Monday, December 5, 2016

BRAVO AVENUE--Behind the Scenes

Back in April of this year, Marcus Christman, Matthew Christman, Ethan White and I went downtown.
Every year, while the seniors are in Washington D.C., I take the soon-to-be seniors downtown to the Tattered Cover where we brainstorm ideas for the next senior play.

Normally, this is a matter of looking for bits and pieces of concepts at the bookstore, but this time we spotted the seed of our idea before we even got there.

While we were waiting for the shuttle on 16th Street, we spotted a shoeshine guy who was very loud and very amusing. He was drumming up business talking to people as they passed by. He was pretty hilarious.

We went on to the bookstore to dig up some ideas, but it was this guy who stuck in our heads. By the time we got back to school, we decided the play would be about a street musician and two government agents.

I wrote the script in October. I did a little research online about CIA lingo and tried to include a lot of that without overdoing it. The most memorable thing I learned was that CIA guys actually refer to themselves as “officers,” not “agents.”

One of the challenging things about the plays is coming up with character names. But it’s also fun because it gives you opportunities for inside jokes.

I looked up actual CIA agents, but none of the names grabbed me. I looked up North by Northwest—the famous Hitchcock thriller. In that film, Cary Grant plays a man named Roger Thornhill who is mistaken for someone named George Kaplan. So I named the two CIA guys Thornhill and Kaplan. Since Marcus is usually a relaxed kind of guy and Matthew is usually a get-things-done kind of guy, I had them play what they aren’t. As twin brothers, they brought a lot to the characters of two rookie CIA officers.

Since Ethan White can play guitar, he would be the street musician. I was wanting his character to be like a modern hipster. I named him Bob Zimmerman because that’s Bob Dylan’s real name. Ethan took on a lot of extra work to learn four ridiculous songs and he pulled it off.

I mentioned to my good friend Mark Phillips that we would appreciate a theme song and as always he wrote a superb piece that captured the tone of the play even though he had yet to see it.  

Before the script was finished, I told the three actors about the climactic scene. Wild gunfire would erupt onstage, shooting the set to pieces. Being that we are four guys, we thought that sounded pretty cool.

Initially, we toyed with the idea of triggering small explosive charges, using Estes rocket fuses and flammable powder.

Then we came to our senses.

I got to thinking that the actual bullet holes didn’t have to be explosive if we had good sound effects. I asked Mark Phillips to design some gunfire sound effects based on specific notes. He came through as always.

I suggested we simply drill holes in the set, replace the circular parts and paint over them. Then when it came time for the gunfire, we could just pull them like plugs. Marcus executed the design perfectly.

We decided the bullet holes should be a little extra-large so the audience could see them easily. The first test hit a snag. Half of the set was painted to look like a brick building and the bullet holes didn’t show up on that background. They had to repaint that part blue.

The final system involved Lydia SunderRaj and Caitlyn Taylor backstage. Each section of the wall had several strands of fishing line attached to the bullet holes on one end and a handle on the other end. The strands were of different lengths so the holes wouldn’t all appear at once.

It worked perfectly.

One of my favorite memories of this play will be the gasp from the audience when the gunfire started and bullet holes appeared.

I have to say, one of my other favorite moments was the first song the three guys play together. It was written to be intentionally bad and it was performed intentionally bad. Several times during rehearsal it was difficult to compose myself after the song was over. It was skillfully horrible.

And to make sure the songs are documented for the suffering of future generations, here are the lyrics to all of them:

The Whisper of the World

I can hear the poets of the people in the past
I can hear the flowers even though they never last
But if you listen carefully to the beauty of a pearl
You can hear the whisper of the world

I can hear the moon and stars and all the little birds
I can hear the baby and all the tiny words
But even if society makes you want to hurl
You can hear the whisper of the world

I can hear the traffic lights and cars and gasoline
I can hear the smell of oil and polyethylene 
But if you want some peace of mind, just listen to me girl
You can hear the whisper of the world


Look at Me

Look at me, I’m right over here
Can’t you see me looking over there at you
Won’t you just notice me, I’m not that far away
I would like to ask for your attention please
Hey! Over here!
Yes I’m talking to you.
Am I invisible or are you totally blind?

That’s What You are to Me

Happiness, cup of tea, you’re my guacamole
Summertime, words that rhyme
That’s what you are to me

Perfectville, a dollar bill
Hot dog, macaroni
Potato soup, hula-hoop
That’s what you are to me

If you think that I am kidding
Then ignorance is bliss
But Baby, I’ve just begun
So get a load of this.

Artichokes, knock-knock jokes
Dominoes, Cheerios
That’s what you are to me

I am a Man but Not the Man

Don’t get me wrong
Don’t get me right
I did not come here
To pick a pillow fight

I’ve got a dream
I’ve got a plan
I’m a man but not the Man

Don’t tell me lies
Don’t tell me truth
I’m just like Superman
Without a telephone booth

So here’s a note
And a telegram
I’m a man, but not the Man

Don’t make a fuss
Don’t make a scene
I’m like a unicorn
Inside a submarine

I’ve got a clue
I live in Wonderland
I’m a man, but not the Man

No comments:

Post a Comment