I’m still recovering from the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE at Stage West in Fort Worth. I made a decision early on to throw myself into the project as though I was self-producing, and it was harder than I thought it would be. Except for an hour here or there, I was at every audition, rehearsal and performance. I stuck my nose into the design of the show logo, the costume choices and the selection of props. I made the CD for the music in the lobby and lobbied (see what I did there?) for a special menu that included “The Sports Page Bratwurst.” I found photos to hang in the hallway and wrote a special invite to the theater’s subscribers. I addressed the theater’s board of directors and helped design the show poster. I got involved in video content and the design of the program and Facebooked and Tweeted like there was no tomorrow. I got all up in it. And what did I get out of all that? Here’s a typical night in the cafe before the show:

How fun is that! Dining, chatting, anticipating some live theater. People from all over — Boston, NYC, Little Rock, Houston, Amarillo, Austin, Minneapolis, South Bend — it was amazing.

We had adventures of the fun kind — a water bug hid quietly inside a shoe until actress Sherry Hopkins discovered it in mid-scene — and the not-so-fun kind: actor Bryan Pitts was injured in a could-have-been-fatal car accident and had to leave the show. But here’s the beauty part: Bryan showed up for the final performance (smiling, on crutches) and there were hugs and tears all around. Here’s director Jerry Russell with Bryan:

We got some great reviews and I got to hobnob with some famous folks who came out for the show. Through some very satisfying collaboration with the fabulous cast and director, we were able to change about 40 percent of the original script and make it 100 times better.

So. I’m drained. Still trying to sort it all out. Anxious to get on to the next thing. And thrilled to be done with the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE.

Now, after a long so-called winter, we can get on to what’s really important:

And there are 0 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE.

Final Weekend

And the finish line approaches. 4 weeks of rehearsal, 6 weeks of performance of THE SPORTS PAGE, and I’ve loved (just about) every minute. So many people have pitched in and helped along the way, it’s been kind of amazing. Job Next is letting other theaters know about our fabulous production and asking when — not if — they’re gonna do this show.

One of the great things about the show is how many folks have come from all over to see it. Last weekend saw the arrival of relatives from South Bend, friends from high school in Dallas, my college roomie from Amarillo, pals from New York City and Austin and Denton and theater folks from Fort Worth. What a blast.

But enough of that. Let’s get back to… Publicity. Of which there is more this week. A new video from the playwrights roundtable held at the Omni Hotel and moderated by Mark Lowry of the fabulous theater blog Theater Jones. We had a good time. Enjoy a brief sample of our discourse here:

And there are just 4 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.

Houston Checks In

It’s always extra cool when a sportswriter — a scribe, if you will — digs THE SPORTS PAGE. It’s their world, after all, and if they enjoy it, it’s got a chance. Today John McClain, who’s been in the business in Texas since the 70’s, weighed in from Houston on his Ultimate Texans blog.

Here’s a sample:

“I will say right up front that I wish I had done what Larry Herold, a Baylor graduate who worked as a sportswriter for the Waco Tribune-Herald, has accomplished. Herold is a playwright who has written a terrific award-winning play, “The Sports Page,” that’s been running in Fort Worth the last two months.”

And this:

“The Sports Page” isn’t a football play. It transcends football. It examines society at a crucial time in America. If you’re in Fort Worth, check it out. Hopefully, it’ll come to Houston. If it does, I know it’ll be a hit. And I’ll be first in line.”

Good stuff all around. Read the full blog post here.

From blogs to video. Today TheaterJones.com posted the first in a series of videos that involve THE SPORTS PAGE. We put together a roundtable of Dallas/Fort Worth playwrights. Mark Lowry, founder of Theater Jones, sat in the moderator chair. Along with writers Jonathan Norton and Isabella Ides, I talk about what it’s like to find out a theater is going to do your new play. (Spoiler: it’s thrilling.) See the video here or just click to watch:

And there are just 6 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.

Publicity and Waterbugs

The fun train rolls on with two things.

First, THE SPORTS PAGE is in the current issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. The great Sam Blair interviewed me in January. He actually covered Cowboys’ training camp starting in 1960, so it was a thrill to hear some of his stories. Here’s the cover:

And here’s the story. It’s hard to read but you have to subscribe to link to it online and I…. well, let’s just say I haven’t subscribed.

