Archive for the ‘ playwrighting ’ Category

How to Produce an Off-Broadway Show for $1.50


Click on the flyer for more info on the show.

I ain’t got NO money, honey. I mean zip. At this very moment, I have a car with no brakes and a suspended license I can’t afford to pay off. As many of you know I am on permanent disability, which, if you read Facebook, means that I’m luxuriating in mountains of free cash while smoking crack and talking on my brand new I-Phone. Yeah, not so much.

What the HELL am I doing producing an Off-Broadway show?

The short answer: as much as I can without spending a dime.

Way back when when I first started playwrighting, I wrote a play called Everything’s Coming Up Roses that took place on an AIDS ward. I had written a couple of monologues for an Art for AIDS benefit and one of the members asked me to find a play to produce to fill a two-hour slot. I looked at a bunch of AIDS plays, but couldn’t find one I liked. So, being young and stupid, I decided I’d write one.

Against all odds it ended up being pretty good. It was a long one act with strong characters and believe it or not it was funny. I remember being up in the balcony running lights in the Poughkeepsie theater where we debuted the show. I held my breath at the first laugh line. I was both shocked and thrilled when the audience responded. It was a heady experience.

Not that comedy was the point—the play took place in an AIDS ward, after all. But at the center of the ensemble play was a flamboyant character named Sidney J. Stein, who provided many of the one-liners, sang inappropriate showtunes and filled the stage with life. Or it was the actor, Jimmy Pillmeier, imbuing the character with his boundless energy. Script, actor, actor, script. When it works you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.

There have been five incarnations of Roses, and Jimmy played Sidney in each one, from Poughkeepsie to the Village to Brooklyn. My first full-length play was a prequel to Roses called Before the Parade Passes By, which focused on Sidney’s troubled family at his abusive father’s funeral. Jimmy was in the show we debuted at Bard, and then again when it had a limited run in New York. In short, Jimmy has been Sidney on stage whenever there’s been a Sidney to be seen.


Needless to say, after my first two plays dealt very specifically with AIDS and gay characters, I gained a bit of a local reputation as “Orange County’s Foremost Gay Playwright” (that’s Orange County, NY—in California I wouldn’t have been in the top 20). The fact that I was actually straight seemed not to matter much, which I chose to take as a compliment. If the plays had sucked, the gays would have dropped me like last Spring’s fashions!

Since that time I have written a range of characters, from my own Irish uncle to a German boxer to a Polish Holocaust survivor to my wife’s grandmother. It is a particular freedom playwrighters enjoy, to be able to create characters who are often very different from themselves. As long as the characters are true, not false. False will be ferreted out before the end of the first scene, if it takes that long.

Which is all an effort to explain how I came back to the beginning by writing a new play called The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein. I will soon be embarking on a one-man PR blitzkrieg in an attempt to make everyone in the metro New York area (and everyone else I know) aware that this play will be going on in New York this July. Which is not the point of this blog, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. They say you have to put a message in front of potential “customers” 20 times before it has the desired effect of having them notice it. One down, 19 to go!

The idea of seeing where Sidney might be at this stage of his life was immensely appealing to me. He never really went away as far as I was concerned, but it had been quite a while since anyone else had heard from him. He has changed in some ways, like we all do as we mature and age. He works at a halfway house now, trying to help the new generation of runaways and hustlers who always seem to repopulate themselves. He is still himself—still snide, still funny—but more than himself at the same time. And somehow he’s alive, as many folks who are HIV positive have recently found themselves.

And as luck would have it, Jimmy returned from his theater job in Maine around the same time! Kismet!

So when I saw that there was going to be a “Fresh Fruit Festival” in New York featuring LGBT-centric plays, I knew Sidney, Jimmy and me had a date with destiny. I entered the play for consideration, letting Jim know of the possibility, and waited. I can’t say I had no plan about what I would do if the play was accepted—I have done the self-producing merry-go-round before—but I can safely say it wasn’t completely thought out. Of course we got in, and I beat the bushes looking for a producer. No dice. So…I borrowed the refundable deposit from my Dad and we’re embarking on the $1.50 version of Sidney.

What does this mean? OK, first of all I can’t hire a publicist, which means I have to make up my own press release and send it out to the oh, two thousand media outlets in and around Manhattan. Request reviews, follow up with pictures, pursue contacts. I started that this week, and I will probably keep doing it until we open. Good thing I don’t have a job, although the Cadillac shopping does slow me down some.

