What's In A Name? By Thomas Putnam
Juliet wondered what difference something is called; it's still the same thing no matter what it is called, right? Maybe. I've read how some authors and playwrights begin writing with a working title and then change it as the work progresses. Sometimes the title may be changed a number of times. Remember in the film (and stage version) of Shakespeare in Love how both Shakespeare and others comment “Good title” upon hearing a title for a play in the works.
Over the years it's been fun to hear people get all mixed up with a title when ordering tickets for an upcoming play. Granted, some plays have tricky titles. In college I was associated with two such titles: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad was one. We worked on a number of scenes in acting class and the university produced the full play later that year. Another one is The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. The play itself was a bear to experience—intense, sad, painful—but the title just trips off the tongue, doesn't it.
Looking back over our 30-some seasons we've had our share of challenging titles. There were some longer ones that weren't crazy, but long nonetheless, thus open for some fumbling. Consider I Never Saw Another Butterfly, or—possibly our longest--The Misadventures of a Dozen Kids From the Other Side of the Tracks. I like the symmetry of those with three elements: A Bird, A Fish, and A Boy from the Stars. Or Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. And what about I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.
We produced 33 Variations and The 39 Steps in the same season; don't think that didn't cause some mash-ups. Some include a new sort of word: Last Train to Nibroc. What the heck—or where the heck—is Nibroc? And Dancing at Lughnasa. What or where is Lughnasa? And another The Madwoman of Chaillot. What or where is Chaillot? And how in the world is Nibroc and Lughnasa and Chaillot pronounced?
There were thoughts that Underneath the Lintel might have something to do with soup. And that Miracle on South Division Street might be a sequel to that Christmas movie. And that Velocity of Autumn might be about race cars. More recently we had some fun titles like The Lifespan of a Fact, and Dead Man's Cell Phone, and Into the Breeches. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike offered a whole lot of iterations. Perhaps the most mangled was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
And soon we have Foolish Fishgirls and the Pearl. The phones are going to start ringing with requests for reservations and I'm sure we're going to get some wonderful paraphrasing. Maybe I'll write a blog about it.
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