Christy’s on the Square, in downtown Santa Rosa, was one of the two unlikely spots where playwright David Templeton found himself writing major sections of the romantic comedy ‘Pinky.’
After a performance, there are often folks waiting in the lobby to say hello to the performers. Sometimes they have feedback, sometimes they have questions. Occasionally, there are people who want to ask me something related to the script. After all, most theatergoers do not have the opportunity to meet the playwright, so sometimes a person will take advantage of the playwright being one of the actors. Last weekend, someone asked me a question no one has ever posed before, or at least, never immediately after a performance.
“When you write,” he asked, “where do you write? Do you have an office? Do you write in your living room or kitchen? Do you go to a coffee shop? Whenever I write, I like to go to the coffeeshop. So . . where did you write the script for ‘Pinky’?”
Funny he should ask.
When I write my columns and theater reviews, I often write at home, though I do have a small office in Petaluma established for that purpose as well. When I write larger projects, I have found that, like the guy in the lobby, I do well in coffee shops.
‘Pinky’ was a different story.
I discovered Christy’s on the Square (www.christysonthesquare.com) —and its amiable bartenders Jason and Justin—a couple of years ago, when I stopped by one early evening to hear a friend who was playing the jazz piano there. I quickly saw that Christy’s was a spot a person could relax in, especially between the hours of 5 and 8, when Christy’s clientele is primarily professional people and business folk unwinding with friends after work. It’s a very classy place. Soon thereafter, when looking for a quiet spot to do a bit of writing while maybe having something a bit stronger than a cup of coffee, I hauled my laptop over the Christy’s, sat at the bar, and discovered that this was, in fact, a great place to get some work done—and have a nice cold vodka martini (best martini’s in town, by the way).
I began writing ‘Pinky’ in March of 2011, and somewhere around May of that year, it became clear that the vibe at Christy’s was fertile ground for working on that particular play. At least once a week, in the late afternoon, I’d appear, and do as much work as I could before the later part of the evening, when the volume goes up and the place becomes more crowded. I’m not sure when I told Jason and Justin that I was writing a play, right there every Tuesday night, but once I did, they became huge supporters of the project, making sure I wasn’t distracted by curious visitors wanting to know what I was doing, occasionally acting as sounding board when I would be working out some particular scene.
In fact, one of the play’s most memorable speeches—the one we call The Balloon Animal speech—was written in its entirety there are Christy’s. I knew I needed a scene where David would try to convince his friend Jake to help him find out what kind of guy Pinky was looking for. “What if it turns out Pinky is looking for a guy who . . .?” That’s as far as I’d gotten. I knew I wanted David to ponder that question my imagining Pinky’s perfect guy as something really outrageous, but what? Sitting there at the bar, I let my eyes wander around the room, letting various possibilities fill the blank in that sentence. “What if it turns out Pinky is looking for a guy who . . .?” I took in the stage, where the musicians were setting up. “What if she’s looking for a guy who plays in a rock and roll band?” Too obvious. My eyes took in the basketball game on the T.V. screen. “Plays Basketball for the Lakers?” No. My imagination began to morph each idea into its most outrageous alternatives, and as the basketball player became an Olympic athlete, a movie star, an astronaut, a tightrope walker, a Circus ringmaster, a clown . . . boom! I had it. “What if Pinky is looking for a guy who, I don’t know . . . blows up balloon animals?”
The rest of the speech was done within thirty minutes. I immediately called Sheri (the play’s director), and read it to her over the phone, as Jason moved closer to hear the speech. When I was done discussing it with Sheri, after I’d hung up, he said, “Wow! This play sounds hilarious!”
The quiet setting and all-around beauty of Moshin Vineyards was a perfect spot for David’s fall and winter “writing retreats,” where the combination of the winery’s charming Guest Suite and the close access to miles of creativity-fueling hiking trails along the river made for the perfect spot to finish writing the play . . . as the deadline for completion loomed.
But there’s another spot that played a big part in the creation of ‘Pinky.’
My friend Julia has worked for Moshin (www.moshinvineyards.com), as the Director of Hospitality, for a while now, calling attention to Moshin’s award-winning hand-crafted Pinot Noir and other wines. She and her husband Dan (the two of them produced my last play, the solo-show ‘Wretch Like Me’) have been supporters of the Pinky Project for some time. I wrote the two opening monologues in the small Mendocino cabin-in-the-wood owned by Julia’s grandmother. Late last year, as the deadline to complete ‘Pinky’ was drawing closer and closer, Julia offered me the use of Moshin’s gorgeous guest suite, a very cozy room attached to the Moshin’s rustic winery building and tasting room. Just like at Christy’s, the staff and owners of Moshin (thanks Rick and Amber!) were very interested and supportive of my project, curious about the themes of the play.
Sometimes, writing a play just cannot be accomplished in short spurts of two or three hours. You need to just go away and write for hours and hours and hours. That’s what I did during my writing retreats out at Moshin. During the daylight, I would walk down to the river beneath the Wohler Bridge, a notepad in my back pocket to capture the ideas that would spring to mind as I walked, playing various ideas in my mind.
Some of the most pivotal decisions of the ‘Pinky’ playwriting process took place out there, either inside the suite or out on the trail. It was 2:00 in the morning when, as an experiment (during my first overnight visit to Moshin Vineyards), I decided to invent Pinky’s infamous Prince Charming list. I always knew I’d refer to the list (the real Pinky really did have a P.C. list), but since I never knew what was on the list, I wasn’t sure the play would include any of those items. By 3:00 a.m., I had finished the list of made-up P.C. attributes . . . and the entire play took a sudden leap forward. Later, while walking along the river, I stumbled upon the play’s final twist, mentioned during David & Pinky’s show-closing epilogue. When I thought of it, it literally stopped me in my tracks, as I dropped to a crouch to write the entire scene right there beside the river.
So. Long answer to a short question.
Where did I write ‘Pinky?’ With a little help from my friends, I wrote ‘Pinky’ all over the place: in a cabin, in a bar, and at a winery in Healdsburg.
Soon I will begin serious work on my next play.
Where will I end up writing that one? I’ll let you know.
For information about ‘Pinky’ tickets and showtimes, visit http://www.6thstreetplayhouse.com