8. Richard Sheridan Redefines Missing Deadlines
In the second half of the 18th century, Richard Sheridan was the toast of London. An Anglo-Irish playwright, Sheridan made his name with light comedies such as School for Scandal. He was almost as famous for his procrastination. Sheridan turned missing deadlines into a kind of extreme sport.
We don’t just mean he handed his manuscripts in late. We don’t even mean he handed his manuscripts in at the last possible second. We mean he handed his finished play to the actors for the first time while it was in the middle of being performed on opening night.
Sheridan had already finished the first two acts of School for Scandal and kept promising the actors that they’d get the rest. He kept promising even as he procrastinated, right up until opening night. When it was time to raise the curtain, and it became apparent that Sheridan really hadn’t finished the play, a borderline crazy plan was devised. Sheridan would keep writing as the play went on, rushing lines down to the actors waiting in the wings. So long as he could keep ahead of the performance, the audience would never know.
Incredibly, this ridiculous non-plan worked. School for Scandal became a massive hit, eventually inspiring the plays of Oscar Wilde.