Screenplays & Plays
Art: The story in a nut shell: Arthur Mann works at a carpet making factory and has an average 'nice' family: His wife, Mandy Mann owns a used romance bookstore and is an avid fan of these stories (which sparks their adventurous love life), his fourteen year old son AJ's passion for skateboards is yielding to dreams of a driver's license, his twelve year old daughter Joy is a softball playing sports fan and his adorable six year old boy Mikey, crippled in one leg and extremely gifted, is absolutely certain his happiness is contingent upon getting a dog, something his sister's allergies prohibit. Granny also lives with the family. She is an old eighty woman, with numerous health complaints, uncertain hearing, and a fixation of death.
The Manns are going about a happy middle class existence when something extraordinary happens: One night as they gather around the TV watching America's funniest home videos, Arthur imagines he could make a funny video, land a spot on the TV show and win the big prize. So begins his journey to discover just what is funny and then, to capture this on film.
Arthur spares no family or co--worker from the ravages of his growing obsession; it is one hilarious adventure after another. Every humor cliché is fully exploited here. Just as Arthur begins looking more and more like Stephen Spielberg, his 'video pieces' gradually become more elaborate, complicated and disastrous. Of course Arthur finally makes it on the show, but what happens, like each one of his 'home videos,' is a bone tickling funny surprise.
The story ends with Arthur and his family heading to Disneyland for a vacation but instead Arthur takes the wrong exit off the freeway. The exit reads: Hollywood, CA, a land populate by so many other folks who suffer from the all consuming ravishes of art. All in all this is a high brow theme done in a low brow landscape.
A Woman's Turn: This is an exciting story that rips beginning to end: A WOMAN'S TURN centers on the first female public defender in our country and while fiction, it is based on thetrue stories of women struggling to enter the legal profession in the early 1950's. The story opens with our heroine, Jessy Browner, attending law school just as women and minorities began trickling into these ivy covered halls and quickly leaps ahead two years where Jessy is still trying to secure employment as a lawyer. At one of her job interviews, where she usually received dates and even marriage proposals, but no job offers, she runs into her old friend Henry Nelson, who was the sole black student in her law school. He sends her to the public defenders office where he works to inquire about a possible job. The recalcitrant boss, Jack Mason, refuses to hire a woman, but Jessy finagles one chance to prove herself capable. He gives her three difficult cases to defend, one of which is a high profile rape case, hoping to prove that no woman is capable of doing the job. Each of these three cases is a story itself; each is carefully crafted to highlight and deepen characterization, while adding dramatic suspense.
Never imagining Jessy will last longer than a week, Jack Mason and his colleagues watch with amusement and a good deal of condescension as Jessy struggles to learn the ropes. Only Henry Nelson extends his help. As Jessy tackles her first two cases, her determination, intelligence and competency surprises everyone; her new colleagues begin to realize Jessy is a good deal better than just proficient and able. As Jessy uncovers a dangerous conspiracy against her defendant in the rape case, one that leads back to the DA's office, her colleagues begin not just rooting for her, but risking much to help Jessy eventually reveal the unexpected truth.
Interwoven into the suspenseful plot, Jack and Jessy struggle against their growing feelings for each other. Jack is married to Susan, who suffers with an increasingly severe mental illness. Susan's mental illness serves as a well-drawn metaphor for the restrictions placed on women at the time. Jack and Jessy's deepening love affair is tender and passionate and its eventual resolution comes as a satisfying surprise.
A Woman's Turn
The play opens with Ben Franklin waking up writer Jane Roth in the middle of the night. Ben has become a frequent visitor in Jane's life, appearing at inopportune times: her young daughter's piano recital, an important teacher's conference, and a friend's wedding. Ben tries to convince Jane to write a play about his life, but as Jane protests, "... Your life, wonderful and meaningful as it was, has all these interesting antidotes, precious moments that illuminate not just you and your remarkable character, but that momentous time in history. I just don't think it is enough for a play." Still, they begin a review of the wealth of Ben's life in search of a story for a play. The journey includes appearances by Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Silence Dogooder and Polly Baker. The hilarity comes not just from the treasure of Ben's wit, but also from Jane escaping her ordinary life for the ongoing imaginary and infinitely more rewarding conversation with Ben Franklin. In this way the play is about how art overwhelms real life. The emotional conclusion to the play takes on a surprising poignancy.
In hopes of catching your interest, I have included quotes from the two places I sent it too:
"Thanks so much for submitting BEN AND ME to Queens Theatre in the Park for consideration in our Plays A Mother Would Love Series.
We LOVED your play. It's brisk, entertaining, and bone tickling funny. Using Jane, the playwright, as an "angle into" Benjamin Franklin's story is a clever device. It's hysterical when Jane becomes so preoccupied with Ben that she neglects her family. I also enjoyed her gradually deciding that her play should be about Ben as a "womanizer." All and all, it's a lively bio-play. I found myself really caring about Jane, and her genuine need to write this play. With great actors, I'm confident that your play will be a huge success..."
Director of New Play Development
And from Detroit Repertory's Millan Theater Company: "Ben and Me is strong, funny and engaging. It is an original idea that is well executed, especially the dialogue..."
Ben and Me
Harriet Tubman: Let My People Go: While most civil rights leaders have had films and books made of their lives (for instance, Rosa Parks has had at least three movies in recent years), Harriet Tubman, the historical figure who embodies the noblest ideas of the American character, remains the most under appreciated heroine of our nation's story. The life of the greatest conductor on the underground railroad leaps from the page here as Harriet single handedly leads hundreds of people to freedom before going on to become the Union Army's greatest spy. While the intense drama of Harriet's life and her heart breaking humanity pack these pages, the story is thrilling and it rips from start to finish.
