A week ago today Laura Ambler and I met with Julianna Skluzacek, Artistic Director of the Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.
The Merlin Players produced The Santa Diaries in 2014 and reached out to us about writing another Christmas show for them. Laura came up with the brilliant idea of writing the original cast of characters but five years later.
We wrote a spec arc in October 2017 and sent it to Julianna. We began working in earnest on the arc of the play on November. Julianna put the spec arc before their board and it was accepted as their 2018 Christmas show. Laura and I began writing two or three days a week (for a couple of hours) and by mid January we had a first act. We forwarded it to Julianna just to make sure we were on the same page. She loved it.
Julianna knew she was coming east in the spring and we set a date to meet. On March 5th we sent her the first draft.
When we met last week we read the play out loud. Juliana had a few notes, and some minor suggestions which were easy to fix. Everyone who played the original parts is coming back to reprise the characters. That helped with the writing because we knew the strengths of the actors. One of them hoped there would be another rap song. We had a song but hadn’t thought about making it a rap. Easily done and it made the play better. Julianna said the kid who had played the imaginary Marley dog who was Timmy’s companion hoped he would have a part in the new play. It was a discussion Laura and I had several times and just couldn’t make it work. Julianna had an idea about how to accomplish making sure this character from the first play made it into the second. And it made the play better.
When we were finished we took Julianna to lunch, had a bottle of wine and celebrated. We’ll be going to Minnesota in December to see the premier of A Christmas Wedding, The Santa Diaries 11.
The day after we met with Julianna, Laura and I worked for two hours and made the needed tweaks. The following day I printed out the play again and read it for any necessary typos, etc. Laura fixed those, formatted the script and it was sent off to Julianna.
When I look back on the writing arc of this project I see that steady chunks of time got us to the finish line. Laura and I usually wrote three days a week for about two hours. We quit when our brains weren’t firing on all cylinders. But if we had let this project drift until we were two weeks away from the deadline, we wouldn’t have written the same play. The small changes to dialogue or bits of business for an actor that expanded their character would be missing — those serendipitous ideas that waken you in the middle of the night or while you’re driving.
We are so proud of what we’ve accomplished and can’t wait for December to see it on its feet.