And second, on a completely different note, last night we had quite an adventure. In the middle of her scene, actress Sherry Hopkins, who plays the lovely and talented Jane Jordan (see her video here, not from last night), felt something strange going on. I’ll let her tell it, quoting from her FB post:

“Last night I delivered the performance of a lifetime. During a scene onstage, I put on a pair of pumps (no hose, just bare feet). I proceed to do the scene when suddenly I feel a tickle in my shoe. It gets worse, until finally mid-scene, I must remove the shoe and itch my foot. While delivering my lines, I sit and remove the shoe, trying not to show the audience the panic from the intense tickling/itching sensation on my bare skin. When I remove the shoe mid-line, a 3-in wriggling cockroach (or waterbug, jury is still out) jumps out of my shoe and scurries across the stage. The audience audibly freaks. My co-actor, Josh Buehler, looks stunned. I continue with my line without missing a beat, trying not to react to the audience’s gasps and giggles. Josh ad libs, “Should I do something about that?” to which I reply, “Squish it?”… Live theatre, people… nothing like it.”

Sherry hated it but the audience loved it. Big laugh. So we’re keeping the cockroach in the show. KIDDING.

She is right, though, y’all. Nothing like live theater.

And there are just 10 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.

Fate Takes A Hand

Saturday morning I got a mail telling me that Bryan Pitts, who was doing a wonderful job playing Pick Waters in THE SPORTS PAGE, had been involved in a serious car wreck. He was in the hospital, lucky to be alive. First, second and third thoughts were, “I hope Bryan is okay.” Fourth thought: “What about the show?”

At this level of theater, there are no understudies. You just hope the cast gets through the run — in our case 6 weeks — intact. We went into full panic mode, putting the word out to everyone we knew that we needed an actor who 1) was African-American;  2) was in his early 20’s; 3) looked like a professional athlete; 4) was not committed to another show; 5) was available for 14 performances starting with Saturday night’s; and 6) was willing to jump in with a cast that’s been working on this play for two months. If you called that a tall order, you’d be right.

Meanwhile, Bryan was scheduled for hip surgery on Monday morning. By Sunday, he’d improved enough to take phone calls from his hospital bed:

Dana Schultes, one of the 3 majordomos at Stage West Theatre, reached out to a young man she’d met in December named Babs Ipaye. Not only did he meet the requirements of the role, he was available and ready to jump in. Wow. By Saturday afternoon he was in the house rehearsing. He did part of Saturday’s show script-in-hand and by Sunday he was flying free, doing a rather amazing job in the role of Pick Waters. Here’s the man himself:

Bryan’s surgery went fine. He’s headed to a rehab center to work out the kinks. And Babs Ipaye, a TCU grad with a beautiful stage presence, is the new Pick Waters.

And now there are just 12 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.

Back To The Roots

I spent five years in Waco, Texas, during the late 70’s, writing about sports for the school paper and then the local newspaper. Much of THE SPORTS PAGE is based on things I saw or heard or imagined there. Now the Baylor University Alumni Association has written a nice story about me and the play.

Here’s my favorite line: “I decided to turn my attention to an area where all the information comes directly from the characters’ mouths,” he said. I sound so, um, decisive.

Anyway, the whole thing’s here.

Thursday night Kevin Moriarty, kingpin of the Dallas Theater Center, was in the house. He said he liked it. “It’s fast with lots of twists,” he said.

After tonight, just 14 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.

Hello Waco

Spent a good half-hour today talking with John Morris on ESPN Radio Waco 1660 about THE SPORTS PAGE. Most interesting part of being interviewed on the phone by a person you’ve never met is the broadness of the questions.

After weeks of parsing every single syllable of the script, asking whether an actor should pause here or guffaw there, whether carpet or Astroturf was more appropriate for the dorm rooms of the set, whether a costume should reflect the 60’s as we remember them or the 60’s as they were, the question “What’s the play all about?” made me pause.

I answered it this way: “If you’re like me, as a kid, opening the sports page was the best part of your day. It was all there — stories, photos, stats. It was your best source for information about your team. That made being a sportswriter a great job — you were the connection between the team, the players and the fans. But in the mid-60’s, television began to move in on that territory and sportswriters weren’t happy about it. They also weren’t happy when women wanted into the press box, or when players began to realize they didn’t have to cooperate with writers. THE SPORTS PAGE is set at Dallas Cowboys training camp in 1966, just as these changes (and a big idea called the Super Bowl) arrived.”

Just 16 performances left in the world premiere of THE SPORTS PAGE. Get your tickets here.