Stage Writes

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Special Contributor: Episode 3 of Donna Hoke's blog "Finding Neil Patrick Harris: A Play in Process"

NOTE: We are re-posting Donna's blog on a weekly basis. To read ahead or to learn more about her and her other work, either visit the author page on our site or go directly to her website

So… in going back over what I’d written so far… I sort of committed to that sitcom thing, which I realize can not only be the thing Katie needs to prove—maybe it’s her ex-husband who never thought she was funny; that’s the kind of thing that can stick in her mind—but also a reason to find Neil Patrick Harris. But what about Cha-Cha… she’s got something to prove too, but given that Tonio calls her out about never leaving the salon, it seems she’s not really doing that… I feel like I need to just keep driving toward this scene’s objective and see what happens:

And now we return to FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (remember back about half a page so you can remember where we were).

Neil Patrick 3

TONIO: You’re never leaving.
CHA-CHA: I am so!
TONIO: You say that every week. Admit that you’d miss me.
CHA-CHA: That’s the craziest–
TONIO: Unrequited love is painful.
CHA-CHA: I really am going to leave.
KATIE: Maybe the local pig sty is hiring.
TONIO: As quick-witted as her daughter.
CHA-CHA: It’s not insulting if it’s not funny.
KATIE: It is funny. Because you’re dirty.
CHA-CHA: Not dirty like a pig.
KATIE: That’s why it’s funny.
CHA-CHA: It’s not funny.
KATIE: What do you know? I know funny. I wrote a sitcom. And it’s funny.
CHA-CHA: What’s it about?
KATIE: Do you really want to know?
CHA-CHA: I fucking asked.
KATIE: Okay, so it’s about a boy–
CHA-CHA: Make it a girl.
CHA-CHA: Trust.
KATIE: I guess it could be a girl.
CHA-CHA: If you can change it that easy, it’s not specific enough.
KATIE: Just let me tell you! The boy–girl has three brothers, sisters? Anyway, they live in a cave–
TONIO: Geico already did that.
KATIE: Can I talk?! They live in a cave alone, but their mother talks to them through a stalactite to help them survive. And also she is speaking from the future.
CHA-CHA: So like Land of the Lost meets My Mother the Car?
KATIE: What?
TONIO: How old are you?
KATIE: No, they’re in a cave. So they’re battling like prehistoric monsters and stuff.
CHA-CHA: Why is that funny?
KATIE: Because it’s a stalactite. What’s funnier than stalactites?

TONIO opens his mouth to say “Everything,” but the word doesn’t come out. He tries again. Maybe even again. And dies. The audience should 100% know he’s dying, and even he’s very dramatic–and he should be, but quietly–the ladies don’t even notice.

CHA-CHA: Who told you it was funny?
KATIE: Lily.
CHA-CHA: She didn’t read it.
KATIE: Yes, she did!
CHA-CHA: She’s in eighth grade. She didn’t read her mother’s pathetic attempt at a sitcom.
KATIE: She wouldn’t lie to me.
CHA-CHA: What did she say about it?
KATIE: That it was funny.
CHA-CHA: What else?
KATIE: That um… She liked…
CHA-CHA: See. She didn’t read it. Because if she read it, she’d say things like “This situation is completely implausible. These characters are stereotypes. There’s not enough story here to sustain more than one season.”
KATIE: What if none of those things are true?
CHA-CHA: They are.
KATIE: How do you know?
CHA-CHA: Because it’s your first sitcom.
KATIE: Maybe it’s not. Maybe I–
CHA-CHA: It is.
KATIE: How do you know all that?
CHA-CHA: Because I’ve written five.

CHA-CHA: Why do you think I keep this  job?
KATIE: For the money.
CHA-CHA: Because an idiot can do it.
CHA-CHA: It frees my creative juices. Because it’s a freaking gold mine of character inspiration. Because nobody has bought my damned pilot yet. And if nobody bought mine, then yours sucks.
KATIE: You’re jealous because Lily thought it was funny.
CHA-CHA: The kid can’t say “My mother bought it at a garage sale,” you think she’s going to tell you you can’t land a joke?
KATIE:Why did the chicken cross the road?
KATIE: To ask Tonio what he thinks.
CHA-CHA and KATIE turn toward TONIO who has died with his mouth open trying to say something snarky about Katie’s story.
KATIE: Tonio?
CHA-CHA pokes him, which launches him into a funny position, where he’s staring straight at her.
CHA-CHA: [screams]
KATIE: Is he–
TONIO falls out of the chair to the floor.
CHA-CHA: Shit.

So, looks like with the sitcom stuff, in for a penny in for a pound, as Cha-Cha also has interest in writing sitcom, which allows the whole thing to become a point of contention between the two. I don’t know how well that will shake out in the end but for now it’s good for several reasons:
*Cha-Cha can’t possibly think Katie could be better at this than her so it helps build some tension between them.
*Both women are using the writing thing to try to prove something but for different reasons so it both unites and divides them. I’m not sure how that will work but it’s a road I’m going to go down for now.
*I still don’t know to whom Cha-Cha is trying to prove something, but right now, this scene needs to drive toward the conclusion that is the inciting incident of this play and that’s my primary objective. This play needs to be set in motion.
I'm also willing to consider that Cha-Cha might be lying, just to one-up Katie. Maybe Cha has always dreamed of writing a sitcom and she can’t believe that Katie has actually done it, and she’s envious. Maybe Cha-Cha has never been very good at meeting her goals. These are possibilities… Because I’m wondering if Cha-Cha thinks Katie is too buttoned up, but really it’s Cha who doesn’t like to reveal things. Because really in scene one, we learn a lot about Katie’s life—she’s divorced with a child, she’s not making a ton of money and she buys clothes for her kid at garage sales, her relationship with her ex isn’t the best, and she has dreams. And what have we learned about Cha-Cha? She likes to make jokes.
Hmmm… That makes me wonder if Cha could have some monologues that are like stand-up where she reveals things to the audience. Those are all things that came to mind as I finished scene one. If you’re still with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts. That’s the only way I know you’re here!