Birthday Blog: My 2/5 Hwangap

So today is my birthday.  I tend to forget that it’s coming until the week before.  This year, however, I have decided to be more excited than I traditionally am. This year I am building toward my Hwangap. What could that mean? I will explain:

Samuel French has recently published a play called American Hwangap, a story of a Korean family celebrating the 60th birthday of their patriach. Wikipedia tells us that “A Hwangap is a Korean traditional way of celebrating one’s 60th birthday. The number 60 means accomplishing one big circle in one’s life. This circle is five complete cycles of the 12 year Chinese Zodiac.”

I kind of liked the idea of having another “cool” birthday to look forward to now that I have passed 21.  The more I thought about Hwangaps and what they stand for the more I annoyed my close friends by telling them repeatedly that “the problem with America is that we value youth and not age or skill or wisdom and that makes it hard to be excited about your birthdays when you are  just getting older and thats it!”

So, I made a few resolutions to celebrate age and wisdom, and I’m actually going to apply that to myself.  This past year was not stagnant. I was astonished how much you grow from just one insignificant birthday to another. I learned a ton about growing-up, relationships, adulthood, and mashups.

I LOVE mashups. In fact,  if you were to ask me what I wanted for my birthday, after fridge magnets and unmatched bookends I would say that I want to be made into a mash-up DJ.  … if you’re listening, MTV….

I’ve been systematically signing up for 10 day trials of every music editor that I can find online.  I have a great time playing around and even had partial success making a club remix out of Bette Midler’s The Rose. I expect my birthday treat to myself will be some snazzy sound software and business cards for the newly born DJ RedScare.

For now I think I will finish this post with a music clip of one of the muscial highlights of my year. This crazy mashup comes from the Best of Bootie 2009 Album. Club Bootie in San Francisco specializes in mash-ups and has countless mashups available for download at bootiemashup.com. It features Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Ozzy Osbourne and Daft Punk all at once, titled: My Life on Crazy Train Sucks (So What?!).  In one word: Inspired.

And more Sex…

attractive model-guy Samie Eskelin

Attractive model-guy Samie Eskelin

So last night The Boy and I went to a friend’s birthday drinks in a bar on 10th avenue called Bartini. I may have never been anywhere before that had such a high ratio of crazy attractive people. Well,  men.  Everywhere you looked it was pecs and jaw lines and basically guys that look like our friend Samie here.  What a strange, incredible, exhausting culture I live in. More guys like Samie at Queerty.com.

Breaking the Rule of Three, Part 3: Divas

One last aspect of the rule of three (before I can move on and do a post about sex already!) is that often times characters in stories come in 3’s. This can be bears, mice, stooges, pigs, fates, fairies, angels, goats gruff, sisters, wizard kids, tenors, kings etc.  The idea being that and trios are inherently funnier, cooler or more sexy (in the case of the goats gruff).

It is also possible to have a trio of divas. I know what your thinking, aren’t those crazy divas meant to just to stand ahead of the pack a screlt out powerful solos? Well it turns out that over the years Broadway thinkers and makers have gotten smarter and smarter about combining the powerful known types of Diva into super molecules of fabulous. These creations keep getting more and more complex. The brief history can be summed up in my good friend Robert Coverdell’s Theory of Diva Evolution:

In the beginning, shows had only one Diva (this was before the technology existed to have sassy women share stages).  This is the Ethel Merman type.  She would blare out a brassy number and kick and swear if someone even mentioned the spotlight leaving her. Gypsy is a great example of a show that is constructed around one major diva character. Streisand characters often play for all the marbles as well.

The second stage of the Evolution is a  Divas dueting. I’m talking about heart stopping numbers in pieces like Sideshow, Chess and Wicked.

And then lastly, in accordance with the rule of 3: shows with 3 Divas.  Big mentions here being Witches of Eastwick, Dreamgirls, and recently, 9 to 5.  Now, these are fantastic shows.  9 to 5 is my jam, BUT will we let the rule of 3 stop us there?! I know it seems impossible but there must be a way to break this barrier and bring well-constructed 4 Diva shows into existence.

I should pause here to give mention to Ira Gasman and Cy Colema’s The Life. This romp featured a half-dozen slutacular women of the night screaming proudly.  It was a wonder, but far too unstable to replicate.