It also means niceties like costumes and set pieces are probably going to be necessarily expendable. Neither will a stage manager nor a light/sound tech be affordable. It’ll be me, me and me, and my two cast members, and however many of our friends or strangers we can convince to come.

And you know what? So what. There’s no helicopter landing, or chandelier falling from the roof in act two. There’s no multi-media, no light show, no puppets. It’s a two-person character-driven play that we would do with flashlights if we had to. Because it is important to us and we need to show it. I’d like it to become a huge, runaway success that warrants a twenty-thousand dollar budget, or a two-hundred thousand dollar budget, with a lighting director and a costume mistress and a paid producer. Hell I’d take 200 bucks to defray travel costs. But no multiple of twenty is going to make the show itself any better. The right actors, with the right script. You should be able to stage it at the bottom of a well.

So this is how you produce an Off-Broadway play for $1.50, if you’re ever in the mood. Write a script you have the passion to get out no matter what. Cast talented people, preferable ones you’ve worked with before so you know what they are capable of. Rehearse the hell out of it. In your living-room. Send a LOT of persistent emails. Bother everyone you know to come see it. Carpool down to New York. Find out where the “lights up” switch is on the board and tell the actors to project. Try to enjoy every second, because the opportunity does not come around as often as you’d like it to.

Or you can find a producer, but what fun would that be?


Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom–free ebook until April 6th!

Hi There!

To celebrate the publishing of my new ebook Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom,  I would like to send all my readers a free digital copy!   The book is based on posts here at Pettiplays blog.
Between now and April 6th, I will send you an email with a PDF copy that can be sent to your e-reader or read on your computer.  This offer is good for anyone you forward the email to as well.  If you don’t know me personally, I promise to cyber-burn your email as soon as I send the book. Please feel free to distribute it to anyone else who likes to read, likes to laugh, likes free stuff, or all three!  Send your email to me at bcpkid AT gmail DOT com.
Here’s all I ask.  Please post an honest review on Amazon, and ask the same of anyone you forward it to.  That’s it!  The book is available at
If you feel guilty about not paying (for all my Catholic readers out there), I am including a link to my friend Ron’s charity event, “Hope Swings Eternal: A Swing Night Benefit for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital”.  A Neonatal Unit helped save his little girl Tegan’s life.  It is a more than worthy cause and I would be immensely happy if you could help.  Their website is:

Echoes of Ireland Sneak Peek


Cover Photo

Happy St. Patrick’s.  This is the first of four monologues that make up Echoes of Ireland, which was recently picked up for publication by Eldridge Plays & Publishing.  For my maternal grandparents (Sullivans and Sheas) and paternal grandparents, (Pettis and Raffaniellos)

This play was produced in County Cork, Ireland by the Skibbereen Theatre Society as as a fundraise for Gorta, an Irish famine relief organization that works in sub-Saharan Africa.  No one should ever go hungry again.  Their website link is on the right side of this page if you are so inclined.

Have a good weekend.

Echoes of Ireland

by Brian C. Petti

Copyright 2010 © by Brian C. Petti

County Cork, Ireland, 1860

Have you ever been hungry? Not that late for supper growl you get on your way to a meal, no. I mean the in-your-bones hunger, the kind that nary lets you think of ought else. The two days since and for all you know two days hence type. The hunger stirred in the pit of your belly, bourne of far too many days providing less that what a belly require, less than what a proper soul depends upon to thrive. Have you known that hunger, lads?

To understand me, to comprehend how I stand before you ten years hence breathing the air upon the wind of County Cork, and all the seeming health that sails with it…you have to know the hunger that can turn a proper soul improper. There were crimes enough. There are judgments we’ve yet to repay, dwelling on this earthly green. And there were crimes enough committed ‘gainst us, that are beyond any earthly judgment I can reckon. And at the root of it all, tangled up in its sinew and vine, forcing all that blackness up through the ground and into God’s light there is one word, one notion—hunger.

Crops had failed before. I had heard tell, having tilled a parcel with me father since I were a wee lad in service to the same landlord. I worked me land, but I didn’t truly own me land, you see. But t’were mine nonetheless. Me Da, he taught me every stone of the place, and after he died out in that parcel is where we buried him. I knew that land like you know a woman. Actually, thinking about what I know of me Caitlin, I believe I knew the land a tad better. It fed me two girls. It gave me what little I had in me pocket any given time. It provided me any right I had, at eight and twenty years of age to be calling meself a man. I asked no more than to be doing me work, to have a meal for Caitlin and the two young ones at the end of the day, and to share a spot with the boys at Jimmy’s Pub upon the odd Friday—and Lord knows no more was ever visited upon me. Simple wants and simple pleasures. I was married and familied as we all were. We went to church Sunday as we all did and prayed with the same words. I yelled too much, or drank too much on the rare occasion, did me penance and moved on fresh to pull the crop from the ground once again.

