Callum wants to write a play about ME/CFS

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Callum, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. Callum

    Callum New Member

    I've finally decided that I want to use my art to promote MY agenda, which is, of course, to foster understanding for this dread disease.

    I'd like to create a one person play, where I bring many people's stories to life. I'd love input - anything you'd like to share. I already can imagine how to capture Rock!!!

    Any interest?

  2. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I've always thought that something could be done with the message board as a literary conceit.

    I see the set, arranged in a semi circle thus: a bed with laptop, a recliner with laptop, a computer desk, a messy couch and ? Each is the home of a different character each connected to the other by a message board which is displayed above the stage on a screen.

    Could be a very taxing one man show or quite relaxing for a ensemble who wouldn't have to get up ('cept the one at the computer desk) and who's lines could be fed to them on the computer :~)

    Maybe one character could be ready to give up and the others try to do something to "save" them to give it a dramatic arc. During this attempt, their stories are told.

    Are they saved? I don't know, what do you think?

    My 4cents,

    Take care of Callum!!!

    So happy you survived all!

    Peace to You,

    PS I want to play a part! Haven't acted since my 20s but still got it. I wish you were in my city. I'd love to work on this with you in so many different ways.

    Good luck!

    [This Message was Edited on 12/04/2008]
  3. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Well, there you have some creative suggestions from Rafiki.

    I wrote in play in Jr. High School. (A term we apparently don't use anymore.) It was produced too.

    Decades later I was surprised to come across the script and find it was only 3 pages long.

    Sufficient brevity to be the soul of something or other. Chicken soup maybe.

    Well, I used to read a lot about how to write. I'm sure you've heard many times how to structure a play.

    Act I Introduce the characters and get the main character up a tree.

    Act II Throw stones at main character.

    Act III Get main character down from tree.

    Noel Coward always said a play needs a sound structure. Many commentators over the years have pointed out the firm structure for plays like Design For Living and Hay Fever.

    As far as I know, Noel never explained how to construct a play. Maybe if one outlined them, the secret would be revealed. But maybe you already know anyway.

    Anyway, would be happy to help if possible. Some books on how to write have said that the experience can help us appreciate reading more.

    Break a pencil.


  4. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    can be a research troll from Big Pharma (or CDC or...?) in an office cubicle ~ it can take a while for the audience to figure out that s/he's a troll and why - later it could get more complicated, s/he could go home and walk into someone else's life... unless too hokey.

    one is a teenager - bed

    one is an artist - couch

    one a parent - recliner

    one is suicidal. - outside on a wireless device ~ he/she looks perfectly fine

    Of course, this is an entirely different notion to your one man play which is so much more sensible, elegant and, well, doable!

    I do go on!

  5. Juloo

    Juloo Member

    If I hadn't just come back from a meeting that sucked my brain dry, I'm sure I would have lots of ideas. Perhaps I can think about it for a bit....

    One thing I wonder -- and asking is just putting the idea out there, so the question itself is rhetorical -- would it be important to use what we were or what we wish we could be again in contrast to what we are? Also, are you approaching the concept as a tragedy or a comedy?

    Would love to see a portion illustrate what it is like to be cognitively slow and in a overwhelming (sense-wise) situation.

    And conceptually -- do YOU see the struggle with ME/CFS as a potentially transformative one?

    And please -- could you address the stupid, STUPID name of this disease!

    [This Message was Edited on 12/04/2008]
  6. Callum

    Callum New Member

    Rock - I've taken play writing classes, although I wish Noel Coward were around to give me advice!

    Rafiki - although I'm kinda married to the "one-person show" idea, I do like the idea of various areas of rest, that often become our cages, for different playing areas. I will write it, though, so that after it's initial production, it can be performed by one man OR one woman, so you CAN use it as your comeback vehicle!

    Cate - Thanks for asking about my mom. Unfortunately, her rate of deterioration is still mind-boggling, but she's in a warm, loving environment. I like the three words you used to describe the possibilities - they were all positive! And, although I am certainly not going to back down from showing the struggle and strive, no audience wants to be left without hope. And, WE'RE FIGHTERS!

    Juloo - I already envision a comic bit regarding the name we've been saddled with for years.

