Posted by on May 27, 2013 in On Writing: Craft and Commiseration, The Fourth Orange, The Love of Three Oranges, Works in Progress | 2 comments

Sequel (album)

Sequel (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in this post, I mused about the nature of sequels in the theatre and when, if ever, do they work. Believe it or not, this wasn’t just a random rant. It’s actually something I’ve been struggling with several years now.

See, in my play, The Love of Three Oranges, there’s a part at the end where the villains are excited they weren’t killed because it means they could come back for the sequel. This was, pure and simple, a joke. But after the show opened, people started to ask me: Was I really planning on writing a sequel?

My first reaction was “Phft, no way.” But as the success of the show started to get to my head that “no” became a “maybe” and finally became a solid enough idea that I started to do some research into it. I found another commedia dell’arte play by Carlo Gozzi that I thought I could adapt into into a sequel and I started to do some writing.

Coming off Three Oranges cocky as hell, I started to tell the cast that I would have the sequel ready by the Cap and Dagger cabaret (which was this neat little variety show the underclassmen were putting together for the end of the year). This was CRAZY TALK of the highest order. I was a senior in college, looking for a job, trying to figure out what to do with my life after school, finishing up two senior theses (one of them an honors thesis), prepping for finals and doing double duty in a show at the time as an actor and puppeteer.

I finally came to my senses and realized there was no way I could possibly write a play by the end of the year on top of all that other stuff. And while this was a sensible decision for the sake of my sanity, I’d promised it to enough people that going back on my word made me look like a total idiot. For a while, any mention of the infamous Three Oranges sequel filled me with such complete shame that any enthusiasm I had about writing it was deader than dead.

But time passes, as it does, and the sequel thing wouldn’t die. Three Oranges became rather popular and it had fans worldwide. Student actors, teachers, directors, community theater types, etc, they all kept asking me, when was I going to write a follow-up? Several people over the last few years downright begged for it.

And, all this time, I’ve been feeling very torn about this. For years now, “I should write a follow-up to Three Oranges” has been hanging over my head. Because it should be like, duh, if your fans want something you should give it to them, right? Except I didn’t want to.

Why? Well…

Firstly I had personally come to think of theatre sequels as tacky and a money grab. And if I told you that the fact that I know a TLOTO follow-up would sell both easily and well has nothing to do with why I was considering it you’d know I’m full of crap. It’s kind of impossible not to think about that part of it, even if that’s far from the only reason I’d do it. At this point in my career and life, I have to give some consideration to what my time is worth and I wouldn’t tackle such a big research and writing project again without knowing it has a future.

But does writing something I know will sell make me a sell-out or just savvy? I genuinely don’t know but I feel weird about it as an artist.

Secondly, I know most of the people that asked for this want it because they’re picturing another Hillary-style commedia play they can teach or perform in an educational setting. And, if I’m honest with myself, I’m not really interested in commedia dell’arte. It was never commedia itself that I was into, it was Three Oranges. I know I don’t want to take on all that work unless it’s with the story I already love. The only possible loophole would be if I could find another story I love that I could somehow connect back to TLOTO but that idea comes with its own host of new issues.

Would the people who want another commedia play from me be happy with a slapstick comedy in a similar vein that’s not commedia? For that matter, if I wrote something original instead of doing another rewrite, would there still be the same interest? I really don’t know the answers to those questions.

Thirdly, the fire was gone. I’m somewhat over the sequel idea I had in college (which is a story for another time) and I most definitely don’t want to write a follow-up just for the sake of writing a follow-up. I’m only going to do this if I have something new to say and can produce something that can both stand on its own and that I can be proud of unrelated to the Oranges legacy.

So that’s where I’ve stood on this Three Oranges follow-up thing for going on for 11 years and I’m telling you all this now because something has changed. I’ve been hitting the books. (And by books I mean the internet on my tablet while the baby is sleeping on my lap.) I’ve been doing some hardcore research into a new play.

It’s an adaptation. And I think it just may be that follow-up to The Love of Three Oranges that everyone wanted. It’s not so much a sequel as another play set in the same world but I’m actually very excited about it which is probably the most important part. I’m still not over all my hang-ups listed above but I believe in it enough that I’m going public with the fact that I’m working on it.

You’ll notice that I created a new category for this post that reads TLOTO 2. That is absolutely NOT the real title of the show but I figured it would serve well as a working title in the meantime. As I’m in the middle of several other projects (and the biggest project of all, Raising a Freaking Child), I can’t even begin to imagine a completion date but consider this your official introduction to this project. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it throughout the months to come.

So, at long last, I can answer everyone who’s ever asked, “Are you going to do a follow-up to Three Oranges?”  with “Yes. I’m working on it right now.”

Are you excited?