Tuesday, August 10, 2004

From the Vault: Awaited Visit

A while back, I had written a series of ‘blog-like essays called “Over-the-Counter Culture” for the now defunct site Allston02134.com. Pete found one of them which pertained to the origins of my play, “The Awaited Visit,” our FIRST OOBR Award-winning play. It kinda made me laugh, and reminisce on a method of playwriting I will never do again.

I’ve truncated parts, switched the tense, but at any rate, here’s one from the vault…


Basically, to describe “The Awaited Visit” (in those crucial sound-byte forms of information that people need nowadays to go to out to see something), it is a surreal, over-the-top one-act comedy about a Young Boy, a Pretty Nurse, a Big Guard, and The Smartest Man Alive.

Zany antics ensue.

There was profanity, nudity, smoking, strobe lights and violence.

Now then.

The origins of me writing this particular play, and producing it, are definitely of the fluke-like variety. One night, while living in a studio apartment in Allston, I wanted to write a sequel to another play I had written (“Monkeys,” my first produced play in New York). And, to sweeten the deal, I wanted to see what would happen if I would write it while drunk.


I bought a case of beer (Blue Moon Harvest, for those of you who are interested), sat down by my computer, kept on writing, and kept on drinking.

After about two hours, I couldn't see the screen anymore (it was spinning too much). I couldn't concentrate anymore. I was wrecked. So, I hit Control-S, ran to the bathroom, threw up, then collapsed on my futon.

The next morning was horrible.

Hung over and dehydrated as all hell, I noticed my computer was still on. I vaguely remembered trying some sort of writing exercise or experiment, but none of the details were coming to me (bear in mind that at this point in my life, this was nothing new. Going to bed after drinking heavily and doing something stupid was a nightly process, so I rarely knew or cared what I had done the night before, other than the fact that I could be pretty certain that it definitely involved alcohol and possibly marijuana).

After getting some food in me (and being able to keep it down), my head stopped pounding as much. So, I checked out what I had written.

All I could think was Dear Lord. What is this shit?

And the play (originally entitled “Dolphins,” to complement “Monkeys”) was put in the proverbial trunk for a long time. You know what I'm talking about; the trunk that most writers have where they store their horrible embarrassments created after long nights of drunken typing.

That's where “Dolphins” lay for a while.

Eventually, I showed the "play" (if it could be called that) to some of my close friends, showing them the horrible, horrible night I had had (which was even worse than that night in Our House West [my favorite bar in Allston] where I nearly got into a fistfight with some frat boy goon over my decision to smoke clove cigarettes or the night I put the moves on this woman in her late-40s; oh, no. This was a much, much worse night. An entire play was written as the result!).

Interestingly enough, those who read it liked what they saw. In fact, one person liked it so much that he wanted to produce and direct it.

"Yeah. Right," I believe was my reply.

"No, really, James. This is gonna be a lot of fun."

I studied his face. He wasn't joking.

So, I bit, and we decided to make this play our third production for our group, Nosedive Productions (it isn't just a clever name, folks!).

Honestly, from the time I originally wrote it (about three years ago) till about a week before auditions, I was very dubious about this project. I didn't think anybody would see it, like it, or get it.

But after the cast was finally assembled, and they read through the script for the first time, it clicked. My skepticism had eroded, and something that I had never felt for this piece emerged from me for the first time: enthusiasm.

For the first time since its creation, I wanted “The Awaited Visit” to go up. And I wanted people to see it.

I didn't care if they like it or not, but I at least wanted them to see it. The cast looked great (and I'm not just saying that; it's hard to believe that a group of strangers can translate the drunken chicken scratch of a would-be playwright), and the production was a lot of fun. And hell, we won a freakin’ award for it!

Although ultimately, “The Awaited Visit” went from dirty secret to pride and joy (for the moment, at least), this was the first (and only) time I have ever written a play while drunk.

And to all those would-be writers (like moi) out there reading this, lemme just tell you that I DON'T recommend doing something like this.

Okay, well give it a whirl. Just once. And see what happens.

In fact, let's try something. I honestly have no idea how many readers of this there are, but let's try it nonetheless. Not really a contest, since I don't expect many readers out there will go for it (and I don't have much of a prize), but a…thing.

For everyone out there reading this, send me your best drunken work; be it a play, screenplay, novella, poem or essay. Term papers don't count. If you don't have one, get out there, booze up and give it a whirl. I'd love to see the results.

And if I like it a lot (with your permission), I'll post it on the site. Don't worry, I won't take the copyright or anything like that.

Who knows? Maybe it'll progress from dirty secret to pride and joy like my play, “The Awaited Visit” (née “Dolphins”).

And I have to admit, there's something about having a group of people toil over the meaning, symbolism and subtext of the side-product of a private drinking binge that
amuses me to no end.

Passing out flyers to any
poor soul who comes near,

James "Shameless" Comtois

August 10, 2004


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