The Surprising Script Doctor


Penney's business was bad (and going to get worse ), but it wasn't catastrophic. It just appeared that way in contrast to the tech and dot-com stocks that were at their crazy heights. In another speech that would be heard by the financial community (twice), Oesterreicher wanted to retaliate. He wanted to say, in essence, "Hey, give us a break. Our Eckerd drugstores alone are worth more than you're valuing our stock."

It wasn't an easy sell, and I suggested first disarming the audience with humor. I had extensive experience in scripting and production, was familiar with the Dallas talent pool, and guaranteed a presentation that would work. I promised that when the actors finished each of the (three) sketches , the audience would be nicely delivered for the chairman's knockout blow. Remarkably, Oester-reicher agreed. [4] Even more remarkably, everything worked like a charm . And, even more remarkably, Oesterreicher turned out to be a good script doctor.

The sketches I wrote centered around an arrogant dot-comer, "Wanda Wonder," who was hustling an underwriter . During an interview at a conservative firm, she replied to a question about her background by saying, "I was a math and computer science genius at MIT. I also pitched softball in the Olympics and graduated first in my class at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. (to audience) All at the same time. Then I started Wonder Woman dot-com which, of course, is the talk of Wall Street." You get the idea.

Oesterreicher liked the writing and loved the actors, Kathy Morath and Mark Fickert. But he pulled me aside after we played the sketches for him. "Bill," he said, "I've met people like Wanda. I don't think you've made her arrogant enough . And I also don't think Mark should use that character voice. I think he should play it straight. Make more of a contrast. If you don't mind my suggestions."

Oesterreicher would, again and again, whimsically change anything in a speech, but he would not change a comma in the sketch scripts without my agreement. Moreover, those were good (if amazing) notes. So I had Mark play it straight and changed a few lines and gave Kathy some over-the-top business that (yes!) really worked. This got big laughs, all the better setting up the chairman to make his points. The presentation got very favorable press and seemed to diminish the attacks on Penney and Oesterreicher for a while.

Still, the company's sales and profits continued to fall.

[4] How many CEOs would agree to share a stage with professional actors?




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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