by STEVE B. GREEN
[dropcap]The[/dropcap] idea for Timeshare came during a short-lived survival job I had selling timeshare memberships. Like many, our family business had imploded during the “Great Recession” and I needed a paycheck. Then, a few months in, an “incident” unfolded involving a disgruntled customer, a pit-bull sales manager, some crazy sales people, and a knife. I remember clearly thinking, This is a play! And what’s more, Look at all these crazy characters I’m working with. It’s like a workplace You Can’t Take It With You. The incident had all the makings of a dark comedy about making a living in America today — the system, the ethics, the compromises. It was a story that was almost universal. The protagonist was me, twenty years younger… and handsomer, and somewhat better at sales.
I like to write my first drafts fast, and Timeshare took about three weeks. It wasn’t finished, of course, but the spine was there. Writing is re-writing, so I set about it. For me, it’s like sculpting: cutting and adding, and adding and cutting, and often, happily laughing out loud at my own jokes, hoping someone would hear me and ask, “What’s so funny?” I’m such a nerd.
We had the first reading of Timeshare at the LaValle Actors Workshop where I teach. I cast some terrific actors there, and they brought their best game. The reading was funny! My wife Dianne was so impressed that she insisted I get Timeshare produced. (Sometimes it takes a village, sometimes it takes a wife.) So I joined The Eclectic Company Theatre (ECT) in Valley Village, Los Angeles — a producers company without an artistic director, where members cooperatively produce their own work. (And it’s across the street from Shakey’s Pizza, too. Cool, right?)
Producing and directing Timeshare, I’ve learned a few things about making theater with no budget and volunteer actors and crew:
1) Have replacements/understudies ready. You’re gonna need them.
2) Be prepared to do anything yourself: sound design, house managing, fixing toilets, going on as a lead, etc. Did I mention fixing toilets? You probably will have to clean them, too.
3) A lot of people hate playwrights who direct their own work! I think it’s a club. (But hiring a director is expensive. I knew someone who would do it for free: Me.)
4) Believe in your project absolutely but be flexible; great ideas can come from anywhere. (And once the play is up, you can claim them as yours! One of the very cool things about being a writer/director!)
5) Don’t cast age, type or ethnicity. Cast great actors first. Then… (See #1).
6) Producers have to think differently. As a writer/director, you want what’s best for the play. As a producer, you have to put fannies in the seats! Seriously, I don’t read the newspaper first thing in the morning anymore. I read the reservation list.
Finally, I loved all of it. If you’ve done it, you know what I mean. And, I’m already working on the next one.
NOW PLAYING: TIMESHARE, through January 31 at The Eclectic Company Theatre.
Trying to change his life and save his marriage, Tom takes a job as a timeshare salesman. He learns the latest sales techniques, and hypes himself up several times a day with the “One Minute Sales Talk”. As he struggles with his learning curve and the ethics of the Timeshare industry, he is tricked and threatened by his co-workers, harangued by his boss, and seduced by the sexiest salesperson of all.