    I'd like to introduce the audience to stories I have heard, or experienced first hand, and then inhabit it. And not just from the sufferers of ME/CFS, but also the caretakers, relatives and friends (both helpful and not), a doctor who does not believe, and a doctor who does but whose frustration at his/her inability to effectively treat the disease tries his/her patience.

    Most importantly, I want to paint a human picture that will leave an audience better informed, but more importantly, more empathic.

    Now, I just have to find the right pseudonyms for "Rafiki", "Rock", "Cate" and "Juloo"...

  7. jole

    jole Member

    What a great idea for you! There is no doubt in my mind that you can achieve not only the play, but the outcome you desire! You have such artistic talent, and this sounds much less strenuous than the performing you've been doing....not to mention more rewarding.

    It's great there are people on this board who share your love of theatre...unfortunately, I have no abilities in either the acting end OR the ideas, but I do wish you much success!

  8. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    Callum will be brilliant and soulful and gorgeous as ever.

    Maybe we can all go to the opening. We can record the sound of two hands clapping at home over time when we're up to it so that we can play it back in the theatre!

    When in doubt, skip the shower... unless, of course, it's day 26 of skipping the shower. Wait! What day is this??? :~)

    Keep the faith, Terch, keep the faith,
  9. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Looks like you have some supporters here, Callum. I guess backers would be even better, huh?

    Did you see that silly movie w/ Tom Hanks on a desert island? He had no one to talk to, so the writers gave him a basketball. (In opera, the soprano frequently sings an aria to her maid in order to advance the exposition.)

    I read someone bought that basketball for some enormous sum of money. Don't remember how much. But if Cast Away was like most movies the props dept. had several basketballs on hand. Just like the ruby slippers.

    Anyway, are you going to have the main character talk to people on the phone? Read e mails aloud? Back in my youth, when radio had drama, characters frequently talked to themselves. "I'll just open this box."

    Oh yeah, pseudonyms. Well, you could call me Cate, and you could call Juloo Rafiki...

    Actually, I'm not much good at creating. I might be able to help w/ proofreading and polishing though.

    Anyway, this is the most exciting idea we've had on the board for a long time. Keep us posted and best of luck.


  10. Callum

    Callum New Member

    Hey everyone! Thanks for the replies, and keep posting! Since I will be away for a few days, I'm writing this WAAAYYYY to early in the morning before we leave for the airport, so that I've read with joy what you've written!

    Cate - Mark Medoff! I actually met him very early in my career! Like Robert Shenkkan, he was such an accessible playwright because he also acted and directed, so he knew how to talk to actors.

    Rock - I'm not even going to bother to refute the "not much at creating" comment - you brilliantly "create" every time you post!

    Terch and Rafiki - LOL the whole shower bit!

    As for the conceit of how to "talk out loud" - I think it's best for a play like this, where getting the audience on one's side is so important, to break the fourth wall. Talk directly to them. That they are being invited into my "inner sanctum." I might have the computer up on my bed, and refer to a "post-er" on a "support board" (not one by name, as we don't want to run into copywright infringements; oh, no we don't.)

    Whoops! Now I'm running late in my prep for the airport, and I have to run!!

    Have a great week!

  11. zenouchy

    zenouchy Member

    Hi Callum,

    How cool you're writing a play! Just wanted to toss some more ideas into the mix to help (and/or confuse) you. I started thinking about this, and then my mind went into Brainstorm Deluxe.

    Use or discard whatever you want. Whatever works best for your play!I have fibro and not ME, but I think the symptoms are very similar and often overlap---you can easily revise symptoms if needed. Hope you like!

    Act I

    Two people in a normal setting. As a way of getting the audience to "understand" what our illness is like, one person is "healthy/normal", and one person has ME.
    The two people are always doing exactly the same thing. The normal person always responds normally to everyday situations, but the person with ME will simultaneosuly respond according to our illness. This will seek to educate the audience.

    Example (change setting if needed to best accommodate the play):
    Two people watching TV. Maybe they're friends, or brothers. One person is healthy and the other has ME.

    Normal person just watches television. The person with ME is light sensitive and asks to adjust the brightness (This could also work with computer monitors). Maybe you flash a bright light into the audience---but they might not appreciate that too much.

