Before curtain time:
Our performance starts the moment the audience arrive at the parking lot. Immediately they are exposed to organized chaos. The parking lot would resemble a construction site. One can see what appears to be the final stages of getting ready for the play and somewhat of an art fair. Scattered throughout the parking lot are craftsman producing their wares. One side you see potters working with Clay. Some would be spinning pots on the wheel while others made different things with clay. Over a little farther you’ll see somebody making jewelry. Next to them would be a leather worker making belts pocketbooks and fancy buckles. None of the venues at this time appear to be selling anything just making things. Any time some member of the audience expresses interest in purchasing any of the artworks the vendors will hand them a card which will inform them that they can purchase anything they see after the performance is over. Each vendor’s cards will have his business contact information on it. This is to help promote his artwork after the play.
Workers hustle about moving backdrops props and scenery. Everywhere they look there is literally a circus happening around them. Mixed in amongst the stagehands are actual jugglers and circus acts with a complete carnival atmosphere. Exciting the sense of smell the new arrivals will be exposed to the usual carnival and fair food vendors. Some of the food vendors walk amongst the crowd giving away small free samples of their treats. As people enter the parking lot, they are exposed to un-readiness everywhere.
As the audience enters the lobby to buy tickets they will be exposed to an unusual welcome. Unknown to the audience there are actors mixed in with them. These planted actors, start to interact, with the audience in the midst of the chaos. The most dominating character is a younger looking boy named Joel. He is dressed in a baggie cleaning outfit with a push broom and MP3 player around his neck. Yet the audience can also hear the music from the soundtrack of the play being played on it.
The other actors job is to interact with Joel and bring attention to him and his bungling. To strengthen the characters presence, several other actors are dressed identically like Joel. They appear and disappear with precise timing to give the appearance that this boy is really moving. It’s very important that at least once all the members of the audience have seen the Joel character somewhere before they get to their seat. This is very much like a Marx Brothers routine of one character going in one door and instantly coming out another door quite a distance away. Joel has been seeing throughout the building in many different mishaps. The plant actors bump into him making him spill trash, or get hit by his broom etc.
Joel’s boss, Mr. Strickler is in the lobby during all this time. Each time there is an incident with Joel Mr. Strickler comes over and stops Joel from doing what he is doing. Then Mr. Strickler yells for Mr. N.E. Body to come and help and he takes Joel out through a door to backstage. Just a few seconds after Joel disappears through the doorway another Joel character steps out another door in a different part of the lobby. The second Joel goes through the same routine as the first and Mr. Strickler and Mr. N.E. Body comes over and escorts Joel back out through another door. This continues on while the people are getting tickets. Mr. Strickler with the help from Mr. N.E. Body run from Joel to Joel attracting attention from anyone standing in the lobby. Before everybody gets to their seat they would’ve seen Joel with Mr. Strickler cleaning and re-cleaning trash and joking with the people who are arriving.
There are video crews spread out from the parking lot to the auditorium. They are set up and videotaping but still act as if they are not ready either. They are rushing around and they pay no attention to the people arriving. The video crew secretly try to capture as many close-ups of the faces of the people from their car to their seats. These close-ups will be used later as flashbacks on the monitor screens during the performance. The live action video captures all the important scenes with Joel and they are flashed on the screens located in the lobby and the auditorium while they are happening. He is continuously being hassled by his boss with a clipboard, saying where things should be put in when they are to be done, and that he should be working and not talking with people. The purpose of this is to expose Joel to as much of the audience as possible before they are seated.
When the audience enters the auditorium for the first time they will be amazed because of all the action taking place. The audience becomes more confused when they see that not only the curtain is open, but there is still people running about getting ready. These stage crew actors, do not interact, with the audience that is coming in to be seated. They go about their chores totally unaware that anybody has come into the auditorium. Some workers are actually standing around chatting with each other and not getting anything done. The attitude that is necessary to project to the audience is, will they be ready by Showtime or is there a play happening here tonight or not?
In the crowd are also plant actors who look and act like part of the audience and interact with Joel. They improvise and comment loudly with him. This will strengthen his unnecessary clumsiness and spaced out character and bring more attention to him.
The set is different than most. It is a theater in the round as much as possible but around the audience. Two scaffolding sets are on both sides of the auditorium. Along the walls of both stage left and right are walkways which appear to be sidewalks in front of old brownstone buildings of the 60s. These sidewalks can be built right over the backs of a few of the seats on the edge of stage left and right if necessary. The scaffolding is left open for the audience to see thru and behind them. Behind the sidewalks are the front of buildings in Anytown USA. These buildings have doors and windows that actually open and are used throughout the performance.
Video screens cover most of the places that the stage does not, including behind the audience. Something is on the screens at all times except when otherwise stated. When you want to accent someone’s certain part all the videos become live action of that character. When you do not want the video distracting from the action on stage all monitors go to the old test tone off the air black and white screen.
Enter stage left, onstage, an elderly looking couple appear to be lost and they have their tickets in hand and are looking for their seats. Eventually two security guards come on stage with them one from the audience one from backstage. They look at the couples tickets and slowly escort them off the stage to their seats. The elderly couple appear to be confused and drag out this process. When the couple is finally seated the officers go about their business and disappear.
The scaffolding on stage left is set up in a country seen. There is a dirt road walkway and it’s divided up into three sections. The first section closest to the stage is Mr. N.E. Body’s farmhouse. He is a fellow worker and he has several incidences with Joel throughout the theater. This is the main interest point on stage left. It is a cut away of the inside where Mr. N.E. Body lives. You can see the front door frame and mail box that has Mr. N.E. Body’s name on it, and the open first and second floors. There is an easy chair and television on the second story.
Mr. N.E. Body is a beer drinker but unfortunately the refrigerator is on the first story. He is constantly going up and down the stairs to get a beer. Throughout the first two acts none of the other actors are aware of his presence when he is at home. Halfway through the third act when he does it again, Joel stops the show and acknowledges his presents. He tells Mr. N.E. Body, that he and the audience will wait for him this time until he’s done. This is the first time there has been any communication between the beer drinker and the rest of the other actors. From then on until the finale Mr. N.E. Body is in his own little world and no one pays him any mind. During the last few minutes of the performance the beer drinker joins in the celebration.
The second section on stage left is the front of Greenville High School 1960’s. The third section on stage left is like something right out of the TV show Laugh-in. It is a bright hippie colored painted wall with several doors that open at different times with somebody contributing a humorous punchline.
Stage right is a city sidewalk that has many enter and exit points. There’s a couple manhole covers that people pop in and out of along with doors and windows. There are three building fronts along the sidewalk on stage right. The first building front is a bar/restaurant. Smoke is constantly coming out its swinging doors. The blinking fluorescent sign in the window says beer. The second building front is a two-story brownstone apartment building with pots of flowers in their windows. The third building front is a church. Center stage there is a long ramp with a microphone on a stand.