Our week-long M-M-Maxathon concluded on Satuday night at the Jean Cocteau with a staged table reading of "Xmas," my thirty-year-old unproduced (until now) MAX HEADROOM script. And I have to say, we went out on a high note. We had a sold-out theatre, and the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of the performance, laughing and applauding at all the right places.
After thirty years, I was not at all sure how well my old script would hold up... especially with an audience of Max Headroom fanatics, many of whom had just sat through an entire week of Max, watching every one of the produced episodes. MAX HEADROOM was a really smart show, with some fine writing... tough acts to follow. But most of the viewers seemed to think "Xmas" was just as good as what had gone before, which gratified me no end.
One of the things that brought me back to books in the mid 90s, after ten years in television and film, was the sour taste that unproduced scripts left in my mouth... and in my soul. I was making good money during those years in "development hell," but I came to realize that a paycheck was not enough. I hated spending months or years writing and rewriting a script, creating a world, a story, and characters I inevitably came to love, only to have some network or studio decide to pass. I wanted my stories told, and I wanted my teleplays and screenplays performed. Scripts are not meant to be read; to come alive, they need to be staged, acted out...
"Xmas," written in 1987, was actually the first time in my short television career that I tasted the disappointment that so many screenwriters come to know so well. I had been writing for television for less than two years, after all, and up to "Xmas," I'd had a charmed career. My only previous gig had been on TWILIGHT ZONE, where I wrote five scripts, every one of which was greenlit, produced, and telecast (though, okay, "The Road Less Travelled" got butchered on the way). "Mister Meat" had been a stumble, but I never went to script on that one. With "Xmas," I went all the way, and the script had been delivered and slated, scheduled... only to have the show cancelled abruptly.
It's been said that a writer's characters are his children. If so, then unproduced scripts are a screenwriter's stillborn children, and I have far too many of them (for my taste, at least -- those who have worked longer in film and TV have many more). To have the oldest of those, "Xmas," brought to life at long last... to hear the lines spoken, to hear the audience laugh... well, it meant a lot to me.
My thanks go out to our wonderful cast of local actors, especially Elias Gallegos, who played the starring role of Edison Carter. And to Lenore Gallegos, who did such a splendid job of putting this all together and directing. And especially to Michael Cassutt, who made this all happen, to "Max Headroom's Daddy," Steve Roberts... and to the one and only Matt Frewer, who graced our stage at the Jean Cocteau and brought M-M-Max to life one last time, hilariously.
Everyone had a good time on Saturday night, I think. But no one had a better time than me.