    Also, the TV is too loud. The sound may not really be that loud, but people with ME are noise sensitive. *Make the audience a part of it. I'm not sure of the best way to accomplish this in a play, but here's an idea: First, make the volume "normal", as you show the healthy person viewing it. Then, try to show how the ME person experiences it, which can sometimes be very loud. Give the audience a taste of what we go through---crank the volume up so the audience experiences what we feel. It's all part of our brain synapses misfiring (really technical way of saying it there!). ;-)

    Act II

    This could extend into other things---getting up to try do something simple, such as make dinner. You could also show the ME person wondering if he can even do the task at all. Have him "think out loud" to the audience in a big sigh of anxiety/frustration: "I'm so exhausted, but I really need to make dinner. SIGH." Ultimately, you can have the ME person do the task (and do it SLOWLY b/c energy is low). When the task is completely, he will be completely exhausted afterwards and have to lay down. The normal person will do the task at a normal to fast pace and be fine afterwards. For the ME character, you could toss some brain fog in there too along with the task. While cooking you forget to pre-heat the oven and add two ingredients (as an example)---oops. Funny, but not so much.

    A few other ideas are to embed the psychological components of ME into your play:

    The stress, monotony and boredom. Our need to ask for help when we don't want to, our desire for independence, not wanting to be a burden on others, having to focus on petty issues like can we get enough energy to shower today or make a healthy meal? All of the dang doctors visits that eat up our time and trying so many meds that often don't help. Our brains are still vital and active but our bodies are not keeping up. We have the same needs and desires as others. Plus, our illness is real even if we look healthy.

    Also---while I've thrown out all of this "stuff" at you (gee, why don't I throw out some more?), I think it's important to try to strike a tone of education/seriousness and at least SOME humor/levity. If the tone is too serious, IMHO, the audience won't like it (not saying that's what you are going to do). We're not just our illness after all, and perhaps the audience should know that too. We're all fighters and warriors here striving to get better and not victims. Our illness is so challenging that it can make us look like "complainers", but WE know that's not us. The audience should know that too. Some humor will help them understand that.

    You might also consider passing out pamphlets to the audience to educate them about ME.

    Anyway, that's my dollar's worth. Hope I didn't overload you! (Can you tell I like to brainstorm?) I just think it's too awesome you are doing this. If you need any more ideas, let me know!

    All the best and safe travels,


    [This Message was Edited on 12/07/2008]
  12. budmickl

    budmickl New Member

    I don't suffer (not diagnosed anyway) with ME/CFS but I support you 100% for those who do suffer.

    I also don't have a creative bone in my body but I just had a thought... a person who doesn't have the DD but is a partner of the sufferer to express the understanding in the beginning, then the resentment and finally it acceptance/ignoring of the DD? I suggest that based on posts from other that do suffer.

  13. therealmadscientist

    therealmadscientist New Member

    I would have replied sooner but I got distracted with the Amy and David Sedaris clips you mentioned that were on Youtube!

    Somehow, I keep thinking of an accomplished actress, Jennifer Weedon, who came onto the depression board a year or two ago. She was interested in writing a play about depression, and trying to add some humor also. A tough assignment.

    Seems like might be nice if you two chatted a bit. She has a very good website/portofolio. I don't know how her play is coming along, I hope she is making progress.

    I don't have much creative to add, I only thought about having Didoe's cats on stage, but they might be scene stealers:)

    I'm sure you know the Broadway show and movie, "Damn Yankees", that I enjoyed as a kid. ("One without a sail, and the other no rudder") Maybe some ideas there.

    Meanwhile, I am always amazed, and thankful, at what you can accomplish. Wishing you very well, Your Mr Bill.

  14. Callum

    Callum New Member

    ... using a friend's computer that is slower than... well, it's slow.

    Carla - Just because it's a "one-man show" I want to create does not mean that it is a one-character show. I'm an actor first, writer second (or third, or fourth), and it would be my joy to create each individual that would share her/his story through the play. It's also very cost-effective. Less costumes, only one performer to pay...

    I'll reply to every one who was kind enough to respond in depth, as soon as I return home to my own computer!

    Peace all!


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