To make a great story even better: The history of the abolitionist movement is carefully woven into our narrative. Appearances by John Calhoun, the south's greatest defender as he fights the losing battle against William Stills, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Quincy Adams and the generous and heroic Quakers are littered throughout the tale. In this way, Harriet's life becomes a powerful celebration of the greatest social movement in human history. The story is told in two parts. The first part is offered here. The second part is available upon request.
Let My People Go - Part One
HOLY COW is the fun and funny story of Christy, a special calf born on Christmas day who bravely escapes the slaughter and the three children who help save her: Rachael, a thirteen year old who lives in a Star Trek fantasy chat room on the web, Franklin, a nine year old boy, whose problem is "whale size brains, shrimp size body..." and Romy, their very young sister. After hearing of Christy's initial journey to find her missing mother, the children discover JB Farms plans to send Christy to the slaughterhouse in hopes they might head off media interest in the cow. (Because of the drop in pork prices after the movie BABE, JB Farms executives are worried a good cow story might cause a corresponding drop in beef prices. As JB explains to his executives: "The last thing we want is for folks to start thinking of cows in a pig kind of way...") At a loss as to just how to save Christy, the children's Hispanic grandmother, Marie relates a story from her childhood of Saint Ambrose, the great protector of animals. The children appeal to the Saint to intervene.
Christy miraculously escapes from the slaughter.
The children alert the media and within days the American public fall in love with the children, their faith in the saint's intervention and Christy, now the Holy Cow. JB and company are terrified as the media story grows and grows, eventually alerting a Hollywood agent who begins to see the possibilities (read dollar signs) of a cow story. Beef prices indeed start to fall. The world watches as the battle over ownership of Christy moves to the court. The children and the cow lose as JB Farms' head lawyer, a man affectionately known as Snake, convinces the judge that the fate of America rests on sky rocketing beef prices. In the final scene, shamelessly stolen straight from THE SOUND OF MUSIC where Captain Von Trapp and company escape the evil nazis by hiding in the church, the animal right nut cases help the children rescue Christy.
Numerous other well drawn, zany kinds of characters tell the story: JB, his executives, and JB Farm cowboys, Joshua Hall, the children's loving but hopelessly inept father is a pastor whose sermons act as powerful sleeping potions, their grandmother, Marie, a Mexican immigrant who loves opera, cooking and the children in that order, Toni Hall, their high powered attorney mom who almost saves the day, Panda Bear, their large black and white Newfoundland dog and Longjohn, their talking parrot, who definitely steals the show.
This story is occasionally outrageous and thankfully, heartwarming in only two or three places. The humor is sometimes sophisticated, always playful and only in one scene does it stoop to HOME ALONE slap stick, seen one scene, seen 'em all type comedy. So, unlike so many other children's comedies, this one is an adult crowd pleaser as well.
The Good Fight is the story of Clarence Darrow's most compelling case where he successfully defended Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African American physician who was falsely accused of murder. The time for the most exciting and dramatic untold civil rights story is now, especially in light of the recent success of The Great Debate and A Raison in the Sun. This is a good read: My last agent auctioned THE GOOD FIGHT, and it received six offers, including Warner Bros (Jim Botko). Coverage on THE GOOD FIGHT said: "This moving and poignant story is compelling throughout, fast pace and dramatic. It should attract strong talent, have mass appeal and earn critical acclaim. Strong Recommend." And Denzel Washington's producer said it was the best screenplay he ever read. It has also been optioned by Julian Krainin Productions.
The Sweet case was Clarence Darrow's last great case before his death. He was already an old man, his tall frame hunched over, bent, as if weighted by the burden of his humanity. His famous cases were behind him, the Loeb-Leopold murder trial, the Scopes monkey trial, all his important labor cases and few people thought he had another fight in him. He was to prove them wrong.
The story takes place during the great industrial migration when the black population of Detroit swelled from four thousand to seventy thousand and yet all people of color were confined to a small, horribly over crowded slum area just outside the city. Our hero, Dr. Ossian Sweet, an internationally prominent black physician, bought a house in a white neighborhood and moved his family in. A vicious lynching mob of seven hundred people collected outside. In the ensuing riot, Dr. Sweet fired a warning shot from a rifle above the crowd. The police fired twice afterwards. One white man lay dead. Dr. Sweet and his family were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree.
The outcome of the trial was a forgone conclusion until the NAACP convinced Darrow to step up to the defense one more time and still, all might have been lost if not for the intelligence, strength and dynamic qualities of the Sweet family themselves: Dr. Ossian Sweet, his wife, Gladys, his two brothers, Drs. Henry and Otis Sweet, and his gifted seventeen year old daughter, Alana. (There is a very tender and doomed romance between Alana and John Hays, Darrow's young law partner.) Far more than vast majority of contemporary stories, this one is packed full of outstanding, dramatic and starring roles for African Americans. The Sweets leap to life as an educated, wealthy, upper class family, a vivid portrait of the American dream and all its possibilities. The role of Clarence Darrow is great as well; he is at once witty, sly, cunning, and brilliant but fading, all in all larger than life.
This is an important story. The Sweet case not only marked the beginning of racial equality under the law, but it presented the first possibility of racial reconciliation and harmony in our country.