(This was originally posted May 16, 2010. This spring ‘2014’ will be our 3rd time doing this amazing show)
As a 33 year old woman who grew up in Utah, I can’t say as I’ve had much experience with film noir. I did study “Citizen Kane” in my Intro to Film class way back at the community college but unfortunately all I could really remember about the film was that the sound and dialogue were not balanced and as we all leaned in to hear who exactly Rosebud was…a shrill cockatoo made its loud squawk and my film professor quickly turned the volume down….so much for Citizen Kane.
When we decided to try our hand at a classic Who Done It mystery, it only seemed natural to set it in America in the classic film noir style of the 1940’s. As the production team sat around at our brainstorming meeting, tossing out ideas and scenarios of how the mystery should go down, I thought to myself, “Man…this is gonna be a tough one to write.” My experience is quite extensive when it comes to mystery novels and novellas but I tended to read more modern stories written by authors such as Janet Evanovich and Harlan Coben. I have, of course, read most of Agatha Christie with her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but old English settings are nothing like the seedy world in which film noir flourished. It was time to start the research…
Ah…the Internet…with its vast rolling hills of crimson red and it’s shimmering…wait…wrong script…sorry. The Internet…chock full of intrigue, mystery and ALOT of opinions. I just started reading…what is film noir?…what themes does film noir invoke?…how the film makers who made film noir didn’t classify it as film noir…how it helped calm a world troubled by war…all kinds of topics. I read and read and read and then I went to the library. I checked out a very good book entitled, “Somewhere In the Night: Film Noir and the American City,” by Nicholas Christopher. It soon became apparent that all film noir shared exciting and striking similarities. One was that the city itself is a character. The city breathes and takes lives. The city is a maze of which the hero (who inevitable dies) cannot escape. I also came to realize that there is always a femme fatale who is doomed as a character that knows that all the men will love her but that she will destroy them in the end. She cannot help it…it is her plight. I also learned that the set of morals or values that control these characters exist outside the normal acceptance of society. Everyone is crooked…everyone.
Next, time to watch film noir. Back to the library…I watched “Laura”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Murder, my Sweet”, “Casablanca”, “Marked Woman”, “The Big Sleep”, “The Other Woman”, “Force of Evil”, “Sunset Boulevard” and “Double Indemnity.” I read another book…”Los Angeles Noir” which is a collection of short stories.
I began to dream in film noir. I was thinking in film noir. My sentances became fraught with depressing statements. I no longer just associated PI’s with Garrison Keller portraying Guy Noir on Prairie Home Companion or that Potato spud private eye on “Between the Lions.” I was breathing it and it was time to start writing.
Unfortunately, all of my preparation only gave me 48 hours to come up with a completed first draft script. Luckily, I have an amazing Production staff who was able to understand what I was trying to say in some places and were able to look at things from a perspective that wasn’t seen within the world of Film Noir. I was also challenged to add humor to the script, but I wasn’t striving for the cheesy, slapstick humor that finds its place in some parodies. I hope that the humor is subtle and enjoyable without making one groan. I guess time will tell.
We are in rehearsals and it is going well. I can never accurately judge a piece during its creation and the organic nature of the company makes it impossible to know what will work and what won’t. This is new territory for me but I am excited to see how it has pushed me and made me grow!
Show opens April 19th!