Monday, August 28, 2006

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #4

Once more into the archives, dear friends, but this time it's for something that's never been publicly heard before: A scene from a television pilot called Georgetown written and produced in the disorienting months after the 9/11 attacks.

I was asked to create a series about the permanent power structure in Washington, D.C. in August of 2001. I said yes and a few weeks later the meaning, content and relevance of the project changed completely. There was still a desire to do the show on the part of the network and I felt it was important to become part of the national dialogue about what it meant to be an American when America was under attack. I wrote the piece in October and November, 2001.

In the scene, the powerful matriarch of the Garrison family has a quiet chat with a new senator from Colorado, recently appointed to complete the term of a beloved politician who died in office. It takes place in the library of the Garrison house in Georgetown during a dinner party at which the President of the United States is expected.

I gave Mrs. Garrison my take on this country and had the great good fortune to have my two-cents delivered by Helen Mirren. Andrew McCarthy plays the idealistic senator.

The pilot was not picked up by the network and has never been shown to the public. So, a world premiere right there on your computer and in your iPod.

Something you won't get from listening to the dialogue: The photograph Mrs. Garrison refers to as hanging over the mantel in the library is by O.Winston Link. Here's a reproduction:

Helen Mirren

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #4
Performed by Helen Mirren and Andrew McCarthy
Running time: 6:08
All audiences

O. Winston Link's black-and-white photographs from the last days of American steam engines are some of the most powerful and evocative images ever recorded. Take a look.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #3

All the actors are stuck in traffic coming back from the beach or standing in long lines at the airport while we remain cool, calm and collected for another dip into the archives. This time we're going back to the Gulf War...the first Gulf War. At the time, I was one of the writers of thirtysomething and I took the opportunity to write about the disturbing trend toward lockstep patriotism the first Bush administration was pushing down our throats at the time.

thirtysomething was a series about the lives of two friends who worked in an advertising agency. In an episode I called A Stop at Willoughby, in an unsubtle tribute to Rod Serling, Michael Steadman is at odds with agency head Miles Drentell over a client's demand to fire an actor from an endorsement contract because of his temerity to appear at an anti-war rally. It was a way for me to articulate the very queasy feeling I was getting about the right-wing shift the country was experiencing. At the time, we thought it couldn't get any worse. Yikes.

I'd like to say the episode now feels like a quaint artifact of another period in American history, something we've all gotten over. But I realize this scene is more relevant now than it was when it was first broadcast on May 14, 1991. It sounds like I wrote it yesterday.

In the scene, Michael and two associates are pitching an alternative commercial to save the contract of the actor, Randy Towers, who has offended the patriarch of Durstin Ale.

Miles Drentell (David Clennon) and Michael Steadman (Ken Olin)

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #3
Performed by David Clennon, Ken Olin, Andra Millian, Richard Cummings, Jr.
Running Time: 9:34
All Audiences

thirtysomething has never been released on DVD or VHS, but there is a volume of scripts out there.
thirtysomething stories