I’ve been having an interesting (or frustrating depending on the day) round with play titles this month. Specifically, the need to change said play title. Actually, titles. Three of them. Three plays need new titles.
The process of picking a title for a play either goes smoothly or it’s like passing a watermelon. What? Too much information? Well, it’s an important thing, coming up with the right title. A title can make or break an unknown play and let’s be frank – all my plays are unknown. The title acts as a entry point, particularly for plays which don’t have name recognition. For the most part, if someone is looking for plays at the Drama Bookshop’s table at a conference, they’re looking for a specific title. If they’re looking for plays at our table, they’re going to pick up a play that catches their eye. If a title can make a customer pick up a play, they are more likely than not going to read the description, and if they like the description, they’re more likely than not to read a few pages and on it goes. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not interested in cutsy-tounge-in-cheek-isn’t-that-clever titles slapped onto crappy plays. However, if the title doesn’t grab attention, the play won’t get read. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the play is.
Play Number One: Betweenity.
Until a couple of days ago this play was called The In-Between and is currently in the final stages of proofing before publication. One of the steps in pre-publication is to do a google search on the name and see what else comes up. You can’t copyright a title, but if there’s a product in the same genre with the same title, it just makes sense to not cause confusion. And a couple of days ago we found a musical with the name The In-Between with a teen main character. Now, the subject matter is different. It’s a musical not a play. It has not been produced in North America. But…..same arena, same potential market….. New title for me. And I like The In-Between so much, which makes it that much more watermelon like to come up with something different.
Play Number Two: Dogfight
This play title has to change for the same reason as above (there’s a play AND a movie with the same title) but I’m actually more than happy to make the change. Dogfight is a play that’s in the early stages of development (it’s my typewriter play) and I’ve been growing less and less enamored with the title as I’ve been working on the script. Sometimes that happens. I like having a title on a piece as early as possible in the process, even if it’s just a temporary place holder title. I want to live with a title for awhile, see how it fits and this one is just not fitting. It’s perfectly right for the play, it’s serviceable, but I don’t know. And now I don’t have to know. What’s the new title going to be? No idea – I won’t be working on the script again till the summer, so we’ll see what happens.
Play Number Three: The Fairy’s Revolt
This title change is very interesting. I’m currently working on an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for a school. I’ve been having a bit of a tussle with the script – a main character who’s not as likeable as I want, a story that keeps turning gloomy. And it took me a while to realize I was trying to write a play that matched the title, instead of the other way around. As soon as I released myself from the “revolt” concept in the title all the ducks got in their row. It’s amazing how one little word can steer the path of a story off course. Now I’m on my second title which is better but not quite right. A third is around the corner, I can feel it. Where’s my thesaurus….