David MacGregor is the writer of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear, one of the finalists for the Fifth Annual New Works Festival.
What’s the backstory, you ask? Well, while principally a playwright (and more recently a screenwriter), on occasion various interests and compulsions have led me a wee bit further afield. For example, I have authored official player biographies for the Society for American Baseball Research, and after learning from a publisher that the members of the Historical Society in my hometown couldn’t agree on who should compile and write a photographic history of the city, I sat down and did it myself. So it was, for reasons now obscure to me, that one day I landed upon the bright idea of writing a nonfiction book about Sherlock Holmes, in which I would trace the evolution of the character as he has been constantly reinvented to appeal to a wide variety of different audiences. Not exactly best-seller material, I know, but I thought a few people might find it interesting.
Now then, Sherlock Holmes first appeared in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet, which meant that I needed to read and watch everything related to Sherlock Holmes for the past 130 years. As it turns out, that’s a chunk of material. Regardless, being of an optimistic and/or utterly delusional disposition, I set to work. Did I mention I was compulsive? There’s a fine line between persistence and being too thickheaded to know when to quit, and I fear that’s a line that I dance along far too often.
Nevertheless, as I found myself plowing through some four thousand articles on silent Sherlock Holmes films, it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t quite as much fun as I thought it would be. Yes, I still had to do it (I mean, someone has to, right?), but the amount of research required was beginning to slightly dampen my naturally ebullient spirit. Days, then weeks would pass without me having any urge to caper down the streets in giddy antics of delight. Clearly, something had to be done. But what?
The moment I asked the question, the answer came to me. I had always wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes play, and here I was, absolutely immersed in the world of Sherlock Holmes. I knew the characters, the stories, the settings, the rhythm of the language—there would never be a better time to write my Sherlock Holmes play. Best of all, as opposed to writing a book in which everything needed to be completely accurate and meticulously cited, in the play I could simply make things up.
And so I did. Wantonly. Joyously. Reveling in creating a world for characters both real and fictional to inhabit together. In 1889, at the Langham Hotel in London, both Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde had been commissioned to write stories for Lippincott’s Magazine, so it made perfect sense that Dr. Watson would know Oscar Wilde. And if, say, Vincent van Gogh lost something near and dear to him, who else would he hire to find it but Sherlock Holmes? Beyond that, what precisely what was the relationship between Holmes and his “housekeeper,” and was Professor Moriarty really gone for good? In other words, the setting and personalities would be familiar, but this Sherlock Holmes story would be like nothing anyone had ever seen before—a comedic, romantic, action/adventure mystery, with a touch of conspiracy theory and beautiful women sword-fighting on stage. In my mind’s eye, it would be like taking the audience for a ride through the haunted house at the fairground—they would never be quite sure what was coming around the next corner.
Which brings me to the best part of this adventure; namely, at the moment I’m not sure what’s around the next corner either. That’s why I am so pleased to have been invited to the Gulfshore Playhouse New Works Festival. There is nothing quite as magical as creating a new piece of theatre with a group of talented and passionate collaborators. Yes, I may be the playwright, but the script alone is not a play. It’s not a play until it has a director, actors, designers, and an audience. Ultimately, it’s something we create together, and that’s what I love most about theatre—the sense of community that it can create through a shared experience with living, breathing actors and the people sitting all around you.
In short, I am looking forward to working on the play and attending its first public reading more than I can possibly tell you. Oh, and the book? Just like Sisyphus and his rock, we’ve come to a certain understanding…