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A Title by Any Other Name
by Marsh Cassady

Arthur Miller’s original title for Death of a Salesman was The Inside of His Head. What if other playwrights throughout the ages also started with different titles which they then developed into the plays?

For instance, what if Tennessee Williams started writing The Plastic Menagerie. The way the plot develops is that Tom, Laura and the Gentleman Caller open a plastics factory that makes unicorns whose horns won’t break. After a number of setbacks, they retire rich, fat and happy. Where’s the conflict?  It’s in trying to find something strong enough to break the damned horns–sledgehammers, karate chops, dynamite.

Or speaking of Arthur Miller, what if he got an idea for a play called All My Suns, But only a Few of my Moons? It starts out with a bunch of women being accused of witchcraft by a guy named McCarthy. But they escape, read a lot of Jules Verne, and build their own spaceship.

Think of the musical: Beauty and the Beast. What if the original title had been Beauty and the Feast? The ideas is that this beautiful princess orders enormous feasts to be held every day at the castle and soon becomes a fat slob. That is, until she meets the Man from Weight Watchers (TMFWW). They fall in love. She tries to lose those extra pounds but can’t. The problem is solved when TMFWW gives up his diet and becomes a blimp like the princess.

Then there’s Gershwin’s Porky and Bess. If Edward Albee can have a Broadway success about a man who falls in love with a goat, why not? After all, pigs are our closest relatives genetically.

Can you imagine what would have happened had the Bard of Avon not changed the title to Romeo and Juliet instead of Romeo and Julio? Nope, the world wasn’t ready for that sort of story back then. And speaking of that type of plot, what about Mamet’s title Glen, Gary, Glenn and Ross: The Aftermath of an Orgy?

One of my favorite almost titles is Synge’s Plowboy of the Western World about a compulsive farmer: wheat, corn, dairy, beef...his grandson’s ant farm.

Maybe we should examine all this in a different light. Aren’t writers always searching for ideas?  If they’re stuck at their computers some time with sending off-color e-mails instead of working, they could try to think of play titles, e.g., Chekov’s The Three Sisters. Next they could change the title just a bit to...well, say The Three Blisters, a tale of a man with herpes who desperately wants to be loved. Yet every time he finds a woman he likes, these three blisters break out on his lips. What does he do?  How does he solve the problem? This, dear writer, is up to you.