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May 22nd, 2020 donnahoke


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This point was bound to come. Playwright readers know it well: the messy middle. As if first drafts aren’t messy enough—too much dialogue, not enough, no clarity, lines not sharpened, themes muddy etc. If you’ve been here from the beginning, you’ve read just about forty pages (I know!). The momentum is there but things are getting messy in terms of motivations and journeys and questions. Which means before I could continue on with Katie and Cha-Cha’s journey, I had to first go back and set it up better. Things I’ve been discovering along the way aren’t well supported. They’ll need to be supported better still later, but for now, they need a few textual joists.


Primarily, this has to do with their needs. What does each of these characters want? We’ve established that both women want to be funny but why? The why of that needs to get seeded deeper, and the sitcom writing goal has to be less literal. Naturally, this has to do with the relationships we’ve discovered these women have with people outside the salon–Cha-Cha with her sister, Katie with her ex-husband—two primary relationships and how those relationships make these women feel. That needs to be clear. Because a road trip is always more about the journey than the destination.



I’m feeling like the heart of this play is emerging around the question of what does it mean to be funny? To whom? What makes people laugh and why, and I don’t mean the deconstruction of humor but on a human level. This is an incomplete thought but it feels important. It’s something I never thought so hard about but there’s a lot buried in that.  I’m thinking it could even be fun to use classic jokes or different types of jokes or humor theory within the monologues or as scene headings. Hmmm…. All these thoughts are what makes middles messy. What are yours?



This week, I’ve gone back through the script and added things and shored things up a bit. I’ve added monologues that may stay or may just be story builders. The draft is far from perfect but growing; as a first draft, things will continue to change but I need to straighten the road a little bit before I could go on.  



I was going to post the entire thing with adds/changes bolded, but thought that would be overwhelming (but if you want a PDF of the first 45 pages as they currently stand, message me and I’ll send you one). Here are a few key changes followed and a few new “scenes” that are actually monologues:


Neil Patrick Harris Weds Michigan-Born Man, And More Of 'What's ...



KATIE: Maybe his tub of dead skin is cleaner than your mouth/

TONIO: Leave me out of this/

CHA-CHA: /Maybe I just need a new fucking job.

KATIE: Maybe you’re gonna get fired if you keep cursing in front of customers.

TONIO: Should I report her?




TONIO: I was waiting for my chance. And then I emerged, right in front of him, and put my hand out–

TONIO puts his hand out to CHA-CHA, but it looks like he’s going to strike her and she pulls it away.

CHA-CHA: You scared the shit out of him!

TONIO: I don’t see it that way.

KATIE: You want to use your ashes for revenge?

TONIO: Revenge. Lust. Such a fine line.

KATIE: NPH is dreamy.

CHA-CHA: And off your market.

KATIE: What does it matter?

CHA-CHA: Because if you ever did meet him, you want it to be at least theoretically possible. I like [insert straight celeb of actress’s choice; we want her lust to be convincing]

TONIO: I approve.

CHA-CHA: Stay in your own lane!

KATIE: Dream crushes don’t have to be available.

TONIO: Except for the flinging of the ashes. Or spreading. Maybe you should just spread the ashes on him.

CHA-CHA: Flinging is more fun.



TONIO: You’re never leaving.

CHA-CHA: I am so!

TONIO: You have a plan.


TONIO: You just need to save enough money.


TONIO: About six months?


TONIO: I know the real reason you don’t leave.

CHA-CHA: I just–

TONIO: You’d miss/

CHA-CHA: I would not.

TONIO: /me.

CHA-CHA: Miss this rhino skin?

TONIO: Unrequited love is painful.

CHA-CHA: I really am going to leave.




KATIE: In eighth grade, my best friend Marti convinced me to do the variety show. She said we were almost in high school and if we didn’t do something to get ourselves noticed, we’d spend prom night at Dairy Queen. Lily’s in eighth grade.

Marti wanted to do Who’s On First, which was cool because girls never do Who’s On First and we were so not cool that they actually forgot to put our names in the program. So it was Who’s On First by… two nobodies. Less Who’s On First and more Who’s That.

I was Abbott and Marti was Costello. That’s what she wanted and I said okay because it was her idea in the first place. We practiced every day so we sounded just like them and we killed it. Everybody stood and cheered and applauded and it was embarrassing but in that good way?

But after, in the hallway, nobody came up to me and said congratulations. Only her. Tonio was right, about funny winning more friends. The thing is it wasn’t even her that was funny, you know? “Third base!” I could have done that. Everybody wanted to be her friend. She got super popular. And I really… didn’t.

I know this wasn’t funny.




CHA-CHA: But I took the Alligator Lady yesterday.

KATIE: That was your turn.

CHA-CHA: Her toenail landed in Bigfoot Girl’s tea and now I’m stuck on basin duty for a week. I hate this place.

KATIE: Good thing you’re leaving in six months.



CHA-CHA: Maybe they’re estranged.

KATIE: Why would they be estranged?

CHA-CHA: Families estrange. I don’t talk to my sister.

KATIE: I didn’t even know you had a sister.

CHA-CHA: Melinda.

CHA-CHA: Do you think Jose has the ashes?

KATIE: Who else?

CHA-CHA: We should tell Jose what he wanted done with them.

KATIE: We can’t! Client confidentiality.

CHA-CHA: Bullshit.

KATIE: We signed a contract. And he wasn’t serious about that anyway.

CHA-CHA: He was dead serious.