SO I sat down with research partner Robert and we tasked ourselves with breaking the rule of three and reaching for just one viable show that can support the 4 Diva compound.  After about 30 laborious minutes we have done it.  Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Musical.

Just think of it! four chicks, different things going on, different personalities, a well balanced cast provided by Ms. Ann Brashares. Robert and I are going to start working on the score pretty soon now, but we are already accepting applications from interested Divas who want to be part of history (Sutton Foster, you can have the weird character, or the one that goes to Greece!).  I even have some of the lyrics coming along:

Our love won’t unravel,
’cause our pants travel!
we’re a good good good
Sisterhood!

well… There’s some more R&D to happen here.  But I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

The Rule of Three: Part 2 of 3

So, Yesterday I discussed stretching a joke out by employing the newly invented rule of 6 (thank you thank you). Today I’m going to quickly discuss another way to subvert the Rule of Three… not that it necessarily needs subverting.

Now, today’s topic is the Overly Long Gag, a name I pulled from tvtropes.org. In the words of tvtropes: “The concept is that something happens repeatedly, to the point of boredom. Then it keeps going, to the point where it, in theory, actually becomes funny again. Essentially, the sheer length of the gag becomes the gag.”

The article goes on to mention the Sideshow Bob-Rake gag from the Simpsons. Knowing that The Boy loves the Simpsons I decided to see if he thought this extended gag was funny to him.

Me: So I was reading about Overly Long Gags online, like Side-Show Bob and the rakes.

The Boy: Oh My God! I love Side-show Bob and the Rakes. The noise he makes is so funny, seriously. It’s like a oooh!, well no it’s more like mmMGNGN! and he like shudders….. like this… and it just keeps going and now everytime he’s in an episode he steps on a rake and it hits him in the face. It reaches the point where you’re watching a sideshow bob episode and you’re just waiting for him to step on the rake- you actually feel cheated if he doesn’t, I think there was one episode when he didn’t step on one, and I was like: WHat?! but then the next episode with him he stepped on a rake I was like: Ok , there we go.  And then I think there’s even one where his son steps on a little rake and you’re like: YES YES YES YES.

As I walked next to him I was thinking to myself: this is getting so overly long I feel like gagging myself. I also think he may have scared away a woman while punching the air on the YES YES YES’s.

Usually I am hard to please using the extended gag, but I do love traditions.  And There is something to be said that comes from the pleasure of predicting what’s coming up. That said, nobody could have predicted or explained why the only video of Sideshow Bob and the Rakes is in black and white and in German.

The Rule of Three: Part 1 of 3

As I mentioned in the last post, this weekend was the Samuel French Off Off Broadway festival finals. One of the lucky plays selected for Publication is a “scathing comedy” about child beauty pageants called Skin Deep, written by Mary Lynn Dobson. This hysterical one act shows stage moms and life-long beauty pageant hosts obsessing and repeating the same points over and over.  So much of the comedy came from the repetition of bits that I started to pay careful attention to Mary Lynn Dobson handled the joke repeated.

Most people in theatre have already heard of the rule of 3. Wikipedia lists the generally agreed upon definition as: ” a principle in English writing that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”  And “the third iteration is the most pleasing or most effective.”  SO sure, I mean, how often have I heard that the third time a joke happens is the funniest?

However, in this play I can remember two occasions when Ms. Mary Lynn told the same joke 4 times each(!). In these cases she was still able to keep the joke fresh by tweeking it for that fourth and final run. For example: In a very funny scene one of the overly excited, raspy, fidgety, old pageant judges explains that she’s looking for a young lady who has that special somethin’, a young lady that just says (bellowed:) “LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!”  The actress was terrific and sold really sold this moment as a crazy old lady. Then she sold it again twice more: LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!”.  and each time people laughed because it was so absurd that this woman would continually come back and yell this line during the same interview.

After the third delivery of the line I waited carefully to see if the writer would break the rule of three- and she did. She took here time, there was a nice break from the earlier jokes and then it came, in the middle explaining the “no-guns” policy, because if a 5 year old beauty queen points a loaded rifle at you and says “LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!….then you’re gonna look.”

