"The Boys of Winter," with its hockey motif and Minnesota settings, seems like a natural fit for live-theater audiences across the state.
But the dramatic comedy by Minnesota-bred Dean Kaner and his two Hollywood collaborators has been seen only in locations where ice is defined as a cube and hockey sticks are mistaken as primitive weapons of medieval origin.
Kaner is hoping to change that. In recent weeks the Phoenix-based playwright took the unusual step of launching a publicity campaign to attract the interest of the state's community, college or high school theater troupes.
The campaign includes a direct-mail appeal to about 20 weekly and daily newspapers and a handful of art organizations with an experimental theater bent, Kaner said in an interview.
A 1967 St. Louis Park high school grad, Kaner co-authored the play -- based on his real-life, childhood experiences and acquaintances -- with Hollywood professional scriptwriters Jeffrey Vlaming and Eric Small.
"The Boys of Winter" began about six years ago as a movie script, eventually optioned to a well-known but unidentified producer for $60,000, Kaner said. The writers regained the property, following legal action, when the producer defaulted on the final $20,000 payment a couple of years ago, he added. The collaborators then decided to adapt it for the stage.
"We've been focusing on bringing it to the stage because (making a movie) takes years to get together," Kaner explained by telephone from his Phoenix-area home. "It's a great story but we need some help getting the word out to Minnesota's theater troupes."
Set in a fictional small northern Minnesota town, the play tells a coming-of-age tale of five high school seniors preparing for the 1966 state hockey playoffs.
"The players are young, inexperienced in love and life, and don't have a care in the world," says Kaner's direct mail appeal. "But this is the time of the Vietnam era and boys of winter are about to fight the biggest battle of their lives, both on and off the ice."
"The Boys of Winter" has resonated with audiences in Los Angeles, Phoenix and other southwestern locations where it has played, the author said.
Its cast has even included several television and motion picture equity actors, who settled for a $5-a-performance fee for the chance to appear in the play, according to Kaner.
"A lot of actors go to Hollywood with high school or college stage acting experience, and they take a role like this for exposure," Kaner said. "We were able to get anyone we wanted because the actors were willing to sign an equity-waiver agreement" that allows them to appear in non-union productions.
Time-tested television writers, Vlaming has earned screenplay credits with "The X-Files" and "Northern Exposure" while Small recently produced, directed and wrote the television feature "The Dust Factory," Kaner said.
Kaner, a part-time writer and full-time business owner, landed Vlaming, a former Minnesota resident, and Small for the project when they responded to Kaner's advertisement in a Los Angeles newspaper.
The writers settled for a percentage of the script's sales, a decision that paid off for all three when the producer optioned the original screenplay, Kaner said.
Kaner left Minnesota several years ago to join a "non-entertainment" film distribution company in Los Angeles, where he developed contacts in the film and television industry, he said.
He moved to Phoenix nearly a decade ago to start a vendor distribution company, he said, but stays in touch with his Hollywood connections.
"The Boys of Winter" will appeal to community and college theater troupes, he said, because of its youthful themes, simple production values and low production costs.
For more information, contact the writer by calling (602) 404-1512.
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