Playwriting

The Winds of Change Part 2

Our answers revealed! Don’t know what we’re talking about? Read Part One of The Winds of Change here.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE GAME

Which of these changes did we approve? Which did we deny and why? Here’s what we said!

Line Changes:

  • Change the line “Piss off” in Hamlette to “Get lost.”
  • Change the line “Are you retarded?” in Shout to “Are you stupid?”

It’s amazing how many people ask for this Hamlette change. Really? You can’t say piss off? What’s so bad about that? Because this is an outside writer’s play the final word on the matter was Allison’s. She decided she was fine with it and came up with a replacement, which we have on file. Final answer? Change approved.

This one for Shout pains me, because the push behind it is political correctness. It’s not ‘nice’ for a character, or a person to use the word retarded. But it shows so succinctly the type of person that character is when they use that kind of word. And bottom line, some people aren’t nice. But I believe I let this change happen because it doesn’t change the fundamental core of the character, like some of the other changes below…. Final answer? Change approved.

Character Changes:

  • The character Mr. O’Neil in Anne-Arky is trying to give up cigarettes. Change it to caffeine.
  • The character Beaker in Power Play is Korean. Change her to Jewish.

These are both interesting because initially I resisted. One Anne-Arky director went up and down that they couldn’t have a character even mention the word cigarette on stage, even though, the play shows a character taking an active step toward quitting! It just flummoxed me. And in Power Play, I always knew having a race specific character like Beaker would be limiting. But, again, at the time I was writing the play it seemed important and necessary to be so specific.

Having said that, I love a challenge. Because both these situations had come up more than once, I thought it was important to see if the changes would affect the intention of each script.. And, lo and behold Caffeine works perfectly for Mr. O’Neil. The drive of the character quitting ‘something’ remains the same whether it’s cigarettes or coffee. Final answer? Change approved.

What makes Beaker important in the play is showing the violence of stereotype. Beaker gets it a couple of ways, racial stereotype and the stereotype of intelligence. In that context, the violence of stereotype works equally for a Jewish character. (It’s also been changed to an Indian character) What it also comes down to is that I want this play done. It has an important message, an important platform for discussion. If I could offer an option to get it performed and have students not only experience the issue of violence but also perhaps discuss it, that was what at the end of the day most important to me. We now even have a set list of changes in the script to modify the character. Final answer? Change approved.

Gender Switches:

  • Belly in Power Play is a overweight comedian type. He is shot by another guy. Change Belly from a guy to a girl.
  • Greg mourns the loss of his best friend in a drunk driving incident during a monologue in Skid Marks. Change Greg to a girl.

The Belly request stems from a production having more girls try out than guys, or a girl really wants to play the part. And as sincere as the request may be, this is and always will be a flat out no. Power Play is about violence and the violence that Belly has directed toward him is specifically and intentionally guy to guy violence. It changes the entire play and the intention of the play to have it become guy to girl violence. Final answer? Change denied.

Changing the Greg monologue character in Skid Marks is another repeat request. The heart of the monologue stems from the relationship between a character and his/her best friend. It’s not gender specific. Unless it changes the intention of the character, gender switches are fine with us. I would say 90% of our plays are pretty gender neutral anyway. Final answer? Change approved.

Story Changes:

Our feeling about the One Hour Shakespeares is that the original text isn’t ours anyway. If you want to do MORE Shakespeare, you have our blessing!!! Final answer? Change approved.

This Wait Wait Bo Bait one was interesting. We never approve adding text to our original plays. That is a big, big, no no. That is the epitome of changing the intention of the play. If you add your own lines, then really, it’s not the playwright’s work any more. So, the first request to add a monologue to Wait Wait Bo Bait came in very sweetly and was denied. The second request came in, a little more forceful, and was denied. The third request came in and basically said that I was ruining the production. So, obviously they had already made the change, before asking if they could, and needed the publisher’s permission to continue on in whatever festival they were performing in. Final answer? Change denied.

The Emotional Baggage one is kind of a trick question. When it was first suggested, I had a good down home rant around the office. Lines to Emotional Baggage?? A play without words??? The outrage!Deny! Deny! Deny! But the lesson here is that every situation is treated individually and that you should always ask first (and don’t ask the day before your production). You never know, right? This particular request came because there were very stringent rules in their competition and the production would have been docked diction points because there were no lines. Well I thought that was stupid and unfair, so the school and I came up with an agreement. Final answer? Change approved, but only in this specific instance. Don’t add words to plays.

Did you get them all right? Good for you! As a reward, you can click here and see all the ‘official’ script changes that have been made to Grease. Compare the original lines to their cleaned up counter parts. What do you think? Has the intention been changed or kept intact?

About the author

Lindsay Price