Sunday, April 26, 2009

But Will It Look Good On A Water Bowl?

Last week, I had my first conversation with the marketing gal in charge of Say Goodbye Toto. They would love to see the script so they can start working on the graphic design for the postcard. I would love for them to see the script as well, but it’s not ready to send out yet. We’ll see about an extended synopsis. (I have trouble figuring out how long “extended” is. Cue all sorts of naughty jokes.)

A lot of my writing experience is for film/TV, and that’s how I approach marketing plays as well. There’s several thousand postcards littering hipster coffeehouses, sushi places, and other theater lobbies promoting plays around town, but you can’t figure out what the play’s about. They go for artistic, or pretentious, or emphasizing the names of the cast, or whatever, but seemingly ignore the most basic thing of all – what’s the play about? Why do I want to see this play if I don’t know anyone connected to it?

We’ve got an obvious edge – everyone knows Wizard of Oz. And we’ve got an interesting quirk – told from Toto’s point of view. We’ve even got a killer title – Say Goodbye, Toto.

Now we need a tagline. Something catchy, something cute, something that pithily encapsulates what the show’s about, yet is relatable outside the show.

My last full length play was in 2005. It was called The Big Ever After, and it crossed fairy tales with pulp novels. The tagline was “It always feels good to be bad.” Which was exactly what the play was about – why does it feel good to go against your chosen grain, and what does that mean for your life in general?

That was actually a line in play. So the first choice would be to find a snappy line of dialogue from Say Goodbye Toto. And since it was so easy last time, it shouldn’t be a problem this time, right?


I think one of the major things is that nobody can hear Toto. So even though he talks, nobody responds (at least, not in obvious ways.)

I used to pitch the play with this line:


But that’s a little wordy.

You could go obvious, like


But that’s a little generic.

In the play, Toto loves Tummy Rubs. So you could do something like


But that requires insider knowledge of the play.

There’s a point where Toto tells Dorothy, “I know more than you think I do.” So I was messing with this line:


Which might could work. I could see it on a T-shirt. Or a coffee mug. Or a water bowl. We’re going to try and do merchandise with this one, depending on costs.

Hmmmm. It might be one of those eleventh hour Eureka moments. We’ll see.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ask Toto A Question # 8

Dear Toto,

My dog wants to know if it's necessary for every dog to have a Facebook page in this day and age. What if he doesn't want to be found by the mutts he went to obedience school with? Is it rude for him to reject a friend request from the stuck-up Pekingese that he went out with just once?

- Michelle

Hi Michelle!

Yeah, I’m totally with your dog on that one, I don’t understand this fascination you humans have with the whole Facebook thing. Or the computer in general. I mean, why are you staring at the screen? You could be playing with me! I’m in 3-D, even! Your dog will lick your forehead! A keyboard can’t do that!

Look, all dogs have to do to get to know each other is sniff their butts. Tells us EVERYTHING we need to know. One whiff of the batootie, and that dog is etched in my brain. I don’t need a friend request to sniff a butt. I don’t need to take a What Superhero Are You quiz to sniff a butt. I don’t need to comment on your photo, I can sniff your butt!

So what’s the point of Facebook?

(and yes, you can totally reject a friend request from a Pekingese. Because even I don’t have to sniff that butt to know that one’s a stuck-up bitch.)

Thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs every other week until the questions run out. Don’t let that happen! Send Toto your queries at

Monday, April 13, 2009


So I’m deep in the middle of the rewrite, and as usual when I’m rewriting a project, I’m plagued by the chorus of voices that pound my skull with a sledgehammer saying you’re making it worse, you’re making it worse.

When we did a staged reading of draft 2 last November, it went over really well with the crowd. In fact, if you were going solely by crowd reaction, you’d think we have a huge hit on our hands. But while crowd reaction is important, so is story logic, and theme, and character arcs and stuff.

For example, Glinda’s character didn’t do much but show up and do her best Basil Exposition routine. So I had to figure out what to do with her character.

