Cathy Dresden Returns!!! (Part One)

I'm committing to baby steps.  In life and in art.  I have a theatrical project I'm working on for Christmas of 2015 which will bring back Cathy Dresden after a small absence from the Austin scene.  Who's Cathy Dresden?  Glad you asked.

She's a plucky chanteuse/homemaker from 1958 who got her big break on "Steve Polanko's Amateur Hour of Power".  She placed third in the televised competition, and it was enough for her to throw off her apron, put down her dish gloves and  start singing full-time.  She bid adieu to the South, and her refrigerator repairman husband, and trucked on out to Los Angeles. 

I introduced her story in my one-man show "Overwhelming Underdogs", produced in 2007, which charted the ups and downs of her Butter Churn Tour of the Midwest. Since that show I've brought her out for appearances at benefits and fund raisers, including one for the Rude Mechanicals.  I've since gotten a lot of requests to bring her back and some offers of assistance should I ever decide to do so.  I always knew I wasn't finished with her, but I had a few ideas fighting it out for which one would be first to be produced.  The winner?

A show with the working title "Cathy Dresden's Christmas Spectacular". It's a parody/tribute of Holiday specials from the early sixties.  I'm approximately halfway through.  I've got an outline I'm pretty pleased with, and the first thirty pages has gotten to a pretty polished state.  Of course, depending on how it goes with the actual execution of the outline, things will have to change, be rearranged, etc.

I will say I think I've learned an important lesson.  Never send your child out into the world half dressed.  I had someone who was interested in looking at the piece for a possible production, and I rushed a draft and sent it.  The response, while perfectly positive, was not the overwhelming rave and clamor that everyone hopes for, and when I looked over what I'd sent out, I analyzed (over analyzed?) why.  The pacing was off, it was a bit repetitive, certain scenes came too early, characters weren't clearly motivated, etc.  In short, on second glance I found my unformed baby to be ugly, ugly, UGLY!!!  And threw a proverbial sheet over it to hide the disgrace from the cruel world.  And yet... I went back and made some cuts, polished some dialogue, re-worked a character, altered one of the songs, and then hit a snag which has kept me stymied.

Up until yesterday I hadn't worked on the piece in a month.  And for those of you thinking there is no rush?  Finding a performance space in Austin can be brutal so the sooner you look the better, and it helps to have a working script to present and sell to possible producers.  I am determined to go through with the piece, as I think it is one with promise.  I've come to realize that there are many, many artists who ran into obstacles on the way to having something produced and the one thing the successful ones have in common?  They blazed through them. 

My current assignments in bringing Cathy's show to completion?

1.  Finish the script.
2.  Send it to trusted colleagues for feedback and re-writes.
3.  Re-submit it to the producer.
4.  Continue to introduce Cathy to the Austin area (hosting of events, improv, etc.)
5.  Look into the possibility of self-producing and discuss the idea with artists in the area who have done the same.
6.  Organize an informal reading of the piece so I can make another pass at the script.

So, back to the baby steps.  I've been reading Anne LaMotte's "Bird By Bird", and she stresses the importance of small projects.  Because, add up twenty small assignments in support of a project and you have a pretty big chunk of the job completed.  So right now, I am committing to 15 minutes a day on the script until it's completed.  This commitment may change, but at the moment it's enough to keep me coming back to the desk every day.  Because the muse will not show up out of the blue.  I've discovered the only way to get her there is to make an appointment with her, and assume that she will be late.  Just keep plugging along til she arrives, and she almost always will.

One challenge I'm facing in the script writing process-  Cathy's on again off again fiancĂ© Jerome Tolliver.  He's her charming, sexually ambiguous accompanist and up until this point he's been performed beautifully by Dustin Struhall who is, as of this moment heading off to Edinburgh.  I am really excited for him, but not sure what to do about Jerome.  Have someone else play him?  Seems weird.  Trust that I'll find another great pianist who is comfortable acting?  Or...should I write another character?  And if so, should his active role in the piece be toned down to accommodate someone who is not comfortable speaking dialogue onstage?    At this point I am leaving the character as is, being open to the idea that Cathy may have a string of revolving fiancĂ©s who's names change as the accompanist does.  And yet, this is not a fully resolved question.  Stay tuned.