‘Twasn’t a surprise when the famine come. We’d heard it coming in gossip and whispers. But to actually see those pieces of coal staring out of the ground like the cold, black eyes of the old serpent himself… What’s a potato? Not much. A bit to feed a soul. Wasn’t there corn enough? Weren’t there cattle enough to slaughter? And there were. On ships leaving the ports of Erin each day, off to keep England in beef and the rest of the world in corn, while those who tended the land… Everything we raised we sold, see. If you wanted to keep your land and not be turned out by the landlord, you did so. Potatoes alone could be grown enough to eat and sell as well. All the tenable land raised grass to feed the cattle. Only potatoes took hold in the leftovers. Hills and plains of rolling emerald, green the like of which there’s none to match in the known world. Cow food. What we ate, and lived upon, and fed our children with…t’was brown. And now t’was black.

The small farmers fell upon the mercy of the large crop farmers. The big farmers pled their cases to the landlords. The landlords turned to the absent owners, far away in England…there were no mercy to be found there. And you can be certain no mercy trickled down to the poor of County Cork. Those who could afford to feed their own locked their hearts to us. The church locked its front gate. And poverty locked its chains upon us. But the ports, they stayed open, every day without fail for five years, sending our food to foreign soil while Ireland’s children starved. While me own children starved. When the last of what little we had was gone and the prospect of replacing it were gone as well, we fell into a routine of survival, Caitlin and meself. I took the man’s role, and went into town each day to try to find work with the Irish relief, on the off chance they’d throw me a few scraps to dig a ditch that was of no earthly value to anyone. Caitlin took the woman’s part, traveling to a neighboring town with the girls to beg in the streets. I couldn’t have her doing it in me own town, see. Not if I were a man who aimed to keep me pride. So I sent me own wife and children out to strangers to do me begging for me. So’s I could keep me pride intact, see. That was the theory.

After months of living on the scraps we could beg or steal, Caitlin began to leave the girls at home and venture out herself. When she brought back more than she had before, I didn’t ask how or why. I should have. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to know what I already knew. Because how could a man live, knowing such a thing? The depths a mother would plumb to feed her children. So I remained unawares.

So why not just leave, you may ask, and not having been there ‘tis a fair enough question. The simplest answer is that leaving took fare for passage, and hadn’t we enough just keeping body and soul together. But there were other answers too. Caitlin’s mother, who she fed the best she could until the fever finally stole the poor old woman’s breath. And our cottage, small enough to be meaningless to anyone but us, but still the place we watched our girls take their first steps—the older one careful and tentative and the younger one running headlong to beat the devil. It was ours. The only place meself and the lasses ever called home. Until the filthy landlord blaggards turned us out like shiftless beggars. And damn my soul, there was the land I thought would come back to me like a long lost love. The air, the grass, the sky I knew and loved all me life, even after it betrayed me. The land I couldn’t bring meself to hate…until I came home from digging me latest ditch to find the girls’ mouths stained green with it, wild with the hunger, trying to fill their bellies with the grass like they’d seen the English beef cattle do. That was the end, there.

By that time we were squatters, spending our cold nights in a lean-to with the one candle, hoping no one would roust us out. I spoke to Caitlin that night over the candle, spoke to her eye to eye, in a way I hadn’t in what seemed like years. I told her I was proud of her for the mother she was to me children, and that her mother would be too. She looked away. I can still see the shadows on her face from the flickering light. But I kept on. I told her the time had come to leave and stake our claim on another shore, what with our children desperate enough to chew cud with the cattle. We owed it to them to be done with this place at last. She began to cry then. And I…I thought it were due to what she’d suffered: the ignominy she endured to feed her girls, the meager life we’d been reduced to, the mother she’d lost to the fever. But t’wasn’t any of those things. She cried because she was with child.

We hadn’t had marital relations in over a year. When a body’s main concern is surviving until its next meal, all other considerations become secondary. Yet I was to be a father once again—me with the two green-stained mouths I couldn’t feed already.

