The Making (and Re-making) of a Supervillain

So I was looking back through my writing backups last night, and I found a ‘NOTES FILE’ from May 30, 2007, that included the following:

The Nefarious Bed & Breakfast

OVERALL PLOT: The setting for the play is the above-mentioned B&B. It is run by Dr. Nefarious is a retired supervillain, who, against his better judgement, has been convinced by his wife Margot to make their new business venture a themed hotel capitalizing on his former fame. This is his opening weekend, and he has two reservations – a young couple, Judas & Kathy, and a couple at the further end of middle-age (but very fit and toned), Mr. & Mrs. Smith-Jones. As the weekend progresses, it turns out that all the guests have their own motives and their own secrets … and so does Dr. N. After much confusion, we are left wondering – what is Good? What is Evil? And will the B&B make it into the really popular guidebooks?

Six years ago I came up with the idea for this script. I’ve wanted to create my own little universe of Toronto-based heroes and villains since moving here, and I think Dr. Nefarious may have come out of those musings. (At the time, I had no idea anyone else had used ‘Dr. Nefarious’ as a character name, though I’ve since found out about the Ratchet & Clank character, voiced by the inimitable Armin Shimerman.) Mr. Mister, without a doubt, owes certain aspects of his personality to both Pixar’s Mr. Incredible and to The Tick. Ms. Try and Half-Ape certainly owe their existence to the thousands of comic books, movies, and TV episodes I’ve devoured over my lifetime.

The first draft was done in November of the same year; the second draft about ten months later (in and around other projects). We did our first public reading in early 2009, and another in June of 2010, incorporating suggestions and audience feedback each time. This year alone, I’ve done three complete drafts based on conversations with the director and other company members, and now we’re at a final version we can take into rehearsals … where it’s most likely going to change again, as we find what works and doesn’t once the play is on its feet.

A lot of things have changed through the edits. No, a lot a lot. A character who used to wrap the whole play up in the final scene has vanished. A gender-swapping plot twist, which was in the end fairly insensitive, no longer happens. Another character is no longer pregnant through the play. Certain meanings and motivations are much different now. Some of the physical business was smoothed out to make things easier for the set designer. (Though there is still a giant laser!) At least a dozen jokes I loved have been cut (which always happens, you do have to kill your babies in this process). And Half-Ape, our friendly neighbourhood ex-minion, now has not one but two of my favourite moments in the show.

I don’t think I’ve ever been through this extensive a revision process before, and it’s really something to look back and see all the ways the play has grown and transformed. How I’ve grown and transformed as a writer. How we’ve grown and transformed as a company. Our work on this play spans the entire lifetime of Monkeyman Productions, and now we’re finally bringing it to you as we celebrate our fifth anniversary.

It’s one hell of a present, and I hope you’re as excited to see it opened as we are.

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