In January of 2003 Chicago Dramatists, a theater that produces original scripts here in the Windy City, was looking for ten-minute plays that dealt with war and terrorism. They do a staged reading series that takes place every Saturday and I’d been trying to crack this venue for several years (if you’re a playwright in Chicago, you’re supposed to be involved with Chicago Dramatists). I wrote a short script called “Purple Hearts and Missing Femurs,” sent it in and it was promptly rejected.
Now fast forward three years.
In April of 2006 Southern Illinois University in Carbondale had a reunion in the Theater Department. They were looking for short plays to be read. I’m not really an alum of the Playwrighting Department, but I took a class while I was there. (The professor, Christian Moe, was and is considered one of the best playwrighting teachers in the country. I couldn’t pass that up!) I sent “Purple Hearts and Missing Femurs,” two of my best friends from my college days were the actors chosen to read it and it was a huge success. A lot of nice people said a lot of nice things about the script. It was even published in a souvenir booklet.
Not bad, but that’s not all.
In June Chicago Dramatists was once again looking for ten-minute plays for their Saturday Reading Series. This time the only rule was that all of the plays had to be comedies. I sent in “Purple Hearts and Missing Femurs” and, low and behold, this time it was chosen! I was thrilled! It was a big hit and during the talkback after the reading people talked about the “classic situation for comedy” and praised all sorts of themes and ideas that I didn’t realize were in the play (I took credit for them, though).
Not bad, but that’s not all, either.
The plays for the Chicago Dramatists reading were chosen by guest judge Mary Scruggs, the Head of the Writing Program at the Second City Training Center. Two months after the reading, “Purple Hearts and Missing Femurs” and the other five plays in the program were given full productions at Second City’s Donny Skybox Theatre. I’ve been a big fan of Second City ever since I found out that many of the original Saturday Night Live cast members got their start there. One of the reasons I originally moved to Chicago was to go through the whole Second City training program. I never went through the training, but I still managed to be a part of a Second City production.
Two successful readings, one publication and a full-blown production, not bad for a play that I’d pretty much forgotten about in the three years since I wrote it.