What Could Have Been: The Scripts Considered Before "Mystery at Shady Acres"

By: Andrew Bermudez
(Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Headquarters; May 26, 2017)
     If you have followed this press room, it's no secret that the last play that we released as a film, Mystery at Shady Acres, turned ten years old this month. To mark this occasion, we're going to do something quite unusual and take a look at the plays that were almost picked instead of Mystery at Shady Acres! This is an unusual way to celebrate, but this is also one story that we have waited a decade to share! Let's get started with some context.
     Disclaimer: All of the title treatments and official play descriptions in this press release are the property of Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. We do not claim that these are our property in any manner, shape, or form.
     Let's take a journey to November 2006. In the Cornerstone Thespian Society, the productions for Spotlight Night and The Rented Christmas were less than a month away. With the spring semester fast approaching, one critical decision had yet to be resolved: What plays will the two classes perform? The directors for the two classes, Teresa Bermudez and Valoris Peterson, were given the task of resolving this issue with one real problem: There was no idea what genre, what type of stage setup, or anything the two directors wanted to pursue. The blunt and dirty solution? Buy 100+ scripts from Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. and read them all to decide which one to perform.
     As I assisted in sifting through the scripts, I remember fondly thumbing through scripts everywhere I went. I read scripts at the dentist office. I read scripts while waiting to eat. I read scripts while waiting in line at the DMV. Essentially, almost a month's worth of time was spent sifting through scripts and eliminating possibilities for various reasons. While I don't remember all of their names (Though I do remember one script only having five roles. Who bought that one, anyway?), there are still some that stick in my brain like chewing gum. In fact, four of the rejected scripts are still in the Mustache Maniacs Film Co. archives. Here are some of the scripts considered before Teresa Bermudez picked Mystery at Shady Acres and Valoris Peterson picked The Prince and the Pauper.
Official Description: Come to the beautiful Château Laroche for a weekend get-away, where you’ll be greeted by a friendly host of... cockroaches!! Crawling with slapstick humor and circus-like stage action, this award-winning comic farce will take you through a weekend in the lives of François and Mimi Laroche, the French proprietors of the château on the shores of a peaceful American lake. The owners are horrified to discover the enormity of their cockroach problem as they prepare for a big weekend of visitors. Why do the cockroaches have to appear just when they’re trying to make a good impression on a famed travel writer?! On top of that, they’ve learned the health inspector is making a surprise visit — disguised as a typical guest! Could the inspector be one of the young honeymooners? The wealthy widow or her hypnotist? The British bicyclist? The manager of a bratty child star? François launches an all-out war on the creepy-crawly creatures as the disgruntled staff members struggle to hide the pesky problem from the hotel guests. Even with the help of a zealous exterminator, Roskel T. Goomey, the roaches quickly and hysterically adapt to the chemical assault and begin to grow bigger, while the supposed health inspector hallucinates after mistakenly using the toxic bug powder on his spaghetti, thinking it was Parmesan cheese! You’ll have a foot-stomping, roach-slapping good time with this eccentric and eclectic cast of characters! With lively and fast-paced dialogue and great opportunities for physical humor, the play provides a hilarious look at the price humans pay for attempting to control nature and is sure to delight audiences of all ages! And don’t worry, staging the cockroaches is not a pesky problem at all!
