Anytime a playwright’s work is chosen, especially mine, it is a thrill. Murder is Served has always had a special place in my heart. I wanted to write a play for strong, viable elders, still having and enjoying romantic encounters.
I based the lead character, Rita, on my mother and wondered if people who didn’t know my mother would believe the character with all her eccentricities. Both Rita and my mother are a bit extreme.
When Atlanta Theatre-To-Go wrote and told me of their plans to take this short piece to senior homes around Atlanta, I was excited but also worried. Would a play about a love triangle among octogenarians in a rehab center, possibly resulting in murder, be appropriate for seniors living in a similar situation? Would the humor come through? In early discussions with the director, it was important that no character be played for pity. Here are three people in their 80s having a crisis, but they are sharp and capable of both love and calculated deception. We had to make some slight adjustments for the sake of the intended audience. Rita, like my mother, cursed like a sailor. The company wanted to tone down her dialogue. I agreed, as long as the intent remained clear.
Since I live in NYC, I wasn’t able to see the production, but I’m sure the director handled it well. The rules of the Dramatists Guild are such that you can’t change the words without the express permission of the playwright, but I certainly did not want to offend groups of senior citizens.
The most exciting thing was they asked me to extend the play so it could run as a standalone. Delving into these characters after a few years was both a challenge and a delight. I always intended to write more for Maud, the love interest. I thought a late-night geriatric balcony scene might work, since Rita had already taken away her husband Steve’s phone. Looking at the photos that the company sent me, it looked like it played well, and I am eager to hear the play again with the new added scene.
Of course, for me, the most important thing is that everyone has a good time: the audience, the actors, and the crew. Especially in these darker times, we need a respite from the toils of the world. We need to laugh, to escape at least for an hour. Atlanta Theatre-To-Go kept me smiling with their Instagram posts, photos, and comments about their experience.
I learn so much as a playwright by seeing where the laughs are, and if they are consistent no matter who is saying them, or where they are being played. I was so grateful that the company considered this tour a success. Thanks to Atlanta Theatre-To-Go, the new version of Murder is Served will most likely be published in 2023.