There’s another word you need to understand if you’re to understand me. Shame. The shame of a working man all his days, now helpless and idle. The shame of not being able to provide for me children as God intended. The shame of sitting in the candlelight, with nothing between meself and the cold air but a piece of tarp, on a piece of soil that didn’t belong to me…across from a softly weeping woman who put herself in harm’s way for me and mine. How quickly we lost all we were. How quickly we were reduced to beggars and whores, who once were men and women of substance and pride. And in that moment, the hatred welled up inside me. I hated those who starved me family without conscience. I hated me father for teaching me to love the land. I hated the mocking green of the country I lived in. I hated me girls for being born. I hated Caitlin for the truth behind her tears. I hated God for abandoning us in our time of need. But most of all, lads, I hated meself. Most of all, I hated meself.

Caitlin couldn’t board a boat in her condition—if she survived the journey they’d have sent her back as soon as she landed. And I couldn’t leave her alone to starve and die. So I forged a letter from a distant cousin who lived in New York, who I never met, nor knew naught about. It said that he would sponsor me two girls to come across. I made up an address. We packed a sack for the lasses, told our 11-year-old girl to be the mother and care for her little sister…and we sent our babies out into this Godless world unguarded.

The letter didn’t come for eight months. For eight months we knew not a thing of our own children. Caitlin had another girl, and she was still nursing when the letter found us. It was from our oldest—I could tell by the scrawl on the envelope. She’d made it to New York, and even managed to find the relative we lied about by repeating his name often enough to anyone who’d listen. She was all right. She was alive, and being fed, thousands of miles away from this desolate place. But…our younger…didn’t survive the trip across. She died in me eldest’s arms, without a mother’s hands to soothe her or a father’s voice to calm her. The lost wages of vile desperation. And that’s all I can rightly say on that subject…

It’s now twelve years since that day. Ten years since the famine ended and the crop came back. Two hours since I had me last meal, and two hours until me next. Three weeks since I last heard from me daughter in the States. And a million years since Caitlin and meself have been able to look into each others eyes without a twinge of pain. We had two more girls, in our attempt, like the rest of Ireland, to repopulate the country after the food came back. So now we have four, plus the one we lost. And I till the land again, and we go to church as we did, and I have a few more pints than I used to on the odd Friday. But it’s all make believe. Like we’ve all already died once and we’re waiting for it to become official this time. We laugh without joy and we sing without passion. We know what’s under the rolling green, and we know what hides in the heart of the man or woman next to us. And we’ve not been able to forget what hunger feels like. And I fear we never will…

Other Side of the Coin…

Just as I was reeling from my latest bombardment of rejection letters, leading directly to my latest blog (, life goes and throws me a curve. My play “Echoes of Ireland” was picked up for publication by Eldridge Plays and Musicals. Sometimes (at least for today) all the rejection is worth it! Here is from their very nice acceptance letter, in the interest of equal time:

“Dear Mr. Petti,

The best plays stir many emotions and thus we couldn’t agree more with the description you provided with your play, Echoes of Ireland. The Cunynghamclan’s journey from raw hunger in Ireland to heroic duty In New City is “part tragedy, part comedy, part history lesson and all undeniably human.”

These empathetic monologues are captivating and universally human. We were very moved reading them and would be proud to offer your play to our
customers for, hopefully, standout performances in the future.”

Not as entertaining for my blog, but better for my psyche! Information on the play including a sample monologue can be found here:

Rejection Letter Rigoletto

What the rejection letter says:

“Dear Brian,

Thank you for sending us a sample of your play Banshee. Although we congratulate the wonderful reception your Fringe production received, regrettably the play does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you luck in placing Banshee elsewhere.”

What the playwright hears:

“Dear Talentless,

You must be kidding, right? Did you really think, for one second, that this twee attempt at a play would ever be good enough for us? I mean, we’ve seen our share of absolute crud. Believe me, you should see some of the junk that passes through this place. Sometimes, when we’ve had about enough, we read some of this insipid dialogue aloud to each other and laugh and laugh, all the while despairing the degraded state of American letters. Sometimes we have a script fire, while other times we crumble up individual pages and play an impromptu game of baseball with an empty paper towel roll.

Your sample, however, was not even good enough to be hit for a double. In fact, while reading it I threw each of the pages into a birdcage we keep on the premises in the eventuality of such a remarkably pedestrian effort. If it is any consolation, Mr. Greenfeathers seems particularly fond of excreting on page eight. Having been forced to read page eight myself, I cannot say I blame him. In fact, I think he was a good deal more forgiving than I would have been.

