Kernels of Inspiration from POPCORN Playwright Scott C. Sickles

Scott, the previous Artistic Director of WorkShop Theater Company, is an accomplished playwright with work currently being produced around the country, and also a television writer who is now on his way to LA to the Daytime Emmy Awards.  We asked him where he got the kernel of inspiration for his delicious new play:

Did you first have the idea for the play or for the food?
At first, I had no ideas whatsoever! But I got to chatting with Thomas [Coté, artistic director] and the idea just came to me – the food and the premise all at once: two boys, not opposites as much as foils, a bowl of popcorn, Nigella Lawson. Names are called. Fists fly and… mayhem ensues.

What do you feel when you watch POPCORN? 

Playwright, Scott Sickles

Playwright, Scott C. Sickles

I feel so very many things. I feel lucky to have these wonderful collaborators. Leslie has directed it with such simple elegance. And this cast! They’re a joy to watch. Joe Boover and Code Keown bring a depth and compassion to their characters that can only be hinted at in the script. Plus they’re both beautifully precise and hilarious performers.
Mostly though, I’m moved by the story they’re telling. That may sound self-serving but the play I wrote is just the foundation for what’s happening on stage. There’s something profoundly beautiful watching these two characters who begin the play as virtual strangers forge a small connection that begins evolving before our eyes.

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
Rehearsal. That’s usually where a lot of the hard work is done to get the play in shape. I love being in the room working on cuts and rewrites with the actors and exploring things with the director. I wasn’t around for most of the rehearsal process for this play. Leslie and Thomas expressed what few concerns they had and I addressed them one way or another. I was able to attend the first rehearsal and they gave me every reason to be optimistic. They were right.

How does it differ from writing from TV?
Less paraphrasing. I do my own rewrites. I have to think of the entire storyline from beginning to end. And often, I’m involved in production.
On TV… there are lots of rewrites and changes that are out of my control, and they should be. As playwrights, we own our material, but as TV writers, we write something that belongs to someone else. There’s no ownership. That’s not to say that we can’t be proud or passionate about what we do because we are.
Also on a soap, there are actors who have been playing their roles for decades. They’re entitled to take liberties with the text (to a reasonable degree) because they know their characters better than I ever could. Sometimes even new actors creating new characters take license with their dialogue because they’re the one’s inhabiting that person.
All that and I am never needed on set. In fact, I live thousands of miles away from the set.

We understand you write for General Hospital and are up for an Emmy?  Can you tell us a little about that?
I’m a scriptwriter for General Hospital which means I’m on the team that transforms the plot outlines we’re given in to shooting scripts. It’s a lot like adapting a novella into a teleplay or, even moreso, creating an orchestration from a musical score. We get to shape the episodes and see that the characters remain true to their histories and personalities. I’m nominated for an Emmy as part of the whole writing team. There’s so much collaboration in daytime drama from top to bottom, even if we’re not nominated for an episode I was personally involved in writing, that episode is built upon the events and conversations we as collaborators have created from the most sweeping plot points down to the smallest gestures and lines. It’s a great team and I’m honored to be a part of it. I hope we win!

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