paulette and provoke new things from their relationship. Then I investigated how these “people in the woods” might have a disarming and entirely unique relationship to Christmas and the holiday season. Jonathan, you and I had a conversation about how the holidays can be filled with a special kind of longing for any of us who feel on the fringes of society in some way, or on the outside of a family unit – I wanted to explore that desire for community and connection, which meant cutting the sparkly vests and jazz hands. Adios, show choir!
JN: Show choir you will be missed. Erikka, it was nothing personal. And Goblin Qween, you will live on forever in vickie washington’s heart. While your time with us was cut short, you left an indelible mark. Because we knew you, Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure has been changed for good. See how I worked in that Wicked reference?
JK: You can take the boy out of the show choir…
JN: But you can’t take the show choir out of the boy. Show Choir for LIFE!
JK: Happy holidays, y’all! I hope you can take a (short) break from NorthPark and come spend some time in the woods celebrating family, love, and the holidays with all the wonderful characters who DID survive our edits. Jonathan, take us out Johnnie Taylor style!
JN: There are times, sugar, when I get weak/ And the words coming out of my mouth, get jumbled when I speak/ I just need for you to see and take heed/ That I’m ready to be all the holiday show you need/ So let your love rain down. And your dollars, too/ Cause if you miss Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure, I’m gonna be heartsick and blue.
See you at Theatre Three. Happy Holidays!