About eight years ago, I wrote a 10-minute comedy called RED STUFF that featured two seemingly silly characters named Buggy and Tyler: college friends who, having lost touch, have an unexpected and awkward reunion in a doctor’s office waiting room. The play was produced in DC, where it won a little award, and again (somewhat to my surprise) in Boston. I had a ton of fun with the two of them… but that, I thought, was that.
Some years later, as I was writing my play ABSTRACT NUDE, I had a sudden urge: I needed to bring Buggy back. Before I knew it, there he was, firmly establishing himself in the story… and, in the fullness of time, bringing his buddy Tyler back with him. Their relationship deepened as I worked on the play, but it always stayed funny. In fact, I think their one-on-one scene in that play may be the funniest thing I’ve ever written, if I may be so bold.
And that, I thought, was really that… until I was asked to write a short comedy for a last-minute reading at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival. What else was I supposed to do under duress? I brought them right back again for a play called CORN. I found I could hear their voicesâ€”and write lines for themâ€”instantly and with great ease. The play was only somewhat successfulâ€”if I’d had more time, who knows?â€”but I really liked spending time with them again. They felt like friends, or if not friends, exactly, then welcoming and familiar personalities. People who know my work started to talk about them as a modernÂ Odd Couple. (Buggy is a scat- and pornography-obsessed Oscar with attention deficit disorder and Tyler is a barely-closeted Felix.) Give how much I admire Neil Simon, the comparison made me happy.
And now, amazingly, I find myself in the odd position of having recently brought the boys right back for yet another short play: this time, they meet at a funeral home. (Those guys!) It was tremendous, silly fun to take them there, and I look forward to hearing the play read not long from now. I only wish I could hear it in the voices of my definitive Buggy and Tyler, but both of those actors have moved a good ways away from DC.
Given all the work I’ve done, I’m seriously considering stringing all the scenes together, writing four more, and making some kind of evening out of them. I know it would at least be hysterical; my creative challenge would be to also make it matter somehow.
Am I the only playwright who does this? Have you ever brought characters from one play into another… and another… and another?
Yup: I have to do it again.