Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 20, 2013

Nothing But the Truth

One of the first things I wrote for public consumption was a play called Nothing But the Truth. Here’s the story of how it came about.

My wife was a high school English teacher when she was asked to direct the school play. As her husband, I became a volunteer production assistant. I really enjoyed being behind the scenes, helping with set construction, costumes, and props, and watching the students become their characters. And we would go shopping with an eclectic list that might include:

  • box of drywall screws
  • a white apron
  • a cube of florist foam
  • cheesecake
  • white paint
  • duct tape
  • black socks

In one particular play I had the added responsibility of creating live sound effects. A girl character was in love with a young man who played the trumpet very badly and serenaded her from offstage. Since I play trumpet, I volunteered to provide the music, and discovered how difficult it is to intentionally play poorly. And this put me right in the middle of rehearsals and all the backstage chaos, and I loved it.

When that play was over, I started thinking about how I could involve myself in the next production, since they weren’t likely to need a trumpet player again. I decided to try my hand at writing a play. I had a basic idea, and worked hard at it for months. I knew which student actors were not seniors and were likely to return the next year, and I cast them all in my head.

Finally the time came for my wife to pick the next play. I sat down with my script, set a timer, and read it out loud, leaving space for action and set changes. When I finished, I checked the timer and saw that the whole three-act play was less than an hour long. I was disappointed and depressed. There wasn’t time to double the length of the script, and I couldn’t wait until the next year because many of my high school actors would graduate. I set the script aside and gave up on it. The next production went very well and I was able to help a little, but I felt left out.

Later that year my wife and I saw a movie that had a similar setting to my play, and I started thinking about it again. I took it out and re-read it with fresh eyes, looking at the characters and not the actors who wouldn’t be playing them. I saw room for added interaction and a new subplot, and I started working on it again. After a few more months the play was finally long enough. My wife agreed to direct it, the school approved, and we were in production.

Seeing that play rehearsed and then performed was one of the best experiences of my life, right after having children. To see characters and settings and situations that did not exist outside my imagination come to life onstage was amazing. I’ll never know how the original actors would have worked out, but the new students who were cast really seemed to understand the people I had created, and added expressions and gestures and lines that enhanced the characters beyond what I had written.

After the play had finished its run, I went through the script again and included what the students had added. I started sending it out to drama publishers, and after many rejections it was accepted by Pioneer Drama Service.  And I was finally a published playwright.

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Responses

  1. I can relate to the “trying to play an instrument badly” thing. I had to do that for a play once. It was hard!

  2. […] I also talked to my eighth-grade daughter’s drama teacher, who heard about my play, Nothing But the Truth. She has students interested in writing skits and plays and asked if I’d be available to talk to her class about being a playwright. I have a lot we could talk about here, too, most of which I covered in a previous blog post. […]

  3. […] the opportunity this week to visit my daughter’s Jr. High drama class and talk about being a playwright. I dug some artifacts out of the attic, including early drafts of my play, some promotional […]

  4. […] answer at just the right time to make the most impact. I remember one particular scene in my play, Nothing But the Truth, in which I had to maintain three different perspectives: what the characters thought, what I […]

  5. […] but I’m not an authority on the subject. I’ve self-published a book and written a successful play, but I’m not a professional. I don’t have all the answers, and there’s no reason […]

  6. […] my audience is miniscule. Relatively few people read my blog, have bought my book, or seen my play. Someday I hope that my work can attract even a fraction of the attention and devotion that Star […]

  7. […] of my favorite (or at least most memorable) conversations to write was in my stage play, “Nothing But the Truth.” It’s a mystery/comedy and both characters had secrets, so I had a lot of words and meanings […]


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