KATIE: You don’t just go to Hollywood and hand somebody your pilot.

CHA-CHA: Have you ever been to Hollywood?

KATIE: Have you?


KATIE: And you have five pilots so there.

CHA-CHA: Maybe we could just get information.

KATIE: I never meant to– I just wanted to be funny.

CHA-CHA: That ship has sailed.

KATIE: Then we don’t need to go.

CHA-CHA: We do. For Tonio.



CHA-CHA: We’ll figure it out!

KATIE: What about Lily?

CHA-CHA: She can stay with her no-good dad.

KATIE: But he’s no-good.

CHA-CHA: She doesn’t seem to think so.

KATIE: Wow, I think you just sold me.

CHA-CHA: This is for Tonio.

KATIE: We can’t just leave without a plan. How does six months sound?

CHA-CHA: The motivation is now.

KATIE: That’s grief, not motivation.

CHA-CHA: Maybe that’s what will work.

KATIE: Work for what?

CHA-CHA: To do something that matters. When it matters. NPH could die. We could die.

KATIE: We’re not gonna die.

CHA-CHA: That’s what Tonio thought.




CHA-CHA: College just wasn’t for me. I know, I know, the world needs electricians and plumbers too. Those are always the examples you hear because electricians and plumbers actually make money so it sounds like a decent argument. But I’m not wired for electricity and I don’t want to deal with anybody’s shit.

That was a joke.

I went to college anyway even though I didn’t have like a capital P PASSION for anything. Everyone is supposed to have a PASSION. What’s your PASSION? My child has a PASSION. I hate that. You’re a loser if you don’t have a PASSION. You might as well define that as something you can’t make a fucking living at. Nobody’s PASSION is electricity.

So because I didn’t have a PASSION, I went into education because how hard can that be? Pretty fucking hard if don’t like kids. If kids aren’t your PASSION. Except Lily. Lily’s not bad. For a kid.

When I was supposed to be making lesson plans, I’d be at coffee house or hanging with the drama kids, trying to make them laugh. I used to make my dad laugh. That was my PASSION. Just kidding. But it was fun. And then I failed out of college because it’s not supposed to be fun. My parents wouldn’t give me another penny so I worked some bullshit retail and got a beauty license and bam. A decade (or 15 years depending on actress age) goes by.

Did I mention Melinda’s a law partner?



SCENE 5 is the one where they get the ashes.




KATIE: Honestly? When Marti suggested doing Who’s On First, I actually said, “But they’re guys.” That’s just how I saw things. When I got pregnant, I got married because that’s how I saw things. I stayed home to raise Lily because that’s what my mom did. It’s how I saw– You know.

But I didn’t see Pete cheating on me the first year, and every year after. Didn’t see him not having enough money to pay alimony let alone child support.

When I was little, my mom took me for a mani/pedi on my birthday. And when the lady said, “Can we give her flowers, Mom?” I held my breath until she said yes. The lady would use a teeny tiny brush to paint these perfect special little flowers on my birthday toes. Every night before bed, I stared at my special toes. It was so sad when the flowers started to chip.


When those little girls come in, I love this job, love painting their special flowers. They make up for the entitlement parties. I hear them talking and it’s all about the day. I just want to scream, “Get off your fairy tale horse and look at me. This is life.” Not that there’s anything wrong with my life, or my job, or Lily. And maybe the joke’s on me because they didn’t skip the part of life where you figure out what you want and then go for it.

The joke on me is not the funny kind.



So that’s sort of an update with some new “scenes” as well. Should the monologues stay? Do you feel like thematically it’s zeroing in somewhere? I’m starting to feel really exposed sharing this level of ugly!




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6 Comments on “EPISODE 11: FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, A Play In Process”

  1. 1 Melissa said at 2:16 pm on May 23rd, 2020:

    Oh I LOVE the monologues! They’re really, really good, Donna. You’ve done some amazing analysis concerning what does ‘being funny’ mean to these characters, and you’re digging into some really great stuff here. It’s quite moving as well.

    I have to go have a rewatch of the Who’s on First sketch now!

  2. 2 donnahoke said at 4:13 pm on May 23rd, 2020:

    Ah, thank you. And thank you for being such a supporter! I’m toying with some stuff now and who knows, but something about that whole idea feels right.

  3. 3 Bill C said at 11:27 pm on May 25th, 2020:

    It’s an interesting play with real people, their sadness is brilliant. When Katie says of her special toes “ was so sad when they started to chip.” I really love that, Donna. Thanks for sharing this lovely play and your process. Inspiring.

  4. 4 donnahoke said at 3:24 pm on May 29th, 2020:

    Thank you! I know when this first draft is done, it’s going to be far from finished, but hopefully it gives people an idea of how one process works. Thank you for staying with it!

  5. 5 Tony Schwab said at 2:46 pm on May 29th, 2020:

    KATIE: I never meant to– I just wanted to be funny.
    CHA-CHA: That ship has sailed.
    KATIE: Then we don’t need to go.
    CHA-CHA: We do. For Tonio.
    VERY good. The yearning to be funny connects to the monologue about Marti; when Cha gently taunts her that the ship has sailed it accentuates their growing trust but also Katie’s need to get laughs; and dear, sweet Tonio is the glue that binds their mission.

  6. 6 donnahoke said at 3:25 pm on May 29th, 2020:

    Thank you for checking in! Yes, this discovery really seems like the heart to me… I hope so!

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