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June 13th, 2020 donnahoke


Welcome back and please forgive my usual plea to take a moment to subscribe at the upper right! Or, if you’re on NPX, you can leave a recommendation so that others might start tuning in.

This has been a TOUGH week for writing.  It was my anniversary and my husband’s birthday and I had some actual deadlines for paying work that I had to honor so that I could go a week without certifying for unemployment.


More than that, I’m just at the part of the play that makes my head hurt like I’m playing chess and that’s not a feeling I enjoy, which is why I never ever play chess. I also have a short commission hanging over my head so I’m feeling pressure… But since I know there are at least some people who look at this blog every week (and thank you for that!!), I feel accountable and honor-bound to deliver.


In my process, when I get to this point, I usually do several things:
*I start writing whatever bits I know are important. They are often full of subtext as I start clarifying theme.
*I outline roughly so I know I least I know one way to get from the messy middle to the end.
*I get really stressed out about all my notes and how they’re all going to fit in (truth: they all don’t, and letting some of them go is hard).
*I write bad stuff.
*I try to get up early so I can start powering my way to the end so that I have a first draft to work with.

All this is to say that I am not going to be offering up sequential pages today (sorry if this has been like a soap opera for you!) because I need time to organize the mess I have left in a way that serves the overall thematic arc that’s starting to emerge. I don’t want to slap down another three pages that aren’t really going to serve where I think this play is going. So what’s below are just some bits that are going to find their way in because when I sat down to write this week, these are the things that came out instead of the next three pages.


Emmys: Host Neil Patrick Harris Says 'I Don't Want to Be Too ...

CHA-CHA: Not sure yet if Cha says this to Katie or if it’s a monologue:
About two years ago, my sister called me and said I needed to come over right away. I told her she better not think I’m fucking babysitting, but she said no and I realized she sounded scared. I didn’t think perfect people got scared, but if she is, why the fuck is she calling me? But you hear that and you go. When I get there, she tells me to feel her tit, and I’m like what? And she’s like no really, and she grabs my fucking hand and makes me feel her up. And there’s this lump the size of a fucking golf ball. Like how did she never notice that before? What kind of sex life do you have if your husband didn’t notice that? A fucking golf ball.
KATIE: Did you ask?
CHA-CHA: No. She was fucking crying and I knew that she probably knew for more than just today. I also knew nobody else knew. So I asked for her doctor’s number, and I called and made an appointment. And I went with her.
KATIE: What happened?
CHA-CHA: It was benign and she went back to being perfect.


And this is their “When the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” moment:

CHA-CHA: So you’re saying we need to finish this.


KATIE: If you set out to run a mile and you stop halfway, what have you accomplished?

CHA-CHA: I got my ass off the couch and ran half a mile. Plus I still have to get home so–

KATIE: Fine! If you’re making cookies and you stop halfway, what do you have?


CHA-CHA: Cookie dough! I love cookie dough!


KATIE: What if you stop before the flour, when it’s just eggs and butter and sugar?


CHA-CHA: It’s not bad like that either. But I get what you’re saying.


KATIE: No, I’m gonna get this. If you only draw half an eight, what do you have?


CHA-CHA: Four?


KATIE: Four? How do you draw an eight?


CHA-CHA: I’m bad at math.


KATIE: If you only draw half an eight, you get a goose egg. NOTHING.


CHA-CHA: A ladder would be good. If you climb halfway up a ladder and stop–


KATIE The point is I don’t want to do this halfway! I’m sick of halfway.


CHA-CHA What if we don’t?


KATIE: Then nothing ever changes.


And here’s a piece of a KATIE monologue that connects her need to be funny with wanting to be liked. I’ve realized that if there the primary needs for these women are that Cha needs to be accepted by other people and Katie needs to accept herself.  And while Katie sees being funny as the means to get that, Cha has had an opposite experience:


KATIE: You know how in the movies and on TV, whenever you want to show how somebody is miserable about being left out, or pining for their ex, or something, they cut to the other people having fun and right on cue, there’s someone laughing. That’s the ultimate indicator that you are on the outside: people laughing. Someone else is making people you care about laugh. They laugh because they care about them. Laughing is a form of intimacy. The best kind. (I realize in rereading this that it’s TOTAL subtext and I’m going to need to find a good example of this; open to suggestions!)


So those are some bits and pieces that will find their way into the rest of this play and hopefully give you an idea of how I try to work through the messy middle as things start to gel.  This part is so hard, like having the frame of the puzzle done and trying to sort all the colors to figure out what sections to do next until they all eventually become a whole. Or, because I’m doing a lot of cross-stitch during this isolation, like doing one color at a time and then “Oh, I missed a whole section of that color over there!” and having to thread the needle again with that color and do that bit before you can move on to another color. Eventually, you get a complete picture.


Until next time, keep the thoughts coming and thank you!!



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4 Comments on “EPISODE 14: FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, A Play In Process”

  1. 1 Melissa said at 10:11 am on June 15th, 2020:

    These pieces are so great, Donna. Thank you so much for sharing your process like this.

  2. 2 tina said at 10:55 am on June 15th, 2020:

    Love seeing your process and how you will sort through these bits. I am in an equal place with lots of small scenes that need to be threaded somehow. Looking forward to seeing how you solve this.

  3. 3 Tony said at 10:28 pm on June 17th, 2020:

    This their tension. This is why the audience will hang in hoping for resolution. And it’s why the audience is rooting for them:
    KATIE: If you only draw half an eight, you get a goose egg. NOTHING.
    CHA-CHA: A ladder would be good. If you climb halfway up a ladder and stop–
    KATIE The point is I don’t want to do this halfway! I’m sick of halfway.

  4. 4 Lynda said at 11:45 am on July 13th, 2020:

    “Laughing is a form of intimacy.”

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