Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dateline: Factory

Chicago. May 30th-June 6th

Seven Things I've Learned In The First Week Of LOA Rehearsal

1)Fight Rehearsal, or How I Learned to Parry:
For those of you in the theater community reading this, I'm sure you've all experienced rehearsals in a space other than where the performance will eventually take place. It's never a really big deal; kinda like having the hiccups. A minor inconvinience, but you know at some point you'll be breathing again. And there's no comparison to tech week when there's the constant give and take adjustments going on all the time. Like trying to win an argument with my wife. Luckily, I always manage to duck when she chucks a Fresnel at me. I'm all about similie.

2) Sweating:
I try not to, but my glands are tied. There's no better way to get to know a complete stranger than sliding together like freshly harvested eels at a 4am Japanese fish market, (thanks for the similie tip, Bourdain). It's even better if you already know the person. 'Cause then it's like, "Hey! This deepens our friendship! We don't even need a towel for this"! Note to all directors: Stage combat rehearsal in the month of June equals cast bonding, (I'm talking to your collective armpits Sevigny and Dughi).

3) Rehearsing in a Former Funeral Home, or How One of Our Cast Members Sees Dead People:

Funeral homes are fun, let's all agree. I mean, you never know what will happen. Well, you might have a general idea. But there's always something going on. Lingering spirits, for instance. During rehearsal I tried to deliver a right cross to Gorsky's chin and turned into Whoopi Goldberg. It was fun for a while since I was the only black person in the cast, but eventually everyone called me on my relationship with Ted Danson. I cried openly, (but it might have been Whoopi's tears) and went down the street for some hot links. Engle was pissed.

4) How I Figured Out How to Reinforce the Relatively Recent Pride That Comes with Proclaiming Yourself a "Geek", Wondering if You Should go to That Party or Not When You'd Rather Stay Home Pounding PowerAde with Your Buddies for an "Old School" Night of Dungeons and Dragons, or How to Take the Concept of "Viral Video" and reduce it to a "Viral Phrase" via the Interwebs:


5) BARS: Why are they located next to theaters?

Tip: If you go to the Burlington (pronounced grandly in descending tone as "UHtheburlington"), bring your night vision goggles. And I'm convinced Dukes is run by canines. That is all.

6) Shooting a Promo in the Rain, or How None of the Tennants Appreciated Corri's Wonder Woman Costume (except a little kid):

Shannon and Chuck were gracious enough to let us film on their sharecroping expanse of cement, but I should quit smoking. Nothing like doing a fight full-speed multiple times. And then gasping like a Lung Fish that just reached land. See? Similie and Sea Creatures. Which is the name of my next album.
7) How to End a Blog:

What Would (your) Koken Do?

Koken: The black-robed stage assistant of Kabuki who assists the actor with properties and costume on stage. (thank you

Mine would carry a sign that says shazaam!

And anytime I said something like "I want a root beer" or "Give me back my beard clippers" my Koken would go:

And then I'd get what I want.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Geek of the Week: Comics

Comic books have a fun outlook on life. Examine the stereotypical comic book format: wonderfully overblown characters, impossibly proportioned bodies, and the sweetness of superpowers, for starters. Add in characters talking to themselves to describe narrative action ("Head spinning...stomach empty...gotta have sandwich...") and pages gushing with splashy action and you have a great gumbo of enjoyment. My favorite absurdity, however, is the sound effects. For one of the best examples of this trope, witness the Batman fights via Adam West:

Start your smorgas-soundboard off with "Sock," "Pow," and "Zok" with plenty more to come. There is a lot of silliness to the Adam West Batman. A LOT. But it's a head-first, fun-loving dive into an ingrained trait of comics.

Comic book sounds can be so ingrained that they take on a life & recognition of their own. Some characters can lay claim to their own unique sound effects. "Snikt!" is closely tied to the X-Men's Wolverine and "Thwipp!" to Spider-Man just to name a couple. According to Wikipedia, these sounds are trademarked by Marvel Comics, but a detailed search of the US Patent and Trademark Office did not confirm this (always double-check Wikipedia, kids).

As this is Geek of the Week, I have my own broad sampling of the comic sound effects oeuvre. Here follows a shortened classification:

Contact Sounds (usually fist-on-face), i.e., the Adam West Batman specialty:
  • Pow! Wham! Boom!

