Playwriting

When titles go bad

So my brand new full length play is called Somewhere Nowhere. Which I really like. It’s about the desire to stay or leave a small town for a group of teenagers. How a small town can be a meaningful ‘somewhere’ for some and ‘nowhere’ for others – just a place to leave. It’s a descriptive title, a bit poetic, and also quite concise.

It’s not the original title. The original title was Small Town Seasons. The play is made up of four smaller plays each of which, thematically, represent a season and also take place in that season. Initially, I really liked this title. It was descriptive, poetic, and concise.

But every time I repeated the title to someone, or wrote it down, I disliked it a little bit more. And a little bit more. And then I stopped talking about the title because I disliked it so much. It was the Seasons part, it just made the play sound quaint and I wasn’t interested in a quaint title.

I think titles sell plays. Especially in our case when there is no ‘known’ factor, there’s no ‘I heard about this’ factor. The plays for the most part have to sell themselves. Title play a big part of that. People judge, like, dislike, and buy plays based on the title. And if they don’t understand the title, that’s bad news.

Case in point: Anne-Arky used to be spelled Anne-archy. Because that’s the play – Anne for Anne of Green Gables. And Archy, for Anarchy, cause that’s what happens in the play. 9 times out of 10 someone would pick up the play and pronounce the last half of the title as “Archy.” As in Archie and Veronica. As in the thing in a doorway. And people had not one clue what an “Archy” was. So we had to change the spelling of the title so that people would pronounce it properly, and get what the play was about.

Second case in point: Body Body used to be spelled Bawdy Body. Because, in my mind, the characters who played the Body were very Bawdy as in coarse, rude, uncivilized, lowbrow. Everyone else in the world (and really this is so my fault) took Bawdy to mean sexually indecent. And that’s kind of a buzz kill for a play about body image.

I’m much happier with my new play title for Somewhere Nowhere. As for the rest of the world, we’ll just have to wait and see….

About the author

Lindsay Price

2 Comments

  • I had this problem when I directed [sic]. Yep, that’s the title, brackets and all. If I verbally told someone what the play was they thought I was saying either “sick” or “seek”. It’s a great play but the title is unfortunate. I do believe it cost us at the box office too.