Monthly Archives - February 2024

8 New Titles Published

We are pleased to announce the publication of 8 new titles:

Douglas Post on Writing Mysteries and Thrillers for the Stage

Mysteries and thrillers are amazingly malleable forms in which to write for the stage in that you can tell a good story, a good yarn as it were, and then subvert that story to your own serious ends … whatever they may be. If you do it right, your audience will latch on to the tale and stay with you. But along the way you can take them somewhere they might not ordinarily go and even give them something to ruminate on the next day.

With BLISSFIELD, I knew that I wanted to write a small-town conspiracy play that would focus on a circle of people who had been friends since high school, but were now facing middle age and dealing with mortgages, marital discord, needy children, aging parents, and the general business of being an adult. I placed Carter Bartosek at the center of my story. He would be a foreign correspondent stationed in Beirut, who returns to his Midwest hometown for the funeral of his best friend, a former congressman who apparently took his own life. Carter observes a rural community that, on its surface, has survived some tough financial times and, in the process, has grown, gotten bigger and gotten better. But underneath the spruced-up main street, the refurbished church, the shops, the malls and the new casino, there is a sense of corruption and rot. Carter comes to understand the truism that luxury can be more ruthless than war, but he doesn't get there easily. I was about halfway through penning this script, which I thought was pretty well mapped-out, when I realized that my main character wanted to go in a different direction than I had intended. If I followed him, I was fairly confident that the ending of my saga would make people angry, but if I tried to make my guy conform to my expectations and not his, I would simply be pushing my protagonist around. I made the decision to allow Carter to follow his own path and let the theatrical chips fall as they may. And when the play received its world premiere at Victory Gardens Theater, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the ending was the part of it people liked the best. They couldn’t see it coming because, of course, neither could I. That was a great lesson in terms of letting go of my preconceived notions regarding plot, and it is one I still carry with me.

Bethanny Alexander and Greg Hardin in City Lit Theater Company’s production of SOMEBODY FOREIGN.
PERSONAL EFFECTS came to me in flashes. There was a transient, a music box, strange phone calls in the middle of the night, a turning away of friends, and a cousin recently returned only to go away again. What did it all mean? I was as confused as Nicholas Barnes, the tax attorney I elected to place in the middle of my mystery. I knew that my hero, or perhaps anti-hero, would lose his assets, his condo, his career, his lover, and the life he thought he had. He would find himself out on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless and hunted by the law. And it would only be by making his way through a familial labyrinth that he would arrive at an understanding of what had happened to him and who he was. The piece was episodic and so when it was first staged at the Circle Theatre outside of Chicago, I was confident that the central playing area should be the attic of a farmhouse that would come to represent the past as well as the present. Our characters could move through this room swiftly, the way people advance and withdraw in a dream, and our scene changes would happen through light, sound and the shifting of a chair. In this manner we were able to guide our audiences with purpose and a sense of ease through this tale of retribution and grace.

I returned to a small town with SOMEBODY FOREIGN, though this one was a suburban locale where a heinous crime has been committed. A young man and his fiancée have been murdered in their home. The killer has left few clues, and the community is filled with fear. And one woman becomes the target of an investigation by the FBI, the local police, and the media. I knew that Liz Fletcher would be a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at a private college. I also knew that she would be a human rights activist. But because of her relation to the murdered man, who was her brother, and her connection to certain groups in the Gaza Strip, she would be the subject of a social inquisition and find herself standing outside the place she had always called home. Here was a thriller with a political bent that came alive at City Lit Theater Company, where it was first produced. Liz comes to know her friends, her colleagues, and the institutions they represent in a way she had never anticipated. She also comes to know a facet of her country and must finally decide what to do with the knowledge she has gained.

So there it is. There is no mystery as to why I continue to write mysteries. And it is always thrilling to embark on a new thriller. One never knows what waits behind the locked door. One never knows what strange world might be unleashed onto the stage.

Podcast: The Space Between Her Legs with Tiffany Antone

Check out this wonderful podcast with BPPI author Tiffany Antone about her play THE SPACE BETWEEN HER LEGS: