The Play’s The Thing

I’ve added a new date to my upcoming blog tour. On Monday, February 19, Jane at Jane Reads will post her review of Cast for Murder. This will be an introduction to the series for Jane’s readers. Thank you, Jane, for welcoming Veronica and me to your blog!

In Cast for Murder, my protagonist, Veronica Walsh, emerges from acting retirement to star in an amateur production of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Choosing the stage play the plot would revolve around was a fun bit of research for me; I read several plays before choosing Coward’s classic comedy for Veronica’s starring role.

In my original plan for the third book in the series, Veronica’s leading man was murdered. I had a great title for the book; I’m keeping it secret because I might use it in the future! The first play I considered for the book was Edward Albee’s masterpiece, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Veronica would relish playing Martha, one of the most famous characters in theater history. The small cast-just four characters-was perfect for my story and the tension and rising viciousness throughout the play would blend well with the motives for a backstage murder.

Another play I considered for my original plot was Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig. Veronica would be terrific as Sara, a middle-aged banker living in London, but after some thought I passed on the delightful show.

I turned to other plays when I changed the murder victim to the play’s director. I love Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple and knew I would have fun writing a book that included the well-known story. Veronica would star in the female version of the play Simon wrote in 1985, in which the ladies play Trivial Pursuit rather than poker. I chose not to weave the show into my storyline before deciding whether Veronica would play Florence Unger or Olive Madison.

I also entertained the idea of the production being of an original play written by the eventual murder victim. The plot of the play would point to the killer. After considering several options for the story-within-the-story, I passed on this plan.

Finally, after also considering The MousetrapNoises Off, and Chapter Two, I decided on Blithe Spirit. Coward’s play about the return of a dead woman’s spirit was a good fit for my plot and offered opportunities for a few life-imitating-art moments in the story. I gave Veronica the well-known role of medium Madame Arcati. The small cast of seven allowed me to give each of the actors a line or two of dialog without burdening the story with too many characters.

I go through one or two phases a year of setting my to-read list of novels aside and checking out a few plays from the library, a habit that in part inspired Cast for Murder. Do you enjoy reading plays? Or do you prefer to see the finished product performed in a theater, whether amateur or professional? And what’s your favorite production? After all this writing, I know what mine is.

Enjoy the week!


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