A LESSON ON CHOOSING A TITLE
I was told, in no uncertain terms, by 2 theaters, and both my directors, that the title of my 1999 play about the Johnstown Flood “Sails on the Mountain” was too long. I was contemplating reviving it when I saw that the Goodman Theater of Chicago is currently working on their own Johnstown Flood play.
A TALE OF THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD
SAILS ON THE MOUNTAIN......................THAT’S 7 MORE LETTERS AND A SPACE!
O.K., O.K., I’m not the Goodman, but COME ON! See, the lake was ABOVE Johnstown, and a lot of people, being illiterate, didn’t know it was a private club and they would look up from their backbreaking, dirty jobs in the valley and see SAILS ON THE MOUNTAIN! No, it’s not like “Dances with Wolves” (Got bless you Pauline Kael for calling that movie “Plays With Camera.”) Ya got yer mountain. Ya got yer sails. Sails on the mountain!
Bottom line: Nobody knows what’s going to appeal to the public as their tastes change constantly. Yeah, you don’t want it to be bigger than the marquee, but name it whatever feels right. If it affects the sale, then come up with something else. It may be more memorable to call it a one word like “RENT” or “LOOT” or “ORPHANS”, but if you’re in the zone and you know what your play is, you will know what to call it.
And that’s why my new play is BULLDOG. See “Citizen Kane” and you’ll know why and what it’s about.