Perfecting the Kiss came into the world almost on a dare. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, I was at a brunch for theater folk and someone (I can’t recall who) pondered aloud, “why has no one written a Noises Off! for Off-Off-Broadway?”
Around that time, my dear friend and collaborator, Paula D’Alessandris, had directed a show that featured some terrific actors who impressed me and with whom she wanted to work again. She asked me to write a vehicle for them.
Paula’s specialty is comedy, farce in particular. Mine is LGBT stories. So naturally, we joked about which of these guys would end up kissing each other in the play. Then it occurred to me…
I’ll write a Noises Off! about an Off-Off-Broadway production that only exists because the director needs to convince herself that the actor she’s attracted to, who just wants to be friends, is gay! How does she do that? By casting him opposite the most attractive man she can find (no matter how talented that other actor may or may not be) in a gay play (no matter how bad it may or may not be).
Now, these are not the most ethical reasons to do a play. As such, I needed a character who would be the ethical window and moral barometer for the story. Who better than the stage manager???
Stage managers are a special breed of people. The maintain order in a sea of chaos. They are the bringers of light and music. They see all. They know all. Yet, they are human too. They have their limits.
What happens in Perfecting the Kiss is inspired by so, so many frustrating things that indie theater artists endure all the time: the actors of varying ability and incompatible methods; the battle between directors and playwrights over what works, what doesn’t, and why; the cliques that accidentally form; and most importantly… the show crushes! Emotions run high, personally and artistically. If you’re lucky, the fallout doesn’t happen until after the show closes. In Perfecting the Kiss, the fallout doesn’t wait for a convenient time.
My original concept was for the stage manager to take the name of the actor playing her and even to have her name be in the byline in the program. It was supposed to be META! We tried that once. It caused confusion, so now I’m just going to take credit for writing the play. The stage manager in the play is still named after the actor. I’m not sure if that needs to change.
Perfecting the Kiss is my love letter to indie theater, especially to artists who create new work, and especially especially to stage management. This one’s for you.
Scott C. Sickles is an award-winning playwright, semi-retired dramaturg, and six-time Emmy-nominated scriptwriter for General Hospital.
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