I’ve mentioned before that back in the day, I was literary manager for a small theater company in Austin. One of the stalwarts of the season, every season, was a new monologue from Steven Tomlinson. He was an economics professor at The University of Texas. (Side note: I once wrote a fundraising piece for U.T., so I happen to know it’s officially “The University” with a capital “T.”) More importantly, he’d written some insanely great plays (MANAGED CARE, CURB APPEAL) and I got to sit in on the development of the one he was writing while I was lit dude: MILLENNIUM BUG.
Steven did this really cool thing when developing his pieces back then. He would take three or more separate stories, put all the beats on separate index cards, and start telling one, then switch to another, then skip around, furthering each story, until finally they all came together to make a brilliant, dramatic and often hysterical story that touched on economics in daily life.
Astute improv fans will recognize that this is very close to the Harold. And the effect is just as mind-blowing when it all weaves together in a written monologue as it is when it’s improvised.
I often think of the way he juggled and massaged the disparate storylines in developing MILLENNIUM BUG when I’m working on my own stuff.
I don’t write monologues, but I am influenced by improv techniques when writing my own plays. Most especially, the principles of reincorporating objects and going back to the environment, two things I will leave there for non-improv folk to figure out themselves because my real point of all this reminiscing is this:
Bill Bradley (yes, the former Senator, presidential candidate, basketball player and boss of my downstairs neighbor) is bringing Steven Tomlinson’s latest piece AMERICAN FIESTA to New York. There’s more to the story than that, of course, and it’s all here in the New York Times. Check it out.
And if Steven Tomlinson happens to Google himself and stumble across this page, well…thanks for letting the literary associate sit in the back of the theater. It’s stuck with me longer than you would think.