Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rolling Out the Casket

We're starting Phase 1 of our hefty rehearsal period on Sunday. Phase 1 consists of a week of intensive work with each of our 10 enactors. Phase 2 will begin in mid-August and will take on a more recognizable "let's put on a show" sort of structure. This is a weird time. All of the cards are in place and all of the tricks are up our sleeves, but there's still so much process left. Part of me wants to begin hyping the hell out of this show and part of me wants to shut up and keep secrets. In the end, I'm happy to let word spread through those who say it best.

(And have I mentioned how jumping-out-of-our-pants thrilled we are to have assembled this cast of audacious and extraordinary human beings? Most are actors, yes, but they're also all so much more. The aforementioned Wayne Alan Brenner? Heather Barfield? Silky Shoemaker? Paul Soileau? Kris Olson? Rebecca Beegle? Michelle Flanagan? Taylor Flanagan? Thomas Graves? Jennie Underwood? I mean, C'MON!)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

From the Dumpster #3: The Glory Holes of Laurel and Hardy

FROM THE DUMPSTER is a recurring series that will let you in on ideas we've had that never made it to the stage. While it's possible that a few of these will be salvaged at some point, most of them--quite simply--STINK. Feel free to heckle, steal anything you like, or offer a word or two of encouragement.

Way back in 2002, when we were planning for the show that would become Mister Z Loves Company, we only knew that we wanted to create a two-person mask show for ourselves. After countless hours on eBay, we found what we thought would provide the great catalyst for our rubber work: The freakiest Laurel and Hardy masks anyone has ever seen. Seriously. Laurel looked like a Holocaust victim by way of Egon Schiele, and Hardy looked like a scowling, pasty-faced Nazi butcher. Needless to say, we won the auction and eagerly awaited our horrifying shipment from Japan.

We're still waiting.

The masks were tragically lost in the international post, and although the search still continues from time to time, we've never been able to find anything like them.


It's 2004, and while working with Physical Plant on Not Clown and The Fever, we started playing with the parallels between our own friendship and that of The Boys, and the idea of using their routines as an armature on which to hang all sorts of spectacle and strangeness. Here are a couple choice selections from our rather grotty thirteen-page document.


Lights up.
The stage is mostly bare. 2 chairs. A table. On/around it are items of clothing, makeup, trash, pillows, neckties, padding, phone books. A tall, thin man followed by a short, slightly muscular man enter, dressed in stained white union suits. Deadpan. They stop. They face front. They face each other. They hug.

Matt dutifully retreats to a corner. His union suit bottom is especially stained. Racing stripe. Josh is repulsed.

Long Pause. Josh flosses his teeth with a loose string from his union suit. Matt shifts uneasily in the corner. Finally:

Josh: Well, shall we get to it?

Matt: (Turning head) Hm?

Josh: Tit for tat! (Matt nods in understanding.) Shakespeare!

Matt: Longfellow!

Josh: Needles!

Matt: Pins!

The boys link pinkies. Music! The Laurel and Hardy theme song, played over and over again, ad nauseum. During this sequence, Matt and Josh gather together all the items strewn around the table and make themselves up as makeshift versions of Laurel and Hardy. Josh stuffs his clothing with padding and paints on a moustache—Hardy. Matt straps phonebooks to his feet to make him taller—Laurel. They assist each other in the transformation. It ends with the both of them donning bowler hats to complete their outfits.
The boys then perform a dance inspired by the first musical sequence in The Flying Deuces and the principles of Deborah Hay.




Laurel sits deadpan, gnawing a thumbnail. Hardy enters excitedly.

Hardy: Guess what!

Laurel: Oh no. . .what?

Hardy: Well, I was on my way to buy some noodles, when suddenly I saw the cutest little kitty—you know the kind that I like—with the paws and the ears and the teeth—and when I stopped for a moment, you know, to take in this fabulous little kitty, it cocked its head, opened its wet little jaws, and then it meowed at me. You know? But, this was no ordinary meow. Oh, No no no. This little kitty meowed a word at me! One word! At me! Guess what that word was!

Laurel: I don’t know.

Hardy: I know you don’t know, that’s why it’s a guessing game!

Laurel: I hate guessing games. Just tell me.

Hardy: I’m not telling you. It’s a GAME. You have to guess.

Laurel: Forget it, I’m not playing.

Hardy: Come on. Guess. It’s fun. Games are fun.


Laurel: And it’s not “meow?”

Hardy: No, its not “meow.” It’s a word. An actual word. Guess.


Laurel: Dumpling.

Hardy: No.

Laurel: I don’t want to play.

Hardy: Please? Guess what the little kitty meowed at me!

Laurel: One word?

Hardy: One word.

Laurel: Girth.

(Hardy performs the following “no’s” in the style of the Doctor in Splendor in the Grass.)

Hardy: No.

Laurel: Fontanel.

Hardy: No!

Laurel: Exonerate.

Hardy: No.

Laurel: Ahh!

Hardy: This is good! Keep guessing!

Laurel: I don’t know. . . .

Hardy: Well, you should know. It’s one of your favorite words.

Laurel: Oh, great.

Hardy: Keep guessing!

Laurel: Pitchfork

Hardy: mmm—mmm (grunt)

Laurel: Crowbar.

Hardy: mmm---mmm (grunt)

Laurel: Hot Dog.

Hardy: No. No. No. One word! Just one word!

Laurel: And its one of my favorites?

Hardy: One of your very favorites. You’ve been using it all week.

Laurel: Cravat!

Hardy: No.

Laurel: Bulbous!

Hardy: NO! Come on, think! What word would a little kitty meow at me?

Laurel: (After a thought) Bulbous!

Hardy: No!

Laurel: (Getting angry) I’m done guessing. Just tell me.

Hardy: You’ve almost got it. You’re so close. Don’t quit now. . . .

Laurel’s anger and frustration escalate during the following:

Laurel: Baggie?

Hardy: No.

Laurel: Pomade?

Hardy: Nope.

Laurel: Dirtbike?

Hardy: No.

Laurel: Constituency.

Hardy: (Laughing) No!

Laurel does a classic “Laurel crying spastically” face. Then it switches from caricature to reality as Laurel pinches up his face, biting his lip. Hard. Blood comes. Lots of it.

Hardy: Give up?

Laurel nods a bloody, defeated “Yes.”

Hardy: (Says the word of his choice, with an exclamation point at the end.)

Laurel bleeds and softly repeats the word, hissing it through his bloody spittle. Fueled by uncharacteristic rage, Laurel winds up and kicks Hardy’s bottom. Hardy, suddenly furious at Laurel’s overreaction, returns the favor. Both grow increasingly angry. Reciprocal bottom kicking. It’s not funny. Ouch. When things are getting really mean, 5 or more dancers enter to join Laurel and Hardy in a shin kicking ballet that undercuts the real anger. The destruction is liberating and full of vitality.