Shakespeare Meets Broadway Producer


It’s been a while since I appeared in print but I’ve been busy doing other things – like trying to come up with an idea for a column.

I watched the Tony Award not too long ago and what struck me was the lack of original stories or plays. Where are the new writers? Many of the plays and musicals nominated are repeats of originals performed many, many years ago. Can you imagine what would happen if a young writer by the name of William Shakespeare tried to sell scripts to a Broadway producer today?

Broadway Producer: What can I do for you, young man?

Shakespeare: My name is William Shakespeare, and I have a few scripts I’d like you to read.

Broadway Producer: Well, Bill, you’ll never make it as a writer with name – too long. Sounds weird! We’ll have to get you a new handle.

Shakespeare: A handle! For what. I’m not a cup or a mug.

Broadway Producer: Very goo, Bill. Very funny. Got a sense of humor, do you? Might be able to use you as one of our gag writers. Let’s come up with a new name. Shakespeare is too long. No one will ever remember it. How about Bill Spear. Has a nice ring to it!

Shakespeare: Why don’t we talk about my story ideas.

Broadway Producer: Right-O, Bill. I hope you’ve included lots of sex and violence.

Shakespeare: Well, I do have men and women in my plays, and battles and such.

Broadway Producer: Men and women! You are a card, Billy. Are you sure you never wrote comedy or one-liners.

Shakespeare: Look, I have this story about a Danish prince.

Broadway Producer: Hold it, Bill. There’s only one kind of Danish that goes well here and that’s the kind you eat with your coffee. We can’t use Denmark as the locale of you story. We’ll make the guy a prince of Arabia. People love exotic places!

Shakespeare: But, I have a good line I wanted to use “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Broadway Producer: We’ll change it to “Everything aromatic comes from Arabia.” Trust me on this!

Shakespeare: You see, the prince sees the ghost of his father who tells him that he has been murdered by his brother so that he can marry his wife.

Broadway Producer: Hey, Bill, this isn’t a ghost story, is it? I like the possible incest angle. Maybe we can flesh that out a bit. Perhaps a triangle. We’ll throw in a few lovers.

Shakespeare: In my plays, I do make references to a “man not born of a woman” and a little mystery about “the woods moving”. I also have a seen with three witches.

Broadway Producer: Hey, Bill. Is this some kind of science fiction? People won’t spend a hundred bucks a ticket for that. I like the idea of man not born of a woman. You mean the hero was born in a test tube. That’s a new twist. We keep everyone guessing who the father is, right? This might make a great science fiction detective story.

Shakespeare: “What fools we mortals be!”

Broadway Producer: Hey, Billy, I like that! Maybe we can use that line somewhere. Hey, what’s this Dane’s name?

Shakespeare: I call him Hamlet.

Broadway Producer: You gotta be kidding, Billy. That sounds like the name of a dog or a cat. We need a name with more zest and zing. How about “Dano the Dane”. I’m telling you, this Hamlet won’t fly!

Shakespeare: Fret it! Oh fie!

Broadway Producer: No, Bill. I said it won’t fly. Oh forget it. What else do you have for me?

Shakespeare: I have a thing called “Two Gentlemen from Verona.”

Broadway Producer: Say, Bill. Where in blazes do you get these cray names for towns? Corona, I could buy, even Hoboken. But no one ever heard of Verona. Is this a western.

Shakespeare: Well, it’s more an Italian story.

Broadway Producer: The two gents are part of a mob? Something like the Sopranos? It’s a crime story?

Shakespeare: No, it’s a comedy – a happy story – a gay story.

Broadway Producer: Oh, it’s about two gay gangsters! Hey, I like it. It’s got a new twist. You’re a daring playwright Billy. No one has ever written about two gay Mafia. This might be hard to cast. I’ll try for Pacino and Hoffman. This will be great box office. Are you sure you haven’t written sexy stuff before Billy?

Shakespeare: I try to keep everything gay in my comedies.

Broadway Producer: Billy, two gay guys are enough. What else do you have there?

Shakespeare: How about the Merchant of Venice.

Broadway Producer: What’s this hang up you have with all these Italian cities. Were you a G.I during Worl War II? Can’t we call it, The Merchant of Sante Fe or Brooklyn or even Tucson. Hey, the MErchant of Newark sounds good. But if you insist Bill on this Venice bit, we’ll call it the Venetian Merchant.

Shakespeare: Now one of the main characters in the story is a Jewish money lender.

Broadway Producer: Hold it right there, Bill. We can’t make this the “heavy.” Most of the backers of the show are influential Jewish people. This will be bad for the box office with the Jewish character as the bad guy. Maybe we can make him a Nazi. Everyone hates Nazis!

Shakespeare: But, his name is Shylock.

Broadway Producer: We’ll make him a Nazi and call him Colonel Von Schlock. Trust me. The Merchant of Venice with a Jewish money lender will never sell!

Shakespeare: The play also has a woman lawyer.

Broadway Producer: Worse still! Let’s forget this play, Bill and concentrate on the other two. Why don’t you re-write the Merchant of Venice. Maybe it would make a great soap opera. It will never make it to Broadway.

Shakespeare: How about Romeo and Juliet? It’s about two young lovers from rival families – different backgrounds.

Broadway Producer: That sounds too much like West Side Story. Leave the other plays here Bill. Maybe we can work out something.