Vocal Reaction to Contact Sounds. What the fist-on-face recipient says after said action:
  • Ooof! Ungh! Argh!

Weapon Sounds. Those made by lasers, eye beams, energy blasters, and other props:

  • Zaakkkk! Bzzzzt! Va-Whoom!

Character-Specific Sounds:

  • Snikt! Thwip! Bamf! Zapt! Shazam! Krakadoom!

During the so-called Golden Age and Silver Age of comics, these types of sound tropes were common. While some of these onomatopoeic (Vocabulary! Ka-Blam!) methods remain in place, modern comics seem to favor a shorter, more efficient sound style. Instead of "Yeeeeeaaaaarrrggghhhhh!!!" a character today might simply say, "Nnf." Although nothing tops the single-digit sound effect, often employed when a character dies or passes out:


Shortest word balloon possible.

To me, the sound exclamations are a big slice of the fun pie that is comics. Within this brand of literature, imagination runs wild and any flight of fancy is within reach. It is also a visually-based medium, allowing simultaneous expression through pictures partnered with text. I like things graphic, so comics are specially simpatico with me. Fortunately, many good writers, past and present, have graced this medium. Which brings us to The League of Awesome.

This show furthers the medium's indulgences. It's a romp with appreciative nods to classic and modern comic stories. It's also girl-centric and girl-penned. Women writers are a very underutilized branch of the comic book tree. This trend is changing, and The League of Awesome is a terrific trailblazer.

I can't say what sound effects will be employed, but I know L.O.A. has action abounding. I expect this show to have the cheeky fun of Adam West's Batman but be far cooler to look at and much smoother in its execution. My money's on it. In fact, I expect the smart whips involved in this show will find a way to leverage cool sound. They are a group of super heroes after all.

Until next issue, WHAM! (the sound, not the horrible music group)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grilled Meat, Cold Beer and Kicking the Ass of Villains or What I Did on My Summer Vacation

by Corri Feuerstein

For some, summer begins with Memorial Day and the chance to wear those white shoes that have been calling your name since March. For others, it begins when children come back into the house, their laughter filling the room when you ask them to clean things. For others, a barbeque is the inaugural summer kickoff meal, and thus the season begins.

For me, summer begins when I don red, white and blue spandex and start delivering roundhouse kicks to the face.

Sure, this may not be the typical tire-swing-over-a-river, Country Time Lemonade type of vision most have, but screw it. Rivers are filthy and no one trusts the ropes on a tire swing unless they're drunk. And everyone is drunk in those commercials. Make no mistake. Summer begins with The League of Awesome.

Last summer, Sara Sevigny and I took on a project with a deadline of July 1. We had to finish our first draft of The League of Awesome in order for it to be considered for the next Factory season. We wrote furiously, ignoring sleep and day job responsibilities to get it done. One of us is now unemployed, but we'll just go ahead and say that isn't related. Obviously, we finished. And 97,000 drafts later, The League of Awesome is now in rehearsal, scheduled to open on July 16, 2010. There is a phenomenal cast and crew attached, and we're watching this thing come to life. The only eloquent thought I have on that is: Holy Shit.

I have wanted to be a superhero for so long -- I used to dream I could fly. It was a top secret thing, and people would freak the fuck out in my dream when I showed them. My voicemail has declared me a part-time superhero for the last six or so years. I have wanted to write with Sara for a damn long time, and write a show for the Factory ever since I saw Alive. (Yeah, I just dated myself. Let's say I saw it as an infant, ok?) So now, all of this comes together nicely in one summer package wrapped with a kickass bow of justice.

Summer and superheroes go nicely together. I mean, seriously, those thumbtack-sized costumes aren't built for winter warfare. Mine fits in a Ziplock bag and I'll be living on gum, caffeine and pure will.

As we head into summer, we see those kids on vacation out there, doing what we did at their age: playing outside and pretending to be stronger than we actually are. Whether sprinting at lightning speeds for the ice cream truck, aiming higher on the swings, cartwheeling and spinning 'til you puke, or balancing on someone's feet on your stomach to play "Superman", we've all dreamt of being a hero. And now, thanks to shirking the responsibility of a job that pays me and locking myself in a dark theater away from sunshine, my loved ones and reality, I get to be one.

This really is going to be the best summer ever. It's the summer of Awesome, and I'm happy as hell to be a part of it.