Our Input: This was one of the last scripts to be eliminated, though its staging is almost identical to Mystery at Shady Acres. However, I don't know how the directors felt about the prospect of directing a stage production with a giant cockroach! The feel of the humor and characters was all actually very reminiscent of Jolly Roger and the Pirate Queen and we still have this script in our archives to this day.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=CHATEAULAR&id=0#
Official Description: The Roaring Twenties was such a colorful decade that the unbeatable team of playwright Tim Kelly and musician Bill Francoeur couldn’t resist it! Come celebrate the era with them and meet Polly Pepper, a young flapper who really knows how to live in the time of Stutz Bearcat automobiles, Ziegfield girls, raccoon coats, ukuleles, beauty contests, goldfish swallowers, and gangsters. Polly’s about to turn 18 and will then inherit a fabulous diamond necklace called the ’Ice Garden.’ She’s planning a madcap birthday party and inviting all her pals. However, with a friend like Susan Stuyvesant-Fish, she doesn’t need any enemies! Polly’s new boyfriend, Buck Wayne, wouldn’t miss the birthday bash for anything, even if he has to land his private plane on the lawn of the polo grounds. But there’s trouble ahead! Mobsters are planning to grab the necklace. But thanks to Polly, they’re defeated in uproarious fashion. Meet fabulous characters like Mona of the Crazy Cat Club, Monica Woodsquirrel of Radio Station WWWW atop Hotel Times Square, crime fighter Lieutenant Fluke, mobsters trying to steal the necklace, and ’Flagpole Sitter’ Lenny Knickerbocker. Not only does Polly save the necklace, she also saves her aunt from losing money in a confidence scheme and manages to become the star of the Ziegfeld Follies before she even cuts the cake! The songs are sensational, including ’The Roaring Twenties,’ ’It Has to be Jazz,’ ’Mona’s Moaning Low,’ ’Dijja Ever?’ and, natch, ’Flapper.’ Set on an open stage, this is a simple production with lots of small but funny roles. Flapper is the ’cat’s meow,’ so what are you waiting for? ’Ev’rybody Charleston’ your way over to this sure-fire audience pleaser!
Our Input: While neither director decided on directing a musical, this script was actually taken into consideration long after the Cornerstone Thespian Society closed up shop. For its successor, Park Players, the producers and directors wanted to put on a musical, but they could not decide on which one. Ultimately, the decision came down to The Nifty Fifties and this play. However, since this play leaned too much toward female parts and Park Players was generally evenly split between men and women, The Nifty Fifties was chosen instead.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=FLAPPER&id=0#
Official Description: The setting is the stage of a school auditorium where a schlock film director is wrapping up his latest epic, ’Monster On Campus.’ Enter Gloria Daily, fresh from her creative writing class, with an Indiana Jones-like script under her arm. Trailing behind her are members of the drama club who intend to ’act out’ the wild plot for the disagreeable film director. And what a plot! It concerns Hurricane Smith, famous explorer, whose mother was eaten by crocodiles and whose father disappeared in the Amazon jungles on a search for the fabled ’Garden of the Golden Monkey.’ Parentless, Hurricane is raised by a gorilla. Twenty years later a mysterious foreigner delivers a ’Golden Monkey’ to Hurricane, and the young adventurer sets out to discover its meaning. Also along on the dangerous trek is Linda Zest, a pretty and daring photo-journalist. Plane crashes! Parachute jumps! Bizarre jungle rites! (And that’s just for starters.) Did we forget to mention the Cobra People? The Pot of Death? The Pit of No Return? Well, you get the idea. It’ll be standing room only when Hurricane Smith heads for the jungle!
