Notes on a Play You’ll Never See

So, I’m pouring as fast as I can through The Playwrights’ Guidebook by Stuart Spencer in order to get some ideas for how to start revising my play.  As you’ll recall, for those of you coming late to the discussion, Plimco works for a theater company who’s having a contest and she encouraged me to submit something.

The rules are that it has to have something to do with an anniversary somehow, it has to have four or fewer people in it, it has to be gay-friendly, and it has to be shorter than 30 minutes.

I whooped up a play about an up-and-coming country star whose whole shtick is to reimagine and bring back the sparkly rhinestoned cheesy glamour of the country music of our youth, who is performing on the Opry for the first time, on her birthday.

A dashing reporter–in my mind played by Gina Gershon–comes to interview her.

They talk and drink and make out and then the country star must decide if she’s going to come out.

Here are the problems as I see it:

1. I don’t have any idea what motivates my reporter, because when push came to shove and it became obvious that she would of course realize that she’d just uncovered the biggest story of the year in country music news, she just is all like, “Well, there are a lot of closeted gay people in country music.  I’ll keep your secret.”

Why would she do that?

She wouldn’t, of course, but when I wrote in the scene where she wants to report it and the star doesn’t want her to report it, I couldn’t figure out how to resolve it, and so I just reworked it so she was unnaturally nice and understanding.

2.  In order to feel good about her being unnaturally nice and understanding, I made her sometimes really smart and sometimes an idiot.  Here she is, a reporter interviewing a country singer, and she has to be schooled on country music?  No, I’ve got to make her smarter.

3.  Until last night, I didn’t understand what motivated my singer.  All the clues are there in the draft I wrote, but I thought she was motivated by wanting to be able to be who she was (gay) and also be able to be a country singer.

But last night, I realized that what appeals to her about country music is the strong tradition and the idea that, if you get on the Opry and join the Opry, you’ll be set for life; you’ll always have a group of people you belong to, and who get what you’re doing and why.

And then I asked myself, if she’s about to take that first step towards joining that tradition, why is she sitting in her dressing room getting drunk?

And then I realized, it’s because she’s incredibly lonely and hates her job.

Her being gay is not her big secret.  Her hating her dream job is.

She’s already trying to quit, without realizing it.

And so, for her, it’s not that she kisses a girl that’s the climax.  It’s that she kisses a reporter in a place where they might be walked in on at any minute.  It’s when she becomes aware of the risks she’s taking and why.

And so, when the reporter wants to out her, which of course she will, the singer’s struggle is with will this make her less lonely or not?

So, if the reporter gets excited about how this is going to be the biggest story of her year and how she wants to follow her around and be there to see what happens, the singer is scared, but she’s being offered both a way out and, at least, a temporary cure for her loneliness, because the reporter wants to be by her side getting her big story.

So, at least now, I think I have a way to resolve the action that seems more real.

Unless I read something in the last 80 pages of Spencer’s book that makes me change my mind.

18 thoughts on “Notes on a Play You’ll Never See

  1. Or, the story is about a ruthless young gay reporter who intends to out an up n coming star she suspects is gay, and sets a target date for her scoop to be on the opry’s anniversary. Trouble insues when the up n coming star reads Kleinheiders post about gayness being curable, and contacts him for info on haggard’s rehab facility. Kleinheider, torn between his desire to help this young, ambitious, but unconveinantly gay up n coming star, and his own ambition, outs her instead. The reporter, furious with kleinheider, murders him and live-blogs it.I’m just spit-ballin here….

  2. heeey Mack, you stole that from my ex’s life story!You damn plagarizing playwright!You are correct about one thing: In the words of Little Jimmy Dickens, "Chick dig rhinestones."

  3. on the other hand, if G. Gershon is in the play, I’ll certainly go and see it. I still get goosebumps when I think about ‘Bound’…uh..where was i..oh yeah..I think we WILL see this play some day, B.

