The world premiere of D.B Gilles' INADMISSIBLE is currently running at Tribeca's Canal Park Playhouse. Directed by Sherri Eden Barber and starring Charise Greene, Richard Hoehler and Kathryn Kates, the play is a hilarious, insider look at the backroom dealings of a graduate admissions committee at a university that is striving to make it into the Top 10.
Gilles is the author of one of the most popular screenwriting books, 'The Screenwriter Within: How To Turn the Movie in Your Head into a Salable Screenplay' (Crown 2000) and co-author of the George W. Bush parody 'W. The First 100 Days: A White House Journal' (Andrews McMeel 2001).
His film work includes the screen version of his play 'Men's Singles', 'Burn Rate', 'Thinly Disguised' and the screen adaptation of 'Spinning Into Butter'. He has written pilots for CBS and wrote for 'Herman's Head' and 'Barclay's Beat' for FOX. He is also a produced and published playwright. Four of his plays are published by Dramatists Play Service: 'Men's Singles', 'The Girl Who Loved The Beatles', 'The Legendary Stardust Boys' and 'Cash Flow'. His most popular play, 'Men's Singles', has been produced throughout the world. He has also been published in The New York Times.
The accomplished writer recently spoke with BWW about his current production, the art of playwriting and the reason he believes a political parody book may soon be a thing of the past.
The premise of your play is hilarious. What was your inspiration for it and do you have any personal experience in the college admission's process?
Well about ten years ago I was at a party talking to somebody who had been on a graduate admissions committee. And as he was telling me about it, I thought 'wow that's kind of funny and a good thing to parody' and it gave me the idea for the story. I really wrote it as a screenplay for Adam Sandler. It was going to be a little bit sillier but when I finished it, it became, for lack of a better word, too talky for a screenplay. I started to think that it might work better as a play. So I put it away for a while. You know its hard to go from genre to genre.
But along the way, while I never did graduate admissions, I did do undergraduate admissions, which is basically reading submissions. And I got an understanding of the fundamentals of what happens when someone submits something, a creative portfolio. I learned what they do and you know it's kind of basic, it's common sense. So that was my own experience. But I talked to different people at different schools that have been involved at the lower level, where I was, as well as the higher level, and that's when I realized it's really a tough thing to do. Let's say a school has thirty slots available. What happens if they have a hundred or three hundred people who want those slots? So that's where it becomes a daunting job.
When I wrote the screenplay, I had a similar plot as the play now has, but it was a different storyline. Adam Sandler was going to play a guy who gets a job at a small university as a basketball coach who happens to be really good at trivia. So a history teacher dies and they need somebody to replace him, and because he's good at trivia, they give him the teaching job and it sort of goes on from there. Along the way, besides being a popular history teacher, he's brought into the admissions office and that's where he brings the silliness as well as the logic of somebody who's never been exposed to that situation. In the play, he was to be the younger female character, the adjunct professor.
So that's kind of how it evolved, and then along the way I did a couple of re-writes and had a meeting or two and got feedback. And because I'm a writer, I know a lot of writers and I asked my friends because we are each others best critics. I'd ask them, 'so what do you think?' and I kept getting more feedback such as 'let's try this, let's try that'. Of course the rehearsal process is wonderful too. I have a wonderful director and cast and there's nothing like seeing something on its feet. An actor might say 'can I say this instead of that' and 'wouldn't she do this instead?' You know that kind of stuff. So the whole rehearsal process was terrific as well.
I'm wondering why you decided to write the play from the point of view of the admissions committee as opposed to the point of view of the applicants.