Since we receive so many, many scripts that have gone on to wonderful critical and commercial success in the States and abroad, we sometimes find it hard to adequately respond to the losers who send in such self-indulgent offal (such as yourself, in case you are more delusional than I previously imagined). I have made an exception in your case in an attempt to guide your future submission to this esteemed theatre, if you actually find the gumption to ever pick up a pen once more.

Your characters most resemble stick figures, if stick figures lacked emotional depth. Your dialogue sounds like it was overheard, verbatim, at the Customer Service desk of a local Wal-Mart (if one existed in the town of this theatre’s residence, which it certainly DOES NOT! due to the timely staging of a three-act masterpiece entitled Retail Rigoletto and the Wal-Martian Invasion –THIS is the type of art that inspires us! It even has puppets!) Your play’s construction best resembles the literary equivalent of a lean-to, precariously wavering on the side of a deserted road, housing an unemployed man, his ugly, insipid wife and three snot-ridden children of questionable hygienic quality. I would call the sample of your play ineffective and lacking the evocation of a single true and noble sentiment, but that would be too kind. I found myself, with each passing phrase, more and more insulted, as if each line were a tiny slap in the face from the glove of an extremely small French nobleman. By the merciful end of your sample, an emotional and physical state overtook me that I can only compare to an unfortunate occasion when I was pummeled thrice in the groin by a writer to whom I had given a particular scathing review.

Except HER play was way better than yours. 

In summation: your feeble attempt at creation makes me feel as if I were punched repeatedly in the balls. Please refrain from sending us any more of the oily drippings from whatever psychotic region of your tiny brain is now controlling what I cautiously refer to as your “higher functions” (unless, of course, Mr. Greenfeathers becomes in need of another cage-lining, in which case we will accept your submission wholeheartedly). Better yet, please take the following steps as expeditiously as humanly possible:

  1. please break all the fingers on your writing hand
  2. please break all the fingers on your non-writing hand (in case of latent ambidexterity)
  3. please remove all paper on which words can be written or printed from your domestic abode, including toilet
  4. please erase from existence, via burning or computer deletion, every “clever” idea you think you’ve had
  5. schedule yourself for a lobotomy

When these suggested steps have been taken, please feel free to submit to this theatre once more. I’m sure we can find a few restrooms that could benefit from your particular talents. Good luck placing Banshee anywhere but here.”

“Echoes of Ireland” Raises $$ for Famine Relief

I had to share this letter from the Mayor of West Cork in response to the Skibbereen Theatre Society’s rendition of “Echoes of Ireland”.  The production raised $400.00 for Gorta, an Irish famine relief group that helps hungry people in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The logo above links directly to their website if you’d like to learn more or make a donation.  The play is a series of monologues, one of which directly addresses the Irish famine.

Sometimes it’s good to be a playwright!

“Good morning Brian from beautiful West Cork in the Emerald Isle.

I am a voluntary member of “A taste of West Cork”  food festival and this year we paid hommage to the humble spud. In conjunction with our festival “Echoes of Ireland” was performed  by Skibbereen Theatre Society.

It was one of the most emotional performances I have ever come across. The four local cast members were so professional and there was’nt a dry eye in the house. It was so powerful and the story was told so beautifully. I was so moved by it, I felt I had to contact  you and congratulate you on such beautiful monologues, each monologue was performed so brilliantly and every emotion came to the fore during this story of pride and determination in the face of adversity.

The history was told so brilliantly and the story was so personal, I felt I was part of it and everybody in the room could empathise with each character. At the end there was silence as people wiped there tears and then the crowd stood and applauded loudly.

A lot of Irish children are sometimes bored with history, yet the children that attended this play were enthralled by it and it was evident they possibly learnt more from the monologues that the usual class room history lesson in school. It seemed so real and the audience felt every emotion as each mologue was performed. In fact I could not stop thinking about it for days, the story got to me.

Once again, congratulations on “Echoes of Ireland” and I wish you every success with your future career.

Thanks for giving your permission to Skibbereen Theatre Society to stage this unique piece of work. I believe the proceeds are going to Famine Relief Charity.

If your ever visiting Ireland it would be my pleasure to welcome you to West Cork.

Go raibh míle maith agat (Thank you)”

Kind regards

Cllr Karen Coakley

Mayor of Skibbereen

Co Cork


“Banshee” Opening Aug 21


viewer_(2).jpgSorry to my regular readers for the long dry spell–we’re opening in “Banshee” at the International Fringe Festival in NYC on August 21st.  Obviously my energy has been going toward that lately.

If you’re in or near Manhattan and you’d like to come see the show, you can find all the details here:

When the show is over the 27th, I’ll be back with more and better nonsense!