Our Input: As Johnny Thunder and the Secret of Marco Polo was in pre-production at this time, this script definitely appealed to the taste of adventure that we were experiencing at that time. However, since the play was presented as a performance of a script within a play (A meta-play? I'll have to talk to our HR department about this one.), we were, honestly, a little turned off by it. The possibility of re-telling this play as a straight-up adventure was tossed around for some time, but those plans feel through.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=HURRICANES&id=0
Official Description: With clever plot twists, fast-paced dialogue and great opportunities for physical humor, you’ve never seen Rome like this before! While the emperor is away at war with almost all the senators and other men of the city, playful peasant thieves ransack the market place, the annoying senators’ wives invent silly promotions to raise war-time funds and the princess searches in vain for a husband. If she can’t find a suitable match, her father has decreed she must marry the last gladiator standing in the upcoming games. That’s the last thing this headstrong, intelligent feminist leader wants! To make matters worse, top-ranking (and draft dodging!) Senator Altilis is breathing down her neck to choose him as the one lucky senator to control affairs at the home front. If it weren’t for the princess, Altilis could decree himself that privileged senator. He deviously schemes to get her out of the empire’s affairs by moving the day of the gladiator games up, thus burdening the princess with planning her dreaded wedding. Meanwhile, peasant thieves Gladis, Minimus (his friends call him Mini), and Julia sneak into the royal palace disguised as handmaidens. They are promptly caught in a hilarious scene, almost becoming lion food until the princess gets an idea. If she trains the muscled Gladis to compete in the games, she can avoid marrying Brudis, the brainless brute favored to win. A hysterical scene follows when Mini and Julia’s plan to rig the games to save Gladis’s life blows up in their faces! Find out who is left standing (and who is sent packing!) in this side-splitting comedy. You’ll be glad you picked this play!
Our Input: Like Chateau La Roach, this was one of the last scripts to be eliminated during our task of sifting through every script. Once again, the script had highly-appealing characters with broad, Chuck Jones-esque humor that families could enjoy. However, this play was ultimately passed over for one simple reason: it had too few roles. Even if we had double-casting, some of the students would be left without parts (or with the parts of Nameless Roman Citizens, just one step above playing Cal Pada Guards for the Com 50 films). However, this script was saved and now resides in the Mustache Maniacs Film Co. archive, just in case.
Official Description: The Trinity Parish House is setting up their manger scene for Christmas. Everything is finished except that the Christ child is missing. As some hunt for him, others walk by and stop to admire the beautiful nativity scene. In front of the inspirational display, people seem to be able to talk about the most important aspects of their lives. We learn about the sense of emptiness in Mr. and Mrs. Vale’s life; we understand Mrs. Kopek’s hurt at being forgotten by her busy children; we struggle with teenagers Jo and Mike as they discuss their difficulties with their parents; and we feel for the torn-apart Lindelow family. But with the gentle guidance of Reverend Paulson and maybe a little "extra help," these good people start to work through their problems. In the end, we realize that Jesus is never really missing.
Our Input: Honestly, this script was never considered in place of Mystery at Shady Acres, but this one is still important nonetheless to mention due to its unique history with us. While this play was considered before The Rented Christmas was chosen for December 2006, director Teresa Bermudez still enjoyed the script and even considered using excerpts for monologues for Spotlight Night. These plans never materialized, but the script exists to this day in our archives, along with the monologue excerpts.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=MISSINGJES&id=0

Official Description: When the State Department punishes the ambitious Miss Garfield by sending her to El Cansado to serve as the assistant’s assistant, everything in this laid-back tropical paradise is turned upside down. She insists that Atwood, the American Consul, and his assistant, Johnny, do “something that resembles work,” so they answer an inquiry from a business woman about opening a shoe store in El Cansado. The problem is that they think the letter is an April Fool’s joke so they create a ridiculously positive response! The sincere entrepreneurs turn out to be Rosine Hemstetter and her mother. Wouldn’t you know, Rosine is the girl who broke Atwood’s heart in his previous life back in the States. Now there’s a bigger problem — there’s absolutely no market for shoes in this remote tropical setting! When mobsters invade the island, greedy real estate developers attempt a land grab and the local community theater runs into problems with their Shakespeare production, you won’t be singing the blues with this hysterical show!
