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  • thomasmmoran

The Sign

Updated: May 2, 2023

Photo of the band Ace of Base
Ace of Base, obvs.

Heartland Theater in Illinois has a long-running one-act festival that attracts a lot of interest, and I've tried to get in a few times now without success. Each year's festival has a theme and a specific set, so it's difficult to just grab a completed play off the pile to submit. Last year's theme was "The Library" so I wrote "Remainders," about a bunch of despondent books sitting around at the library book sale. No luck.

This year's theme was a campout, and I had a bunch of ideas: Civil War re-enactors, Boy Scout leaders unable to accept the growing liberalization of the BSA (gays! transgenders kids! G-g-g-girls!) But nothing was clicking until literally the night before the deadline, when I came up with the idea of a person watching the skies for the UFO that visited him many years ago ... only to learn it was just a prank. I was sort of okay with the play, until I hit on a hook I really liked: the mysterious noises he heard from the UFO were actually a bunch of teenagers playing a song with lots of distortion.

I wanted the UFO encounter to have happened in about 1995, so I went scanning the top 10 charts of the era. Most of the songs didn't really work - hip-hop, BoyzIIMen, etc. - but then I hit paydirt. And thus was born "The Sign," a ten-minute play about learning your adolescent spiritual epiphany was just someone flashing a searchlight and cranking Ace of Base. After that the play kind of wrote itself (the lyrics actually fit the theme pretty well), and I was able to finish it last night, a full three hours before the deadline. Which is about on par for me. Fingers crossed.

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