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June 19th, 2020 donnahoke


Usual plea; please subscribe to the right. 🙂

It occurred to me this week as I do the hard work of getting through to the end of this play that what protects writers in the drafting phase is knowing that nobody has seen the work yet. We have a way of taking bigger chances or not caring what we put down if we know nobody is going to see it yet. There’s a comfort in knowing even if it sucks, we can still make it great before anybody sees it.


I have ceded the luxury of that protection with this blog. First drafts are ugly and there’s nowhere for me to hide it. That said, I’m a big fan of the saying that first drafts don’t have to be pretty, just written. And we are at the point here where FINDING NPH just needs to be written. I need to get to the end any way I can.



At about this place with nearly every play, I have to stop, look through my notes, and start to divide them up. This is as close as I ever get to outlining. (For those of you who actually do outline, I would LOVE to read a blog series on how you do that as I’ve never really been able to do it!) In this case, it looks something like this:

Scene 8: Cha’s monologue about her dad and being funny.
Scene 9: Cha and Katie on the road. Meet Tino.
Scene 10: Katie on funny and intimate.
Scene 10: Cha and Katie fight on NYC street corner. 
Scene 11: Cha/Melinda monologue
Scene 12: Cha/Katie hotel room.
Scene 13: Cha/Katie on NYC street corner.
Scene 14: Salon
Scene 15: The end (I will at least leave that haha)

Now that I have these very general headings, I go through my  notes and start to place them under each one. Where does that snippet of dialogue go, that revelation, that joke, etc. When I’m done, each scene has some things it must include and then I write to string them together. JUST WRITE.

This is what I will call the PLOW-THROUGH phase, where I’m just going to get up as early as I can every day and power write my way through these scenes. The play is the priority and no other work of any kind gets done. This writing is likely going to be on the nose and overwritten and maybe a little cliche and all the things but it will get to me FIRST DRAFT WRITTEN. There is a point with every draft where there’s no more time for stalling, no time for nuance. I just need to get there. And so much will change on the way (including the ending!)

What I also do at this point, in addition to writing that sketch out and sorting the notes is make a to-do list for the end of the play. This list usually comes out of the notes, but I’ll save that until the first draft is written, because addressing those notes–while I call it part of the first draft–is really in a way the first rewrite. I do, however, address that list before I show what I will call a first draft to anyone. Even the first draft that I ultimately show people will have differences from what you’ve read to this point, which means you are seeing a PRE-first draft, which is probably an even bigger mess than a usual first draft.


So now, back to FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS. Because you didn’t get any continuing story last week, there’s some extra this round. If you’ve never left a comment, maybe leave one this week? 🙂


Neil Patrick Harris launches fashion collection - The Economic Times


CHA-CHA: It wasn’t a dream, it was lust.


KATIE: But it was his.


CHA-CHA: Dreams die every day.


KATIE: Where do you want your ashes flung?


CHA-CHA: I never fucking thought about it.


KATIE: Me either. But maybe that’s something a person should know.



CHA-CHA: My dad was hilarious. That’s the first thing anybody ever said about him. My mother said he laughed her right into bed on their first date. I think she was probably just drunk. Humor is right up there with using lots of hand gestures when it comes to scoring. Google it.

My dad didn’t just attract my mom. He attracted everyone. You get used to “Is he like this at home?” “Oh my, how do you live with him?” “You must be laughing all the time!” You learn how to smile and say, “ALL. THE. FUCKING. TIME.”

You don’t say that when you’re not looking for it, “humor” grates. You don’t say that chasing validation for your PASSION for twenty years makes you a joke. You don’t say that humor is the key to acing job interviews, but not the key to keeping jobs. You don’t say that pretty fast it can go from “You’re so funny, I want to fuck you” to “Can’t you ever be serious?”

Like Melinda.