Our Input: When we first perused this script, it went by the name Shoes Blues, but the story was essentially identical to the one presented here. This script lasted for some time in the elimination process and was one of the picks by Daniel Bermudez, who was also sifting through the scripts. However, his liking to the script was not widely shared, and this play was eliminated from the decision-making process.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=MUCHCOCONU&id=0#
Official Description: This hilarious spoof turns Shakespeare upside down and shakes things up with a stage full of zany modern-day characters. With the help of a hilarious passel of chorus members — Oregano, Carpaccio, Risotto, Prosciutto, Antipasto, Pesto, Mayo and Romano — as narrators, we get a deliciously funny spoof of Romeo and Juliet peppered with comedic and intelligent commentary on every page. It is modern-day New York City, where the high-end Montague’s Department store and the cheapo Capulet’s Discount Mart — rival clothing stores — meet in the street to trade vicious insults. Words are their daggers, wielded with such finesse and skill that you could die laughing! When Romeo and Winifred, the heirs to these two retail empires, fall in love, well... you know the rest. But this play has a happy ending! “Humph. Call yourself a tragedy,” exclaims Oregano at the end of the show, disappointed to find nobody has died. With pie fights instead of duels, a nurse obsessed with paper cuts, a white leisure suit-wearing Romeo (à la Saturday Night Fever), and an outrageous parody of the most romantic scene in literature, you’ll forget the story ever had anything to do with tragedy!
Our Input: This play calls itself, "A TRAGICAL COMEDY IN TWO AND A HALF ACTS," but the truth is that it's only two very brief acts long. The play includes many references to Shakespeare's works and the theater of Elizabethan England, but many looked dis-favorably on the play's humor, which many felt went TOO far. The play basically is a hybrid of Romeo and Juliet (without the death), Saturday Night Live, and The Godfather, but it took it all to a slapstick level. Because of this, the script was abandoned during the elimination process.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=ROMEOANDWI&id=0#
Official Description: What happens when the world’s worst movie producer, David O. Dimwit, decides to travel to Vansyltrania to produce his next horrible horror movie? A string of mysterious murders plagues the set and baffles the aptly named Chief Inspector Idiot. With the help of some local talent (like a green-faced monster and a hunch-backed laboratory assistant), director Otto von Strongman and his cast manage to triumph over murder, a werewolf and an unwrapped mummy to wrap up the film and solve the mystery. This hilarious send-up of 1930s Hollywood is populated with zany characters from tourist director Ivan Hoo (whose every conversation sounds like an Abbot and Costello routine), to gossip columnist Hedda Gobbler, to screen hero North Dakota Smith. You’ll be laughing all the way to the red carpet with this sure-fire winner!
Our Input: This script was one of my personal favorites from the 100+ scripts that I sifted through, making this the last script to be eliminated. That's right: it was down to this play and Mystery at Shady Acres at the end of the decision-making process. However, there was one stumbling block that kept this play from being the prime pick: several years before, the Thespians performance of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory featured sets so involved and detailed, each set change lasted almost as long as - sometimes longer than - their respective scenes. Not wanting to repeat that same disaster, this story, which takes place over a variety of locations, was the last script to be eliminated, making Mystery at Shady Acres the final choice. However, for lasting so long in the elimination process, the script was given two honors. First, it was the first choice for keeping in our archives and second, this script is the only Pioneer Drama Service play that we never performed that is officially considered canon in the Mustache Maniacs Film Co. Cinematic Universe. Locations and characters from this play will be featured in the upcoming film Van Helbrick: Monster Fighter.
Link to Official Web Page: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?pc=UNWRAPPED&id=1
     Like I mentioned, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the scripts that we sifted through, though these were the most memorable. And before I leave you today, there is one more fun fact that I want to share. While we were able to pick Mystery at Shady Acres and began ordering cast and crew scripts weeks before Spotlight Night was performed, Valoris Peterson ended up ordering 20 more preview scripts before selecting The Prince and the Pauper for the older class in the weeks following The Rented Christmas.
     And that concludes this look at some of the other scripts considered before Mystery at Shady Acres. Again, all title treatments and official descriptions presented here are the property of Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. and are not our own. Thank you for reading, and if you are planning on putting on a play and these titles interest you, use the provided links to find out more, including role numbers, running times, pricing, and more. And before you ask, no, we won't canonize your play in our cinematic universe!

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