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Monday, April 6, 2015

A Great Full-Length Play for School and Community Theaters

One of the scenes from Bees are in the Park, performed as a stand alone piece at the Delaware Theatre Arts Festival by the Reedy Point Players

Greetings everyone, and welcome to theater is a sport, my little place on the internet to talk about theater.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I am a playwright, an actor, and a director, but, most of all, a full-on theater geek.

Today, I'm not feeling incredibly well, so I thought it might be a good day for a blog post focusing on a little self-promotion. I mean, what the heck?  I have the blog, I might as well use it to promote myself from time to time, why not?

A play of mine I'm very proud of, but which doesn't seem to get a whole lot of productions, is a full-length comedy drama I wrote called Bees are in the Park, the title, of course, coming from an old rhyme my sisters and I used to shout out when we were kids--- "Flies are in the city, bees are in the park, the boys and girls are kissing in the d-a-r-k dark, dark, DARK!"

A VERY popular play for school and community theaters these days is a play called Almost, Maine by John Cariani.  I was even in a production myself a few years back.  I am not surprised that it is so widely produced with school and community theaters--- it's funny, has heart, has colorful characters and dialogue, but, most importantly, it is easy to stage and easy to rehearse.  Being a collection of ten-minute, somewhat interlocking vignettes, most with only two characters at time, is kind of a dream for a community theater director.  It's easy to get everyone you need to a rehearsal when you're only rehearsing a two person scene, after all.  And then, it's just a matter of putting it together.  It also is very flexible--- you can double or even triple up some of the parts in the play, or, you can have different actors for each scene. All of these factors, along with the simple settings, make a play very easy to produce, particularly for schools and community theaters with a limited budget.

I wrote Bees are in the Park to be a simple to rehearse, easy-to-produce play, in the same vein, though, believe it or not, I was well in the works of developing it before I ever heard of Almost, Maine.  And, I need to be clear--- it is a VERY different play, with a different feel to it, and very different characters.  However, Bees are in the Park  is a series of interlocking ten to fifteen minute scenes, all taking place at the same park on the same day.   Here's the official synopsis from Brooklyn Publishers website, who so kindly published the piece:

"A beautiful park on a beautiful day is the setting for this full-length interlocking collection of vignettes:  a would-be stepdad and a grumpy little girl, an overprotective mother and her special needs son, a teenage boy trying to tell a girl that he loves her for the first time, and an old couple looking back on their long and lovely life together are the characters who make up this richly textured, poignant, and funny play. Easy to stage, with strong opportunities for character study with young actors, or a perfect community theater piece, Bees are in the Park has something for everyone."

There are seven scenes and epilogue.  They are as follows:

SCENE 1:  SUZY AND THE WOULD-BE STEPDAD in which a young man is taking a little girl to the park.  He used to date the girl's mother, but she broke up with him, and he has missed being a father figure to the little girl.

SCENE 2:  SIMPLE ARITHMETIC in which a teenage boy tries to tell a teenage girl that he is in love with her, but is afraid of ruining their friendship.

SCENE 3:  A FORGETFUL REMEMBRANCE, in which in elderly couple look back on their married life together.  This scene is a real tear-jerker, and may be one of my favorite scenes I've ever written.

ACT TWO:

SCENE 1:  NURSING, in which the would-be stepdad talks to the mother of a special needs boy, as their charges play in the sandbox.

SCENE 2:  SANDBOX, in which Suzy and Albert, two little kids, make a connection while playing.

SCENE 3:  KNOWING WHAT'S RIGHT, in which the teenage girl from Act One, Scene 2, talks with the elderly man from Act One, Scene 3, and he gives her some wise advice.

SCENE 4:  THE NEW MATH, in which the teenage boy gets his answer from the teenage girl.

EPILOGUE:  TOO MUCH, in which the would-be stepdad says goodbye to Suzy after their day at the park.

What I tried to accomplish with this play was to create scenes that have their own individual arc, but also contribute to form a dramatic arc for the piece as a whole.  It is a play about different kinds of love and connection, and I believe, has feelings any audience can relate to.  The play runs about 90 minutes (the Brooklyn website says 70, but I think that's a bit low), and should be performed with an intermission.  It can be performed with as few as 2 males and 2 females, or with as many as 4 males and 4 females.

What I may be most proud of in this play is that it examines the world through different age groups: children, teenagers, a man and a woman in their early thirties, and an elderly couple. I recommend that the parts of the 7 year-old kids be played by actors who are older, or even teenagers, pretending to be little kids.  I believe this offers an excellent opportunity for young actors and community theater performers to work on character study.

With simple settings, it really is a play that any budget could perform.  The park can be as simple or as complex as the director likes--- it's the characters and stories that sell the play.

Here's a testimonial form a school group who did the play.  It comes from Martin Kois, the director for Sierra Lutheran High School:

"This is a perfect play for a smaller theater group, with opportunities to explore many different aspects of acting all at once and get real, meaningful drama without requiring elaborate set or costume.  This show is amazing and has incredible heart!"

I tell you, it was a good day when I read that comment on the website.

I wrote this play with a great deal of love in my heart--- I know it sounds silly or sappy to say, but it's true.  I wrote this play with love, in the hopes of being honest about it, and avoiding sappiness.  If you are interested in reading more about the play, and reading a free sample, you can visit its page on the Brooklyn Publishers website by CLICKING HERE.  Again, the only thing I would say, is that the play is longer than listed there, running about 90 minutes.

Thank you for taking the time to read about a play I am very proud of.  Please check it out if you are interested.  And, if it were to become a big hit, and be produced by hundreds of schools and community theaters across the country... well, I'd definitely be okay with that.

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