In a Sow’s Ear
To encourage aspiring playwrights to try their hand at writing western melodrama plays, the Montana Wild West Posse Players invite any and all to give it a shot. Base the plays on any piece of local western history. Every Out West community is rich with lore. A writer needs only visit a community library or museum to find a wealth of stories in the archives.
The Posse Players plan a competition, winners will have their works produced on stage. What exactly is a melodrama, you ask?
Melodrama: A sensational or romantic stage play with extravagant emotions, interspersed with songs and having a happy ending.
There’s always a villain, a nasty character who schemes to take over the ranch, steal the cattle and create mayhem and heartache left and right. Sports a mustache, the ends of which, are frequently twirled while chuckling evilly. Has the hots for the heroine. Think Bluebeard.
The hero, of course, is a tall, handsome dude who is gallant, gracious, kind, righteous and polite. Says, “Ma’am” when talking to women. Speaks with a low-pitched drawl. His 10-gallon sits at a rakish angle. Wears a six gun, maybe two. Is sweet on the heroine but too bashful to let on. Think John Wayne.
The heroine, naturally, is beautiful, virtuous, kindly, and a defender of the helpless and the hopeless. She can cook or remove a bullet from a wound with equal aptitude. She hankers after the hero, but secretly. Think grown-up Shirley Temple crossed with Florence Nightingale.
Secondary characters are usually henchmen to the evil villain or sidekicks to the noble hero and heroine. A saloon is a must in a western melodrama, generally tagged The Dirty Shame or The Bucket of Blood or whatever clever name comes to mind. The saloon is the place where confrontations and showdowns occur, where hooch is served in shot glasses, and where sooner or later the entire place erupts in a table-breaking, chair-throwing, bar-leaping fist fight.
“Dastardly Deeds In Galloping Gulch Or: How Roseabella Saved The Ranch And Found True Love” features all the above elements plus added twists.
Heroine “Roseabella Yonson ” owner of the Rafter Seven Cattle Ranch.
Hero ” Sven Stoutheart ” traveling bronc rider/horse breaker. Smitten with Roseabella.
Cowboy Bob ” Sven Stoutheart’s sidekick. Thinks he’s Elvis reincarnated.
Villain ” Dubious Dick ” slick talking land developer. Plans to seduce Roseabella.
Rancid Ralph ” rustler hired by Dubious Dick to steal Roseabella’s cattle.
Sawtooth Sally ” sells paper flowers in The Dirty Shame Saloon.
Polly Pathetic and Dora Dismal ” retired school marms (Siamese twins) fallen on hard times ” are now swampers in The Dirty Shame Saloon.
Black Bartholomew ” Dirty Shame Bartender. Likes to sing love songs.
Carrie Nation ” preaches about the evils of drinking. Has a yen for Black Bartholomew.
Beatrice Bangtail ” lady sheriff. Secretly adores Black Bartholomew. Often brings flowers to pretty up the bar.
Nimble Fingers Ned ” piano player has a soft spot for Sawtooth Sally.
Now to mix up the characters, throw trouble at ’em, and stir the plot into an apparently hopeless tangle. Sprinkle in some snappy and sappy tunes, allow the hero and sidekicks to rescue the heroine and foil the villains. Create an upbeat happy ending for Roseabella and Sven.
Will Roseabella save the ranch? Will Sven and Roseabella find true love? Will Sheriff Bangtail make out with Black Bartholomew? Will Dubious Dick and Rancid Ralph get their comeuppance? Watch this space to see how the script develops!
To find out how to enter the Melodrama Competition, write Wild West Posse Players, Box 1255, Big Timber, Mont., 59011; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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