In celebration of the upcoming premiere of my new play “Three Little Dumplings Go Bananas” at the 2012 Bay One Acts Festival April 22 – May 12 in San Francisco, here’s a quick introduction to how the Dumpling Universe came about! (Note: this post is actually the foreward to my eBook, The Complete Dumplings Experience. I am really into eBooks right now– legit reading Moby Dick on the Kindle app on my phone and loving it. Now, to business!)
Where did the Three Little Dumplings come from?
I discovered these three foul-mouthed, genderless, adorable, and desperate little sacks of meat during the Winter of 2003, my sophomore year of college. They popped out of the random dirt of an unstructured writing session like weird sudden flowers, laughing, plotting violence, and demanding attention.
By the time I learned that their world also contained delights such as tiled claustrophobia, unabashedly smart-ass feminism, and a talking suitcase, I had already decided to stage and direct the piece in a workshop at Stanford. (It was the first play I’d written since my dalliance with an adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” at age 8, which featured gems like the “Mad Hammer” who was, god help us all, a rapping amalgamation of the traditional Mad Hatter and hip-hop mega-star M.C. Hammer.)
After watching that first production of Dumplings– watching my game young actor friends run around in matching overalls, making sandwiches, and licking each other, just because I asked them to? After seeing that, what else could I imagine doing with my life?
On my first professional submission after graduating with a B.A. in 2005, meaning the first time I’d sent any play to anyone anywhere, “A Three Little Dumplings Adventure” was picked up for an Off-off Broadway production, which was so rad. This time, the people running around in overalls, getting knuckle-deep in peanut butter, and licking each other, were strangers. It turned out that there’s only one thing cooler than playing with your friends to make art: seeing people you’ve never met before do your work. To walk into a room and realize that each of these artists thought it was worth their time to spend months of rehearsal and performance trying to fit your brain into their mouth? I was sold.
I didn’t do anything else with the Dumplings for about five years. I had other things to think about– like going on terrible dates, and failing to make a living. You know, really urgent stuff. Mostly, though, I was trying to write. By the autumn of 2010, I had written about a dozen other short plays, all of which were (miraculously, albeit sometimes incompetently) produced by theater companies– in edgy black box theaters; in crazy crowded bars; even once on a rugged windy beach. These little plays were done in the New York City that every playwright dreams of, and in San Francisco, where I moved when New York (predictably) turned out to be less dreamy than anticipated. Anyway, what mattered was that by 2010, my work was being done– and done a lot. My first full length play was going to be produced. I even felt like I was sneaking up on my actual voice as a writer. It was a good time to go back to the Dumplings, and be like “Yo, what’s up?”
I sat down with the Adventure script, my first play, to see how much I had managed to learn since I wrote it.
Turned out, I had learned a lot. So, as an experiment, I retooled, revised, clipped and rustled, mussed and smoothed, fixed and tweaked, and came out with a better structure, better jokes, clearer ideas; a new, improved “Adventure.” I got that version staged in SF in the Spring of 2011, as part of the Bay One Acts Festival. The artistic director of the festival, Jessica Holt, picked it as the play she wanted to direct herself, and gave it a wildly energetic production (at Boxcar Theater in the crackhead-dotted SOMA district). You can watch the video of the show, and see production photos, on my Dumplings Page. I really liked it, and audiences really liked it– except for a couple of people in the audience, who totally hated it. Which I liked.
Jessica liked it so much, she asked me to write a companion piece that would re-unite the cast for the 2012 festival, again under her direction, and in the same Dumpling universe. That’s how “Three Little Dumplings Go Bananas” came about.
From the very first draft of “Adventure,” it was clear that this weird world wanted to overspill its stage time– my friends joked about a second act where First Dumpling would be interviewed by Jay Leno, and Daddy would see the whole thing on TV and freak out and shoot the screen with a shotgun. During discussions with the SF cast about what would be in “Bananas,” people wanted to go back in time and see Mommy & Daddy’s courtship, and I threatened to write an American-Graffiti-style teen romance where they’d fall in love over a milkshake with two straws. I still might. And what of the many other ideas? Second Dumpling’s sandwich aria sung in tear-stained falsetto? Third Dumpling’s trip behind the Iron Curtain? It’s all part of the 24-hour Dumpling Cycle. It’ll all happen somewhere, someday. In a parallel universe, it’s happening right now.
-Xoxo Megan PS. Did I mention you can watch some video of the shows, get the scripts, and see sweet Dumpling snapshots on my Dumpling Page? YEAH BUDDY.