Tales of Love & Lasers opens tonight—dear god, tonight!—and as I explored yesterday, this has left this playwright with little to do. Rather than twiddle my thumbs, I turned my attention to something that has kept playwrights amused since the days of Aristotle: the statistics report offered by Final Draft, which gives all sorts of information about scene counts, word counts, and profanity counts. How can a sabermetrically-inclined playwright make use of this raw data? I ran the numbers and tried to find out.
(Before we get into this silliness, do remember that you can buy your tickets here.)
Tales of Love & Lasers is 5.206% about baseball.
This, I think, is a safe amount. Although the baseball-chatter in the play is concentrated, heartfelt and important to the plot, there's not so much of it that it might overwhelm the sensibilities of the baseball-adverse. By setting these three short plays in the early '70s—a spaceship-heavy version of the early '70s—I'm able to resist my natural urge to chatter infinitely about the New York Mets. Instead, I rely on memories (not my own) of the New York Giants, achieving something closer to universal interest than any of my Metsian blabberings. So, if we were to break this down further, I'd say this play is probably 1% Mets, 4.206% New York Baseball Giants. This is a playwright demonstrating restraint.
Tales of Love & Lasers is 72.498% science fiction.
This feels like a bit of a cheat, since I've been promoting the play as straight sci-fi comedy. The fact is that, while not every moment in the play is death rays and turbolifts, on balance it is a piece of science-fiction. The remaining bits…well, you'll have to come see and find out what they are. Some are real world-ish, some are more fantasy, and some have the air of a Robert Louis Stevenson acid trip. You know—your standard theatrical experience. If I wanted to improve the play, would I look to increase or decrease the sci-fi percentage (SFP)? Rather than up this base number, I would look to improve the sci-fi density in the 72.498%—adding lightsabers and Klaatus and frivolous Rod Serling-type characters, who wander around the background intoning about the grave doings that have been presented for your approval.
Tales of Love & Lasers features two "bullshits," ten "damns," and fifteen "shits."
Again, a special thanks to Final Draft for providing the endlessly amusing profanity report. Special recognition to Stella Starlight—our oft-mentioned queen of space—who is the only character who gets to say motherfucker. (That's according to the script, anyway. Once they get out on the stage, I can't control them any more.) A slightly less special mention to Wayne, who has the less satisfying distinction of being the only character to say "Crap"—not because he's so special, but because it's simply not a very popular curse word. While shit is the most common Final Draft-approved swear in the play, the 24 variations of the word "Fuck" beat it out. Those 24 words make up just .194% of the play, but I promise they'll be your favorite part.
Tales of Love & Lasers is only 12,370 words long.
Playwrights don't think a lot about word count. We may scramble to get under a certain page count, or snip tiny bits from our stage directions so that the phrase The End doesn't appear, forlorn, on its very own page. But we seldom get so nitpicky as to worry about the raw number of words. This is good, since we don't actually write that many of them. It had been a while since I ran a word count on a play, and I was startled by how short it is. 12,370 words? The New Orleans murder story I wrote for Narratively in March came in around 5,000 words, and took only a couple of weeks (and a month or so of research) to turn out. Writing plays, on the other hand, takes fucking forever. Perhaps if the public libraries were good enough to corral all the information I need for one and put it on microfilm, I'd be able to churn through them faster.
Tales of Love & Lasers is 1.083% sword fights.
As far as words on paper, the swordplay segments of Tales of Love & Lasers occupy just under a page. In an art form where you only need 12,370 words to make up an evening of theater, some words count more than others. While uhs, ands and mmms can be dispensed with in a moment, those pesky words "They fight" can eat up quite a bit of stage time. When I started working with the good women of Squeaky Bicycle on this production, my only request was that we shell out for a fight choreographer. We got a good one, and it shows. That 1.083% of the play will hopefully stick in your memory more than the stage direction itself sticks on the page.
So, Tales of Love & Lasers is 5.206% baseball, 72.498% sci-fi, .194% fuck, and 1.083% sword fighting. That adds up to a scant 78.981%. What makes up the remaining 21.019%? You'll have to come tonight and see for yourself.