So this got me thinking that there has to be a a way to extend a joke. if slight changes keep it fresh then we should be able to go beyond three repetitions with some new rules…. SO I offer the rule of 6. A guide to comic gestures or phrases repeated in performance:

first time: it happens. it’s either funny, or not funny.

Second time: it remains funny or it becomes funny because it happened again.

Third time: it’s so damn funny! this shit has happened three times!

Fourth time: it’s funny because you tweeked it.  the punchline answers a different set-up, or the person doing the gesture is now in drag, or perhaps the line was changed into Spanish?

Fifth Time: (this gets tricky) It Doesn’t Happen-  and it’s funny because of it.  Imagine: everything is set up for the person to say it, but they don’t. Maybe their trying to think of an example for someone, and the repeated punchline is perfect… but they just… can’t…remember anything right now….  It’ll still be funny because to the audience can remember. And the audience loves getting the understated joke.

Sixth Time: It just happens again. In it’s simple form. After the 4th time and 5th time which changed it up there is space to bring back the classic version, and it satisfies immensely.

I have yet to actively identify steps 5 or 6 in anything- but they sound nice don’t they? Now, string of repititions has to stop at around six, otherwise it becomes something else: The Overly Long Gag. I’ll discuss this tomorrow in Rule of Three: Part II.

This Play is Pretty

Last night at the Samuel French Off Off Broadway festival there was a short play called Pigskin by  playwright  Gabriel Dean.   Pretty much everyone working the  festival was looking forward to this because this was the play that featured a gorgeous football player monologuing  in various stages of undress (see postcard above).

The short play was great, with beautiful language and a somewhat gruesome story. And as the boy walked out with a football covering his junk, I thought to myself: send this to Broadway. Soon.

In all seriousness, the boy was stacked and so handsome. His looks coupled that with some really well crafted storytelling deservedly hold the room captive.  The writing itself is fantastic..

If you’d like to see this play yourself (and other contenders in the competition) you should hop by and see the best of the best this Sunday @ 1pm at the finals. Just come direct from brunch. 🙂  Info below…. and check out http://oob.samuelfrench.com/.

Samuel French OOB Finals – Sunday July 18 @ 1pm
Theatre Row, 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Ave

Sondheim and False Opposites

On the way to the gym last night The Boy and I were forced to walk past the Walter Kerr Theater on 48th.  Passing in front of the theater we were suddenly surrounded by a jovial mob, bubbling with excitement to see 2 legends of the theatah (Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch) step into the leading roles of A Little Night Music.  In the general frenzy we were forced up against a wall next to a merch seller while the sea of people swarmed around us. The Boy and I spent a few seconds telling each other how we wished we were seeing this until I decided to ask if there was standing room… and there was.

We hurried home to change (into some fancier wife-beaters), then ran back to the theater and positioned our sweaty selves at the back of the orchestra.

The show is great- although long to stand through- and at the end the full company lead by both Peters and Stritch received minutes worth of applause and cat calls. Ten feet to my right Stephen Sondheim stood and clapped proudly.  It was a pretty good moment. I looked from Sondheim, to the bowing cast, to the audience and back to Sondheim.  In my ear the boyfriend whispers: “he’s just so amazing.”

I am always trying to articulate what it is that Sondheim does right.  And while an entire blog could be dedicated to picking apart his lyrics and music… I don’t have that kind of time.  However,  last night while pondering Madame Armfeldt’s lyric “a pleasurable means to a measurable end” I was able to isolate one thing that he uses that always moves me.  I’m going to call it false-opposites.

Sondheim is really good at setting up lines that parallel each other except for 1 important word that changes. Often times it feels like these words have contrasting meanings because they are set up opposites, but really their literal definitions do not intersect.

Example time. Consider this lyric from the song Being Alive from Company: “alone is alone, not alive.”

Sondheim has set up Alone and Alive as opposites, when really they aren’t mutually exclusive by definition. But by choosing these words to contrast each other he makes the strong statment that you aren’t living if you are all alone. He also does it with 6 words.

Another example of this comes from Into The Woods: “Children can only grow from something you love to something you lose.”  Love and Hate are opposites. Lost and Found are opposites.  In the middle of the thought he changes from a statement of attraction to a statement of possession.

I love things like this. And of course the false opposites are all alliterative. Everything is just… spot on.