Santa Diaries Update

The Play…

Yesterday afternoon I met Laura at her office and we had a Skype session with our manager, Margie Farmer. On Monday night Margie met with fifteen people from the Liberty Showcase Theatre group who are in discussion with us about producing The Santa Diaries this Christmas.

We were supposed to Skype with Margie on Tuesday, but couldn’t get through to her. I was worried. Turns out she was at the chiropractor’s office and today was Skyping from a recliner, her back on ice. When you Skype the video isn’t always synced with the audio, but being able to see the person you are talking to is so much better than a phone conversation.

Margie said she enjoyed meeting the theater team and we are all hoping it will work out. They are community theater all the way – sponsored by the Owings Mills Recreation and Parks Council of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.

This summer they performed Godspell.

Liberty showcase

Since our play is about the community created by community theater, Laura and I love the idea that this could be a true community production and collaboration.

For many years our manager, Margie Farmer, was the head of the Music Department at Baltimore’s St. Paul’s School for Girls. In that capacity she worked on and produced many plays. She has a wealth of experience that will help us. For example, she suggested  we prepare a Director’s Book which has the script, cast lists, music, staging suggestions, prop lists, and on and on. In future we can sell this to the people producing the play. She said she always bought the most complete Director’s Book available for any show she was doing and is going to send us examples.

After our Skype session Laura and I spent time on line where we found the same Marley dog costume the Avalon purchased for their production. This information will go in the Director’s Book. We liked the iconic look of the Dalmatian dog costume. It was big and bold on stage and the costume was only $125. Even a small theater can afford that.


The Movie…

Our movie script for The Santa Diaries has been revised using all the terrific suggestions we got from our script consultant Dara Marks during out four hour phone consultation last month. Next week it goes back to Dara again and on August 14th we have our final consultation. Then we spend more time tweaking. In the meantime Laura has been researching where and how to send the script. The Santa Diaries will live on.

Laura Posts “It’s Really Happening!”

This article says that the Avalon Foundation is casting roles for its Christmas production. A new original play written by Laura Ambler and Mala Burt. Yikes! That’s US! There in black and white for everyone to see. Yes, I know Mala’s been posting about our Santa Diaries meetings with the Avalon, even documenting them with photos, but that doubting, insecure, neurotic writer part of me was absolutely certain that the Avalon folks just didn’t want to hurt our feelings. That they were being gracious and humoring us, but would eventually say, “We’re sorry, but it’s not for us.” The delicate way of saying it stinks.

But seeing the notice in Friday’s Star Democrat’s weekend section that auditions for The Santa Diaries are starting THIS MONDAY – September 24th  – from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Avalon, was truly a Sally Field Oscar moment. And no, not that they loved us, but that we’d created something that they believed would showcase local talent and resonate with the community. We will SO be there! What writer could resist seeing something they wrote actually being performed!

Writing is such a solitary pursuit. When you write fiction you never get to sit next to the reader and see how they react to what you wrote – unless you’re REALLY obnoxious – and yes, I admit, I’ve forced people to read something I wrote while I watched them – namely my husband –   and pounced on their (his) every physiological reaction – “You sighed! Were you moved???!” The usual reaction… “No, I was just breathing.” Sad. Me. Not them (him).

Even writing movie screenplays, in which I’ve optioned and sold a few and even had one produced is similar. The studio or production company tells you what you wrote was FABULOUS! Then when you see the actual film or rewrite find they’ve added unicorns or ogres and flaming fireballs to your heartfelt family film. Or changed it from a man against nature drama to a murder car chase flick. Seriously.

Writing with Mala is such a joy. We’ve worked on novels and screenplays and teleplays. We’ve made each other laugh to the point of tears. And tortured her poor husband, Roger – our resident expert on everything from political to psychological – with innumerable questions – and yes – he always has the answer, not to mention the raised eyebrow at our sanity. But this is the first time our writing will be a supreme collaborative venture. A romantic comedy Christmas musical.

Inspried by….

 – but more on that later.

The Avalon folks, Tim Weigand, Jessica Bellis Rogers, Cece Davis and Liza Ledford not only READ our play. They liked it!  Along the way they have had fabulous ideas about how to make it better! We loved the feedback.

To actually seeing them acting out some of the parts was like (I imagine) heroin! Or fudge. Or cheese! Pick your poison. I want more!

And based on seeing this notice in the Star Democrat, I am salivating. I will get my cheese on Monday. There will be actors and dancers and musicians wanting to bring The Santa Diaries to life. Adding their own vision, passion, and experiences.  Amazing. It’s really happening.

Do What the John Wants!

Notes sessions are where the people you are writing a script for tell you what they want fixed. A script writer friend told us once, “You do what the John wants.” It cracked us up because it was so spot on, and has become part of our vocabulary.

Yesterday Laura and I met at the Avalon at 3pm with Jessica Bellis Rogers, Tim Weigand, Cece Davis and  Liza Ledford for another notes session. Jessica, Tim and Cece  told us they had spent about five hours over the weekend (with helpful input from Liza) going over the latest version of the script. They had some excellent suggestions — tweaks mostly that can be made with slight changes to already existing lines of dialogue. It was suggested we move one scene. Easy with cut and paste.

Then Tim mentioned, sotto voce, that they wanted the changes made by Monday morning because they are going to start auditions Monday evening. Excuse me, what did you just say? Laura and I are both jammed up today (Thursday) with other commitments, but that leaves Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Piece of cake. The Avalon folks were a little apologetic, but we know this is how the process works. At some point it starts to get intense.

Cece is going to help with the social media piece and we are really grateful. Jessica commented that at the Avalon they struggle with how much time to devote to social media. It can suck you right up, so having someone on board who doesn’t have to learn it from scratch will be huge.

After two intense hours the meeting started to break up, but we didn’t leave the theater until ten of six. Jessica wanted some photos of Laura and me for PR purposes. (Note to self: always assume when you go to a meeting that photos might be taken and wear mascara!) As we left the Avalon we looked at each other and laughed. “Do what the John wants,” we said simultaneously.

I’ve just downloaded the pictures (which were taken on my camera) and we are to come up with some author quotes about the process thus far and send it all to the person who is going to write the first press release. The Avalon folks offered us that opportunity, but we passed.

Monday is rushing at us.