Hollywood writer taps into soap-opera experience in Prague drama premiere

Jerome Dobson – who wrote for 'Guiding Light' and was one of the creators of 'Santa Barbara' – is debuting a retro murder mystery in the Czech capital.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 04.04.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 05.04.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

A new English-language play will soon have its world premiere in Prague. The retro murder mystery “Plot Twist” takes place behind the scenes in the world of daytime television production.

The play’s author should be familiar with that topic. The husband and wife duo of Jerome and Bridget Dobson worked on classic soap operas in the 1970s and created the evening soap opera “Santa Barbara” in 1984. That show ran until 1993, with scripted turbulence on the screen and behind-the-scenes drama over creative control.

Jerome Dobson tapped into his TV experience for the plot, which is set in the 1980s. He says there is often a blurry relationship between fictional life and real life, but nowhere more than in the world of soap operas.

Plot Twist, by Jerome Dobson, will be performed at Divadlo Na Prádle on April 7, 8, 14, and 15 at 7 p.m. It is directed by Lane Davies and stars Davies, Jared Doreck, Elissa Levitt, Lauren Mercier, Scott Sophos, and Genevieve Gionet. Tickets are available online and at the door. Presented by Prague Shakespeare Company.

Story mostly drawn from real TV meetings

After several decades as the main writer of writing daytime soap operas with no time off and always having to come up with something new, Dobson and his wife learned most viewers didn’t even realize the writers existed.

“They thought the characters on the screen made it all up. My own sister didn’t think we had anything to do with the story. For two years on ‘Guiding Light,’ we dished up my own family. It got us great ratings. My sister never knew. Bridget’s scripts were masterpieces,” Dobson said.

“Guiding Light” was the longest-running daytime soap opera in U.S. history, starting on the radio in 1937 and switching to TV in 1956. The last episode aired in 2009. The Dobsons wrote for the show from 1975 to 1979 and then moved on to “As the World Turns,” another daytime soap opera, for the 1980 and '81 seasons.

The two daytime soaps were largely produced in the New York City area, while "Santa Barbara" was made in Los Angeles.

“The play is 70 percent or so taken from real behind-the-scenes meetings with the ‘God-given’ suits,” Jerome said, referring to TV station executives who oversee the shows.

“In one pivotal meeting, they said ‘add a gun.’ That boiled us over. We also had to deal with a raft of research the studio head would send about female mud wrestlers, and so on,” he added.

The play’s hero, Henry, is a TV soap writer. As far as he's concerned the soap world is the only reality. Henry is very overworked but his shows are at the top of the ratings. He’s in love with one of two women, but he's not sure which one.

When a meddling suit tells Henry to add a gun to the plot of the show he is writing, he resolves to settle his boss’s hash once and for all by dropping hints in his scripts implicating the suit in criminal activity. And the gun that the boss wanted inserted into the script turns up in real life as well. How the conflict between Henry and the suit turns out isn’t revealed until the last page: with a plot twist.

A long-time actor turns to directing

The play is directed by and stars Lane Davies, who recently appeared in Shakespeare’s “King Lear” at the Estates Theatre. He has several years of connections with the Prague Shakespeare Company and also appeared in several seasons of “Santa Barbara,” the show created by the Dobsons, as Mason Capwell.

Davies said the play is premiering in Prague because he was certain that the local cast could pull it off, and the local troupe could handle all aspects of production without any interference – keeping in line with the themes of the play.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more