In Which I Lose My Soul

It’s theatre gigs like this that makes you wish you were licensed to use building squibs.

For the last two months, Parker and I have been exercising our positions as masters of illusion and sabre saws to piece together a set for Poudre High School’s fall theatre production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! (I am not being enthusiastic. That punctuation is part of the title.) I am now…proud…I suppose…to announce that we are now one week from presenting this classic tale of life, love, marriage, death, death threats, perversion and packed lunches on the American frontier.

That’s the plug. Now for the meat of this post.

Fun Fact: Oklahoma! was a favorite presentation of USO shows during World War 2 (Gasp! No numerals?). It depicted, in no small terms, all the great, wholesome things that ‘our boys’ were fighting for back home (like hot meals and singing), while forgiving all the not-so-wholesome things that ‘our boys’ were doing while away from said home (like killing people, and purchasing pornographic postcards from Arabs).

Oklahoma! is almost certainly the worst musical ever written, down to the imperative exclamation in the title, and is quite certainly the worst musical ever performed. It is, essentially, three hours of borderline misogyny and hicks singing atonally. The songs are poorly written (which is all the worse because they’re so catchy); there are so many lewd jokes the show could be an episode of Chappelle’s show, if not for the lack of a bald black man throughout; and the entire affair is bisected by a ballet sequence brought on by the inhalation of a ‘special kind of smelling salts’, coincidentally also purchased from an Arab. The climax in this farce is a bidding war over a lunch hamper between an arsonist and an idiot.

And that’s just the script.

The casting for Poudre’s rendition of Oklahoma! is fitting, if not questionable: we have actually attracted a handful of ranchers – real, live ranchers! – into the fold who are willing to sing, two-step, shoot things, threaten to shoot things if they don’t marry their daughters, and make themselves look like asses to all of their friends. I suppose they rationalize this as a sacrifice for art.

I’ve been trying to avoid this, but I suppose I have to bear scrutiny about the technical activity for this trainwreck. (A metaphorical trainwreck, of course. Our last real trainwreck got every one of the techs cursed out, and nearly killed a third of the chorus and all of our pit orchestra.)
Technical theatre for Oklahoma (screw it. I’m not punctuating that blasted word anymore) didn’t meet until after cast auditions were held, because we didn’t have a technical director. Actually, we did, but a ‘Mystery Director’ is pretty much useless when you can’t do shit. Eventually, some of us learned that the TD was Ms. Cindy Eby (and the rest of us already knew, because she did tech for Shakespeare in the Summer), and we had TECH! Hooray!

Ahem.

Actually, we had design meetings. This was actually pretty cool, except we had no real commission from the other directors and no design concept. Instead of building, we listened to the soundtrack of Oklahoma while drawing, listened to the audio track of the movie adaptation of Oklahoma while drawing, and debated whether or not Sean Cummings’ concept for a dada-esque ‘Okla-horror’ show should be implemented while drawing airplanes dropping bombs on cornfields and curiously happy Santa Clauses.

My first suggestion for a set piece was a twelve-foot high cutout cow outfitted with building squibs that would be placed, without the cast’s previous knowledge, and detonated closing night. The idea was rejected, but talk of twelve-foot-tall cows, and building squibs especially, continued for weeks.

Once we had design plans for a set (notably still lacking a unifying design concept: we had everything from minimalism to kitsch), we set about building.

Ahem.

Actually, we were told by the school district that we would not be permitted to build. Recent technical mishaps, including the alleged crushing of one student underneath an electric lift, prompted some inconsiderate jackass in an admin position to approve a statute requiring all student techs to go through a “qualification training”, in which they would learn to use screwdrivers, before they would be permitted to dutchman a flat or rip plywood.*

Fuck.

Luckily, desperation won out. The fact that we had just over a month to create a show with only one certified student tech (e.g. me) persuaded the district to waive the restriction. Our valiant crew of noobs were given carte blanche, handed screw guns, and told to go to town.

We took the advise, and went to town. Then we came back from town, some of us sporting souvenirs, and started building.

Time passed. This is actually just a brief placeholder used in stead of about three pages I could have written, but won’t because I:
a. don’t want to take up the entire first page of this blog with a single post,
b. think this post is getting to be too damn long already, and
c. can’t specifically remember everything that transpired between whenever the hell that was and whenever the hell now is. I’m so tired.

In fact, I’m sick, and can’t sleep. When I do sleep, I dream light plots for Oklahoma.

Did I mention that I’m now the light designer? I can’t tell, I’m so tired.

I actually didn’t do jack shit with lighting until last monday – the first night of tech week – when I removed some gels, found out that a half-dozen of my instruments were entirely fucked, and discovered that I was sick. One week later, I am proud to announce that I am still sick. However, my lights are gelled and working, I have memorized virtually the entire musical, and have hung no less than two new curtains and a cyclorama, the latter by myself. I am now incredibly tired, sick, and sore. I am also repeating myself.

Ahem.

