Incubator—Where ideas come from

Print

by Matthew A. Everett | 8/20/09 •

Most of the time, it starts with a title.

Some of the time, the title comes from a song.

I get asked periodically if I have a script that’s Fringe-length (over 30 minutes, under an hour).

The first time I got asked, I cobbled together four ten minute plays and came up with 2004’s Dandelion Snow

One of the more recent times, I pulled a short play I last touched in 1998, and another whipped up with a friend in 2005, put them on the same bill and voila 2008’s The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon, and Dog Tag.

single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.

But I really don’t have that perfectly Fringe-shaped one act in my arsenal. Most of my one acts, created by commission of one sort or another – Studpuppy, But Not For Love, Leave, Medea & Jason: Rubicon Waltz – all land in the 90 minute zone.

Most of my other ideas end up being full-length, two act affairs – Heaven & Home, The Hopes and Fears of All The Years, Love’s Prick etc.

Most of my shorts were created for 10 minute play festivals, the Chicago Avenue Project and 24 hour play projects or Thirst and the Museum of Bad Art Plays. Too short to fill out a whole Fringe slot.

So I figured it was time I did something more deliberate, so the next time I get asked the question, I can say, “Why yes, I happen to have a script right here.” Or two scripts, or three…

For some reason, for me, it normally starts with a title. Some turns of phrase from well-worn songs have been dogging the corners of my mind of late, so I figured they were as good a place to start as any. Most likely candidate at the moment…

Iris DeMent, that great country crooner, teamed up with Del McCoury on the soundtrack to the film “You Can Count On Me” for an aching little ex-lover duet called “I’m Still In Love With You.” Two people spotting each other in the crowd after a long time apart, at least one of them (if not both) going to this event quite deliberately on the chance they might run into the other. Emmylou kicks in on the second verse…

“There you are, right across the room from me

Just the way I knew you’d be

Looking lonesome, wild and blue…”

I love the idea of Lonesome Wild and Blue as a title for some reason

Next thing dogging me…

The Counting Crows song “The Rain King” was used by a theater out in LA as the final pre-show song before the opening of my play “Heaven and Home.” About two thirds of the way through, they use the phrase…

The Burning Heart of God

I’ve been carrying that around in my head since the production back in 1997.

Coming in third right now…

The folk song “Stones In The Road” was sung by Joan Baez, but also by the person who wrote it, Mary-Chapin Carpenter. I listen to Carpenter a lot. The bridge before the last verse includes…

“We drink our coffee on the run

We climb that ladder rung by rung

We are the daughters and the sons

And here’s the line that’s missing…”

And then the music continues with no words for four bars, the same track ticking by in the background.

I always liked that empty space

The Line That’s Missing.

And on the content/substance front…

Finally, just a few days ago on the radio as I was driving home from the day job, I heard a story about town in California where a lot of Iraqi refugees were congregating. There was an English as a second language class being used as a framing device. As the story was winding down, the class could be heard in the background repeating phrases in unison…

“We are homesick”

“They are in love”

“I am hungry”

“She is nervous”

“He is confused”

Damn.

If I can’t make something out of that, there’s something wrong with me.

Bits and pieces. Tucked in a folder on my computer called “Fringe Project”

Guess we’ll see…

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.

Support people-powered non-profit journalism! Volunteer, contribute news, or become a member to keep the Daily Planet in orbit.