Thursday, December 3, 2015

E=MC2: The Amazing Life and Times of Stephen Hawking

It looks like my dream is about to come true, more or less.

I finally decided to hunker down and write a play I always promised myself I’d write someday. It’s called E=MC2: The Amazing Life and Times of Stephen Hawking. So first I did extensive research to learn everything there is to know about the good professor. That’s how I came up with the catchy title because, as everyone knows, E=MC2 is Hawking’s most famous quote.

The play is one of those one-man shows. The actor playing Hawking sits motionless in a wheelchair in a spotlight on a bare stage. And he uses a talking box to deliver a monologue about his amazing life and times. I don’t mean to brag, but I think it makes for a spellbinding 2 hours and 40 minutes of theater.

I wrote this play for three reasons. One, Hawking is a cripple icon and I thought it was high time for something to be written about him from the perspective of another cripple. Two, I wrote the role of Hawking with the intention of playing the role myself because it has long been my dream to star in a Broadway play that wins a Tony Award. But I can’t act worth shit. And memorizing lines scares the crap out of me. So I figured if all I had to do was sit there and let the talking box do all the work, this could be the perfect part for me! The third reason I wrote this play was for money.

I should also mention that this isn’t technically a one-man show. A second actor plays the part of the nurse. This is a small but important role. When Hawking enters at the top of Act 1, the nurse pushes him in, positions his wheelchair in the spotlight, pushes a button on his taking box and exits. Then, at the end of Act 1, when the professor’s monologue builds to the peak of its tension as he complains about how just because he’s crippled some people talk to him like a goddam baby even though he’s a physicist, the nurse enters and delivers her only line. She says, “Excuse me, professor. I don’t mean to interrupt, but it’s time for your sponge bath.” They exit. End of Act 1. The nurse pushes the professor on stage again at the top of ACT 2. And then we don’t see her again until she takes her bow at the curtain call.

Well I sent my play to a whole bunch of Broadway theaters and they all rejected it! I was more pissed off than devastated. It was clear that my play was far too visionary to be understood by those Neanderthals who produce on Broadway! That’s when I made a painful but necessary decision. I knew that the odds of being produced would improve exponentially if a big star played the lead. So I gave up my dream of playing Hawking and sent the script to Dustin Hoffman. And much to my delight, Dustin (that’s what I call him now) contacted me about a week later. He was ecstatic! He said Hawking was the one role he’d always wanted to play.

With Dustin on board, of course a Broadway theater scooped my play up right away. And Dustin, being the consummate professional that he is, immersed himself in preparing for the role. He studied hours upon hours of video footage of Hawking sitting motionless in his wheelchair, so as to master his every nuance, his every twitch and blink.

And last week my play opened to rave reviews. The New York Times called Dustin’s performance “masterful.” Newsday said Dustin “brings the celebrated professor to life.”

Thanks to Dustin, the opening performance ended with a standing ovation when, after the nurse took her curtain call bow, he rose from the wheelchair and bowed. That was an ad lib but it worked so well I’m definitely adding it to the script.

So you can see why I’m feeling pretty pumped up, eh? E=MC2 has Tony Award written all over it!

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