Over the course of the last year (mostly focused during last summer and fall) I wrote a silly little script for a dinner theater murder mystery show called Lei’d to Rest: A Hula-dunit Murder Mystery, which, as you’re probably aware, we just wrapped up production on. It was fun. While I get a little anxious about anything I write, and even more anxious about anything I perform in, meaning that this was bound to involve me being a mess of nerves, it was incredibly exciting to watch an audience react live to not only something I’ve written, but something I am performing in, and have such an obviously great time with it.
But that’s actually not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about Rodney.
Who’s Rodney? Well, he’s a character I wrote for this show.
The writing process for these murder mysteries tends to be a bit different than most of my other writing, because it works a bit in reverse. You see, last spring, I got a message from the executive director of the theatre asking me if I was willing to write another script. To which I said, sure. And his response was, cool, can you give me a title in a month so I can get it on the list.
So, I made a title.
And then I started piddling away at the idea of the script, knowing nothing more at this point than it would be a murder at a luau, and that we had a title. Not that long after I had started, I got a message saying that he needed a synopsis for the show so it could get put into the season brochure. While I had loosely developed some concepts, I didn’t have that much to go on, so I quickly roughed out a basic idea of where the show would go and shipped off a little synopsis.
Which means at this point, I had a title and a synopsis, and a few character names to fill the synopsis with. And I now had to fill in the rest.
While I’m not going to pretend the writing for this type of show is anything special, because it’s primarily coming up with a bunch of jokes and then trying to find some way to weave the jokes together into a loose plot, this is such a weird place for me to start. It also means that I find myself having such a loose connection with the script after I’ve finished writing it. It’s not something I pour nearly as much effort into as my books, it’s just a goofy thing I try to piece together in my off hours and hope comes out remotely amusing.
This also means that I don’t really get to know the characters all that well, which is kind of a big deal for me, because I believe one of my strongest assets as a write is my characterizations. Where I normally like to develop these multi-faceted fictional humans who have emotions and motivations, here I create very little more than cartoon characters who simply need to have enough reason to make the jokes I write for them.
So, when I was cast as Rodney (not my own decision, because I definitely wouldn’t choose a character who talks as much as Rodney does for myself), all I really knew about him from my position as writer, was that he was hyper obnoxious, because that was his entire purpose for existing.
However, over the past two months, as I had to actually become Rodney, I became more and more familiar with this character I had barely developed in the writing, and, well, I realized that Rodney is almost exactly who I wish I were as a person.
While he doesn’t pay the most attention to his wife (something which felt a little too close to home as I spent the past week in a hotel avoiding my sick wife while she stayed at home with the kids so I could finish our performances) and is quite possibly a murderer, he’s also this incredibly positive and confident human being that everyone loves. For real, he never once was voted as the murderer in the show because everyone loved him too much. I even had a couple of people after the show tell me how much they were in love with the character as a person.
I honestly felt amazing while I was Rodney. Here was this guy, wearing an absolutely embarrassing outfit, who would go from table to table, excited about everyone who had decided to come to the party. He was never embarrassed about the things he was excited about. He loved everyone and he loved everything. He was the most positive and confident person, and even if he was a little annoying, he didn’t care, and, from my experience this weekend, neither did anyone else. His excitement was infectious.
And coming out of playing Rodney, I found myself wanting to be that much more confident and positive of a person. I would finish a performance wanting to let everyone know how much I loved them.
It was a great feeling. Being Rodney made me feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.
But also, being Rodney is incredibly exhausting. I’m still tired two days later and could probably sleep for a week after jumping around and talking nonstop.
All the same, I think I’d rather find myself exhausted, but feeling that level of positivity, than being my normal tired and feeling like things are never going to be good. So, I’m setting myself up with a late New Year’s resolution.
I’m going to try to be more like Rodney.
Or at least, I’m going to try to allow myself to be a bit more confident. That would be nice, right?