  4. I think I’m getting it. The singer is tired of singing about songs about loving HIM, but knows that she’s on the cusp of a big career break where she can be "made" if she just stays in the closet. The reporter is tired of getting stuck with entertainment puff pieces, and I can foresee a problem that maybe she herself wouldn’t perceive. If she outs her subject, wouldn’t she will be done in Nashville? No one is ever going to trust her again and there’s a lot of backstage secrets; seems to me that this would have a high risk of backfiring. Also, it seems to me that being a tough girl reporter in the glamour days of country (you know the hard-boiled type) was ok; being a dyke was not. So, could it be the case where the reporter must take a chance on killing her own career to out someone? Or could they play a game of career chicken — mutually assured destruction of jobs that they are good at, but aren’t fulfilling? Hell, if they both get fired, it could even be a happy ending.

  5. In order to feel good about her being unnaturally nice and understanding, I made her sometimes really smart and sometimes an idiot. Here she is, a reporter interviewing a country singer, and she has to be schooled on country music? No, I’ve got to make her smarter.

    You’re just trying to make me laugh, right? Because, um, ahem, someone I know who interviews country singers with fair regularity reports that they’re always surprised when a reporter knows the least little thing about what they do.

    if she’s about to take that first step towards joining that tradition, why is she sitting in her dressing room getting drunk?And then I realized, it’s because she’s incredibly lonely and hates her job.

    Or maybe she’s afraid that if she’s out, the people on the Opry won’t want to be her family. So she’ll be lonely anyway.

    Oh, and everyone is wearing rhinestones. You can’t go wrong with rhinestones. Ever.

    Not that it’s relevant here, but there was a piece in the Tennessean today about where in Los Angeles Marty Stuart goes to buy fabric and doodads for his costumes.

  6. There surely are or have been gays who played the Opry, whether as members or as guests. Even openly gay artists. I mean, k.d. laing, at least. And others who are in the closet.

  7. Slightly facetious. Just slightly. Heh. I knew a gay Opry star personally. It was a thing where people knew it but back then it wasn’t discussed and really, the people who knew him and loved him, it wasn’t an issue. Surprisingly.

  8. I wonder whether that would have been true if he had been out to everyone, and if the fans had known. I am aware of a lot of Opry-connected people who personally and privately have the most loving, least judgemental hearts in the world, about just about anything. But once something is "in public" they get all "oh, I don’t want to drive away half my audience so I’m not going to act so inclusively." Which I don’t mean as a condemnation. I think that anyone who depends on a fan base in a highly-polarized society like the contemporary U.S. has some dancing to do to stay on the tightrope. It’s just that all the "everybody loved him" stuff in the world probably feels pretty hollow when it only happens inside the closet. I thought that’s one of the places B might be going to go with the play.

  9. I think I’m getting a little bit at that, in my latest draft–that the problem isn’t that the singer’s gay, but what would happen if it was well-known than she was gay.I think, depending on how popular you were and what kind of country music you did, you might be able to salvage a career playing Lightning 100 type music. But for some folks, I do think it’d be career suicide.Which is really too bad.It’s like when the lead singer from Judas Priest came out and was all like "Of course I’m gay. I prance around in leather pants and sing about fucking to an audience of sweaty men." (Obviously not a direct quote).All the sequins and the wild hair? And all of the really butch manly men? It’s not hard to see why gay men would feel secretly at home in country music (not to be too stereotypical, but…)

  10. Sequins and wild hair? OMG, what are you telling me about Porter Wagoner?!? I’m going to have to revise all my fantasies….

  11. We’ll never know because it was a totally different time and era. Right or wrong, it was the way it was. I’m sure a lot of his fans did know because he came along at a time when artists were much closer to their fans. His life, besides the gay part, would make such a great movie anyway. He’s one of those that largely because it was his choice, that sadly many, especially of the newer music fans, will never know just how important he was to the music, to Nashville and to the industry.

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