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  • Tom Moran

First base, and second base (or I'm in the Army Now)

Updated: May 2

Yellow poster with laughing face

On April 17, I received an email entitled "TA#19-066 BREAKOUT." The body of the email was:

"Mr. Moran, Attached you will find a DA 3238 form for: BREAKOUT. Please fill out Part C of page 2 of the DA 3238 and return to me at 210-466-2021 for further processing at US Army Entertainment. Or please scan and email it back to (email.) Please note the producing installation's request for materials listed in Part A, block 8a, for delivery to the address listed in Part A, block 2 on or before the date listed in Part A, block 8c." My natural response was, what the hell is this? Fortunately there was, as noted, a PDF attached, and after staring at it for about 5 minutes I was finally able to deduce that the Army wanted to produce my short play "Breakout" as part of an evening of plays at a military base in Germany. Why they couldn't have included a simple explanatory sentence like that in the actual email, lord only knows.

Breakout, a 10-minute piece, has been produced a couple of times and was also published by Smith and Kraus, so it's unclear to me where they found the script: the published anthology, this website, or my NPX page. But, you know, whatever. Also unclear from the email or form was whether they intended to give me any royalties for the show. So I emailed them and asked, at which point they informed them I could charge whatever I thought was fair.

Considering this is the same military that will legendarily pay $640 for a toilet seat, there was a pretty strong temptation to gouge. But I also didn't want to look my first international production in the mouth, so I asked for $60, or $10 per show. Seemed reasonable. The play went up as part of an evening entitled "Contagious Comedies" in Kaiserslautern, Germany in May, and I got a check for 60 taxpayer dollars. As an added bonus, a virtually identical letter from the Army came for me later in the summer, asking me for permission to stage Breakout again, this time at another base in Vicenza, Italy. It went up in Sept. Oct. as part of an evening called "Impulsive Laughter." Two international productions in the books!

The only downside to all of this is I do sort of wonder at how the play is being received. "Breakout" is about a breakout session at a retreat for an educational software company at which an earnest, progressive young worker is outraged to learn the company also supports a team of international mercenaries. He ends up quitting in protest, at which time we learn it's all been a ruse so they don't have to give him severance. The worker is clearly meant to be the hero of the piece, but it also worries me that the whole thing could be read as an exercise in "owning the libs," which is the last thing I intended. But, I mean, an author can't very well dictate an audience's interpretation of content, so I'm going to hope that's not what anyone walked away with.

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