And that brings up what might be the main question as I write and rewrite. It’s not just how can I make Glinda’s character better, or how can I make Scarecrow and Tin Man and Lion better. It’s how can I make them DIFFERENT and better and still make sense within the story.

We all know what they were in the MGM movie. Some of us have even read the original book, and they were pretty much the same. A lot of us have read Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, or seen the musical (I read the book, didn’t see the musical), and know how he did a masterful job of reworking the characters to tell an amazing story of tolerance, politics, and what good and evil really are. Maguire is a super smartypants, and there’s no way I can ever be in the same room as him and his brilliance. I’m a populist; all I really wanna do is entertain people and make ‘em laugh.

In draft 2, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion actually do have knowledge, a heart, and courage, and they’re very aware that they do. But they pretend that they don’t in order to stay close to Dorothy and a have a reason to accompany her to Emerald City. Toto sees through their ruse, but can’t get Dorothy to see it. Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion recognize Toto as a threat, and subsequently try to kill him on the way to Emerald City.

It certainly seemed like a funny idea to try out (as both the audience and Toto see Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion’s attempts to disguise their gifts in amusing ways.) But it got to be slightly tedious, because all they did was try to flirt with Dorothy and kill Toto. And it got confusing later when the Wizard gave them their “gifts” that they already had.

So I’m trying a different tactic, which may or may not work. I’m workshopping the 1st 25 pages of the new draft through my writer’s group next Monday. Crossing fingers that I’m making it better, not making it worse.

- Amy Heidish

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ask Toto A Question # 7

Ask Toto #7


I've done some research and see that Terry the dog, who enjoyed an eight year acting career spanning ten movies, played you in MGM's 1939 production of The Wizard of Oz. Knowing that Terry trained for two whole weeks at Judy Garland's home for the part, how well do you feel one of Hollywood's most famous canines portrayed you?

Grant in Mid-Wilshire

Hi Grant!

Well, I’m not one to slam a fellow canine, Terry did the best she could. That’s right, Terry is a bitch. What? I’m still not slamming her, she’s a female dog, that’s what they’re called! Calm down, people, sheesh.

Anyhow, Terry was fine, though I can’t help but note a distinct lack of focus in certain pivotal scenes. Check out Terry in the classic scene from Over The Rainbow.
Dorothy! Make the thing happen! The motion capture thing! I can’t work the keyboard.

Where’s Terry looking? Is it at her mistress, who’s trilling so beautifully? No! It’s her trainer just off camera. If you watch this scene like I do, keeping your eye on Terry the whole time (why would you look anywhere else?), you’ll notice that Terry is NOT connecting with Judy Garland. In fact, she’s so out of character, she offers her paw a whole moment ahead of time, at the “That’s wheeeeerrrreeee yoooooooooou’ll fiiiiiiiiiinnnnddddd meeeeeeee.” when she’s supposed to wait until the “Why, then, oh, why can’t Iiiiiiiiiiii” Part.

See, if I had played myself, you couldn’t have gotten me to take my eyes off of Judy Garland, not for a second. Not because Judy was inherently beautiful in her own right, but because she’s playing Dorothy, and there’s no person in the whole wide world that I like to gaze at more. I hardly ever take my eyes off her, that’s how much I love her.

Oh sure, they had offered the part to me, but since Dorothy wasn’t going to play herself, and they were telling the story all wrong anyway, I didn’t wanna be a part of it. Was I jealous at the final product? No, not really. Well, okay, yes, the first time we watched it I howled and howled at dismay at how they got every last thing wrong.

But then I realized how much this version, wrong as it is, has brought happiness to so many people, young and old, and who am I to stand in the way of that? Plus we’re gonna tell the story the way it’s supposed to be told, so the truth IS coming out finally. You just gotta wait for your moment. For stories to be told the right way, and for food under the table, ha ha ha.

I will say, however that Terry really did great in the scene where she barks madly at the cat in the balloon scene. That’s completely the fury I have when I see any cat. Cats are just wrong all over.

Thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs every other week until the questions run out. Don’t let that happen! Send Toto your queries at