What Everybody Ought to Know About Creating a Story

photo by Wide Eyed Studios

The Prisoner of Zenda closes this weekend. With four shows left we wanted to take the time to pass along what we’ve learned through this process. Thanks to Anthony Hope’s brilliant novel, and Matt Tallman’s wonderfully clever adaptation, Hedgerow’s production of Zenda has garnered critical acclaim, Barrymore recommendations, and fan love.


  1. The Script is the Blueprint

    • Tallman focused on this from day one: the script is a starting point. Like Hope’s novel, the adaptation was meant to give everyone a place to start, a common ground to begin their work. Once in the room, the script was adapted to players strengths, not the other way around.
  2. Write to be Seen

    • Though it should go without saying, it is often forgotten by writers. Scripts, be it screenplay or play, are meant to be seen and heard. Just because it looks good on paper George Lucas doesn’t mean Harrison Ford can say it.
  3. Write Your Truth

    • One of the things that made Zenda successful was the heart of the story. Hope’s novel is filled with heart. Tallman’s adaptation is filled with heart. All wacky gags and sword fights aside, the story has heart. Both cast and crew brought their entire selves to this performance and it has shown, but remember, it begins with a script.
  4. Keep Concept in Mind

    • Concept comes first. You need an idea that’s not only marketable, but interesting and compelling. From the beginning, Zenda was to take the form of a swashbuckling adventure in the style of 39 Steps and Bullshot Crummond: big story, little cast.
  5. Keep It Light, Keep It Bright, Keep It Play

    • It is every easy in theatre to get heavy. We want catharsis. We want big drama, but sometimes we just need to laugh. Not every play needs to an Oedipus complex. Not every play has to be written for Sylvia Plath. Enjoy what you write. Remember, good stories start with heart, and if you want to send something up to Robin Williams and Errol Flynn then so be it.
  6. Use the Genius Before You

    • Much like Shakespeare, we did not invent this story, we found it. Hope’s novel has been around for decades and is as much fun today as it was then. We borrowed and built upon Hope’s amazing story in hope’s that you would enjoy ours. Great artists steal. We borrow, we listen, we tweak. Don’t be afraid to use your influences.