Oklahoma will be either a mediocre production or fail outright (to my knowledge, the cast have not even learned the finale yet). All of you that are able, willing, or required to should come to see it on November 16 (Thursday) and 17 (Friday) at 7 PM, or on November 20 (Saturday) at either 2 or 7 PM. You can mock our pain.

MOCK IT GOOD!

19 thoughts on “In Which I Lose My Soul

  1. Hooray! The latest in a series of long-winded posts by ExG alums bringing each other up to date on the latest happenings of our individual lives!

    Here’s the asterisk I neglected to include at the end (I’m doing this because I’m too lazy to go to wordpress and edit it.):

    “* I have just looked at the upper-right corner of my screen. WordPress is telling me, ‘Howdy, Evan’. Coincidence or no, this terrifies me.”

    Hooray for tired laziness!

  2. Oh, and I love the cow idea. If it were actually happening (and if I had known about it in advance) I quite seriously would have skipped 2 days of class and flown home early to see it all go down.

    Why must Poudre High School squelch the truly innovative, groundbreaking conceptual art forming in its theater department?

  3. See, Micah, we thought of that, it could have worked but, Parker, Evan, and myself would have not only been arrested and tried for murder, we also wouldn’t be able to graduate.

    And, Evan, I am offended that you didn’t include my ideas for ruining this terrible musical. :-P

    The man behind stage left,
    David

  4. Firstly, I have already decided to include a twelve-foot exploding cow into something I create either in my lifetime or shortly after. I just don’t know if I want to hold out for another production of Oklahoma, or if it should be an impromptu addition to something crazy, like the adaptation of Nightmare Before Christmas I’m planning. Or Faust. Faust could stand to be fucked up.

    I should also mention that I am actively searching for building squibs. I don’t really trust myself enough with explosives yet to make them myself.

    Actually, the full idea was to build it, have it stand there curiously for two nights, and during the final performance detonate a pair of squibs in the body, followed by a series of squibs clustered in the cow’s snoot; (heh. snoot.) this would cause the snoot to rip itself apart like a fragmentation grenade, sending a cloud of small plywood shuriken down and forward to eviscerate the chorus (ironically, this was before I really began to hate the musical numbers enough to justify killing the entire supporting cast. I suppose I am just preternaturally homicidal.)

    Then, in the stunned shock onstage, I would have the support A-frames blown off after a few seconds, causing the entire cow to list ominously before falling entirely, crushing any remaining cast and small props onstage.

    I would then laugh maniacally, run manically, and hide monkey-ly.

    It will be fun. You will all be invited, too.

  5. David, how dare you utilize emoticons on this blog. We are trying to effect a professional environment for discussion, and juvenile logos like that cursed smiley face are tantamount to tomfoolery.

    As for David’s cryptic allusion to other ruinous ideas, we were planning to turn Oklahoma into a ‘baby show’. This means we were going to have numerous pranks involving baby dolls during dress rehearsals, ranging from dropping one from the ceiling like a brick after the opening song (“Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'”), to a baby impaled on a pike that is walked across the stage.

    Actually, we were planning about six baby-drops. One of them was going to happen after a character fires his gun into the air.

    Unfortunately, our nefarious schemes were halted due to a lack of babies. None of us felt like paying about 60 dollars on cabbage patch kids, and we’d probably be investigated for kidnapping otherwise.

    Oh, well. There will be baby shows in future.

  6. I pine because of the unfair routing of my Oklahoma Terrortory director’s concept.

    I wanted the domineering and psychologically unsound Aunt Eller to raise a gimp (named Ado Annie).
    I wanted to see Death play the role of the jilted, backwater hired hand (Judd DRED).
    I wanted a psychotic axe murderer (Ali Hack’em) to sell smelling salts to young girls. And then shank them. With the bottle.
    I wanted the love interest Laurie to pack her lunch in a severed head.
    I wanted to see the head cowboy (Zombie) triumph over his premature evisceration (courtesy of Mssr. Hack’em) and infect the living… with SONG!

    I guess it was before its time. Colon, end parenthesis.

    -Sean Cummings

  7. And I think Sean should just organize all the cast together and pull of his version on closing night. The worst thing Willis could do is kill you, right?

  8. somehow i doubt that a bunch of legitimate hicks would go for Sean’s version but who know perhaps somebody with a profound knowledge of psychology could pull it off (perhaps through hypnotism or sexual manipulation)

  9. I favor sexual manipulation as a way of influencing hicks.

    Again: I love you all and one of these days one of you is going to wind up reducing a respectable stage production to absolute mayhem. And I DEMAND to be there when it happens.

  10. I am re-writing this musical in the perspective of Jud, as some sort of anti-hero. He’s truly the only round and interesting character in the play. He starts as a reclusive, abrasive, murderous arsonist, but he falls in love with a girl that was briefly kind to him. He decides to give up his sinful, terrible ways for her, but it turns out that she has just been using him to make the cowboy she actually wants jealous. He then professes his feelings to her, only to have them vomited back upon him. This of course sends him into a downward spiral of drinkin’, and revenge seeking, and falling back into old habits. Then he dies. It’d be facsinating.

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