It's not that I don't know what the play is about. I'm just never quite sure what the person asking really wants to know. Are they asking me to tell them what literally happens in the play or are they asking me more about the theme of the piece?
Part of my brain wants to talk plot, and another wants to say what it's "About." These two chunks of brain matter wrestle for control of my mouth and all that comes out usually is "uhh... it's about, well, um... there are these roommates! And... uh... i should come up with a better answer for this..."
Let's assume, for a moment, people just want to know the plot. I can give it to them easily enough, but not without giving away some surprises that maybe they don't want spoiled before seeing the show. Those people then get annoyed with me for saying anything. That conversation goes like this:
Person: So what's it about?
Me: Well, it's about these three roommates sharing an apartment in Harlem and [CENSORED. COME SEE THE SHOW.] So then -
Person: Wait, what? Why did you tell me that?
Me: Because you asked what happens!
Person: Yeah, but now it won't be a surprise!
Me: Don't worry, that's just where the story begins!
Person: Still... you shouldn't give that part away, okay?
Me: Yeah, okay.
Person: ...So then what happens?
Writing the blurb for the Fringe application was also not easy for me. It was (I think) 40 words long max and I wasn't totally thrilled with what I came up with, but they accepted the show anyway, so hooray! I got to take another crack it when we were creating the press release and here's what we came up with:
Written by Owen Panettieri and directed by Joey Brenneman, The Timing of a Day follows three New York City roommates who share a loving (if cramped) Harlem apartment and a similarly loving (if cramped) triangular friendship. As the play opens, the three find themselves navigating the regular ups and downs of city life, and the unpleasant question of where their adult lives are taking them, when an unforeseeable tragedy rips them from the ordinary and changes the course of their lives and friendships forever. What follows is the reshuffled story of their time living together viewed over the course of a single day. Slices off their future, present, and past weave together in new ways, illustrating what it is that really draws these three people together, as well as what pulls them apart. While examining life, love, and loss from one sunrise to the next, each individual is forced to question if there really is such a thing as “perfect timing” or if all timing is just perfectly flawed…
Not too bad, eh? Sounds interesting! It's still a little wordy. I have to trim it down to have it sound-byte ready. I've dedicated a little time each day to figuring out the most succinct way to phrase it. Wanting a quick explanation of the show is not a crazy expectation from people who want to assess their options quickly. I look at movie descriptions that are being shown on TV and I think "what would they say for Timing Of A Day in that situation?" It would probably be "Three New York City roommates faces struggles living in the city." Tale as old as time, I suppose!
But my latest attempt to explain the core of what happens without giving things away or getting lost in the possible meanings of what the show is "About" boils down to this. It's about three NYC going about a normal day when something unexpected happens that greatly affects their lives, their relationships and their ability to stay together. Over the course of a day crucial moments shared in their apartment are revisited and we see what brought them together, what pulled them apart and how they might move forward.
Okay! Now all I gotta do is commit that main statement to memory, and hope that the next follow up question isn't "Okay, but what's it really ABOUT?" Gotta come up with a short answer for that now too...