BWW Interviews: Playwright Kris Thompson Talks BAD MEDICINE
BWW: BAD MEDICINE is your second completed work! Could you tell us a little about it?
Kris Thompson: BAD MEDICINE is a classic melodrama. At Theatre Suburbia they've renamed it "meller drammer" because it's a little bit more than a classic melodrama. Not only is it melodramatic, with the heroine, the hero, and the villain, but they also have the audience in the production. At the very beginning of the play, they'll get instructions to "boo" and "hiss" and toss popcorn at the villain, "ooh" and "aah" for the heroine and cheer for the hero. That's why it's called a "meller drammer." The classic melodramas also have a secondary name. I don't know why. So the play is called BAD MEDICINE, GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. It's a really fun play. It's about two hours long. At Suburbia, in between the acts, there are singing and dancing numbers. The audience gets song sheets so they can sing along. That's fun too. And they're always really old-fashioned songs that are related to the play. This time they're also going to do single numbers in between the scenes. So, after Act 1, Scene 1, there'll be a number. Then, during the intermission, there'll be a bunch of numbers. And, during Act 2 between scene 1 and 2, there'll be another number.
The play itself is set in the late 1800s. It is about a snakeoil salesmen who comes to the town of Bagwell, Colorado. He, Bodkin Shamley, and his villainess (Sally) are in cahoots to entice Becky Trueheart, our heroine, to fall in love with him so that he can get her ranch. Becky Trueheart's father passed away several months ago, unexpectedly, and left her with this huge ranch. Bodkin and Sally, his cohort, have become aware that Union Pacific Railroad, the expanding railroad in the area, will pay a pretty penny for her land should she choose to sell it. So he's going to marry her, sell the land, kill her, and then marry the bad girl, Sally.
Part of their plan is to use, because he's a snakeoil salesman and has all kinds of different medicines and concoctions, a love potion on Becky. But when they get there, they find out Becky is practically engaged to the sheriff and they are childhood sweethearts. So they have to break them up first. The love potion is used. Becky is broken-hearted. A truth serum comes in to play as well as an antidote.
BWW: I'm liking the magical elements.
Kris Thompson: Right? But then, they're out of the truth serum and -- I'm spoiling the show for you! Let's just say that true love saves the day.
Kris Thompson: Have you ever seen the movie Love Potion No. 9? It's a movie with Sandra Bullock, in her early years. It has that love potion element in it. I was a little bit inspired by that. It's a really fun show and, of course, these "meller drammers" always have very happy endings where the bad guy goes to jail and the people get married. Everybody's happy!
BWW: Cosmic justice.
Kris Thompson: That's right!
BWW: Well, you've sort of answered my next question: What inspired you to write this [Mispronounces] "meller drammer"?
Kris Thompson: BAD MEDICINE is actually the first thing, as far as a stage play, I ever wrote. The reason I wrote it is because we do a melodrama at Theatre Suburbia every summer. I got involved with Theatre Suburbia about two years ago because my youngest was acting in plays there. I would stage manage and things like that. And the first melodrama that I saw there I said, "I could do that." That's when I started writing BAD MEDICINE.
Another reason I did it is because Theatre Suburbia does a call for melodrama scripts every year. They encourage people to write melodramas and submit them. Then they'll read them all. If there are none that are satisfactory, they won't do one but if there are, they'll pick the best one from the group and do that one.
I submitted it a year ago and it was rejected. I didn't feel too bad. It was the first thing I'd ever written. But the artistic directors at Theatre Suburbia, Elvin Moriarty and Doris Merten, had a sit down with all of the playwrights that submitted and didn't get in to critique their work. We had that and I had a little bit better idea of how I could improve the script. And so I did. I spent the next year working on the script and resubmitted it. I can't remember how many scripts that were submitted this year, but there were quite a few. I was very excited that they selected my script.