LAUGHING ALL. THE. FUCKING. TIME. It’s what they want to hear. Some of comedy is instinct, but a lot is work. Practice, timing. Lots of bombs. My dad always said, “First, you have to believe you’re funny. You think there’s a single comic who doesn’t think that?”

I got that down. I believe I’m funny. But then he said, “You have to take all the shots with confidence knowing some might not land.”

I hope he wasn’t talking about fucking life.


CHA-CHA walks over to a fast food table to join KATIE, who sits with food.




KATIE and CHA-CHA sit with fast food and they unwrap.


KATIE I love rest stop food.


CHA-CHA: It’s chain food. You can get it anywhere.


KATIE: I like the stop part of it. Even on short trips. It’s fun.


KATIE pulls out the bag of ashes and puts it on the table.


CHA-CHA: What the–


KATIE Tonio’s part of this journey, too.


CHA-CHA: What’s left of him.


KATIE: These are the last times we’re going to spend with him.


CHA-CHA: You’re weird.


THEY start to eat.


KATIE: Why do you hate your sister?


CHA-CHA: I never said that.


KATIE: You don’t talk to her. What did she do wrong?


CHA-CHA: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.


KATIE: I don’t understand.


CHA-CHA: I don’t want to be a lawyer or get married or do PTA shit for some brats.


KATIE: PTA sucks.


CHA-CHA [see?]: I don’t hate her–




CHA-CHA: I gave all her Barbies buzzcuts the day she won the sixth grade spelling bee and she’s not over it.


KATIE: Really?


CHA-CHA: Definitely.


KATIE: Why don’t you like your name? Chanel.


CHA-CHA: Is this twenty fucking questions?


KATIE: You can ask me one.


CHA-CHA: There’s nothing I want to know about you.


KATIE: Story of my life.


CHA-CHA: Wait, I do have a question.


KATIE: I’m an open book.


CHA-CHA: Are you gonna eat that pickle?




CHA reaches for it.


KATIE: I’m giving it to Tonio.


KATIE puts the pickle in the bag of ashes.  CHA suppresses a laugh.


CHA-CHA: What if he doesn’t like pickles?


TINO approaches the table. He looks like TONIO (because he’s played by the same actor), but he carries a broom and dustpan-on-a-pole.


TINO: Excuse me.


KATIE gasps, looks to the ashes, looks to TINO, looks to the ashes.


CHA-CHA: I hope you’re just having a heart attack. I can call 911 but I don’t know how to do that choking thing.


KATIE points. CHA turns around and drops her sandwich.


CHA-CHA: Triplets?


KATIE: Twins. Tina definitely said twins.


TINO Teen-O.




TINO: My name is Teen-O. Not Tina.




KATIE: You look like someone.


CHA-CHA: Someone dead.


KATIE (pointing to the ashes): Him.


TINO: Are those ashes?


KATIE: Mostly. There’s–


CHA-CHA: Bone bits, we know.


TINO: Is that a pickle?


KATIE: Don’t judge.


TINO: I look like someone who is now reduced to pickled ashes?


TINO picks up the bag, and ashes begin spilling from a corner.


CHA-CHA: Shit.





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3 Comments on “EPISODE 15: FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, A Play In Process”

  1. 1 tina said at 1:55 pm on June 26th, 2020:

    I really love this lunch scene with the bag of ashes, pickle and Tino. Very, very funny!

  2. 2 Bill Crouch said at 10:04 am on June 29th, 2020:

    I love when Katie says “But maybe that’s something a person should know,” regarding where her ashes may end up. There’s a melancholy in that brief moment that touched me. Her introspection, however brief, is a lovely contrast in the comedic dialogue of this very funny play.

  3. 3 Melissa said at 7:02 pm on July 9th, 2020:

    This is my second time reading through it and it just gets better. I’m really enjoying this. I second Bill’s comment above on that line. There are lots of those lovely human moments amidst the very funny writing. Katie’s ‘Story of my life’ also hit the feels button here. Checking out Ep 17 now!

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