by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

Some years back I wrote a play called "Squall." The idea came to me one day in a flash — a young stranger works her way into the isolated house of a celebrated TV journalist, who has fled there after having a meltdown on live TV. 

After a staging in Los Angeles, plans to bring the play to New York fell apart. Such was my frustration that I thought surely I would never write another play. Yet I wasn’t ready to give in yet. I applied to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU was accepted into the MFA program to earn what one dean described as a terminal degree. 

The dean meant it was the highest academic level that NYU grants a playwright. I thought he meant terminal in another sense: with 18 credits required for 4 consecutive terms, two full-length plays, some short ones, and first drafts of two completed film scripts, it nearly killed me. At the time, I was edging toward 60. The first of my four grandchildren was born during rehearsals for one of the plays I wrote at school.

Through the Tisch Alumni network, I met Gloria Gonzales, an aspiring theater producer looking for appropriate scripts. She loved "Squall" and introduced me to just the right director, Billie McBride — as indomitable as another Denver denizen, the Unsinkable Molly Brown. OK, we’re good to go — again! Then it fell apart — again.

Just about a year ago, Billie called. She had found two theater companies in Denver who wanted to co-produce "Squall." Would I allow it? Well, sure! In March, I went to Denver at the start of rehearsals and got to meet the two astounding actresses, Martha Harmon Pardee and Karen LaMoureaux, who would be in the lead roles. It was a delight to be right there, fielding questions about the play and getting to know the principles behind the Modern Muse Theatre Company and The Arvada Center.

Back in New York, lunch with a filmmaker friend led to a discussion about YouTube. Then it dawned on me that maybe one could use YouTube to dramatize the play. I knew I couldn’t use the actors in the play — there are equity rules that make it too difficult. Besides, they’re in Denver.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see our Dr. Pat Allen for an office visit and told her about this idea.

"I can’t act and won’t even try, but you can interview me as a doctor," she said. "Only I can’t say a word about any patient."

Hmm. A little video drama in which no information can be transferred — I can work with that. So this germ of an idea grew … let’s make a video about the disappearance of the TV celebrity. Who else can be in this story and say nothing about the person we’re hunting for? At 1 a.m. I jumped out of bed to write the script.

A friend put me in touch with Jerry Pantzer, a wonderful cameraman and filmmaker. He found the soundman and an assistant cameraman and Michael Grenadier, the editor. Watching people film with hand-held video cameras on the streets of New York is watching art in progress.

Rounding up the rest of the cast was just as much fun. I asked my assistant, Candice Black, to play the character Diana Bristol’s assistant. She improvised as another friend, Alexa Kelly, played the part of a desperate-for-the-story third-tier TV reporter. Brian Richardson also stepped in to offer flustered denials. Together we created the story about a story and got it up on YouTube in 10 days. Below you’ll find the embed for "The Missing Queen of Talk TV."

And if you’re anywhere near Denver, Martha and Karen are sensational in their roles and deserve your attention (don’t just take my word for it; Denver Westword has high praise). Much as I love what you will see, there’s nothing like the enjoyment involved in experiencing the work of wonderful actors in a beautiful setting, in a fabulous new theater, in a spectacular state in a country in which anything is possible.

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