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Notes From The Stage Floor

By Brian Schropp

By Brian Schropp

BRIAN SCHROPP ON CUISINE

I have been keeping this under wraps for most of the summer but now with the wheels firmly in motion I can share some exciting news.

I had been approached earlier this year to write a screenplay for the Lankville Community Players for their Fall season. I was told they needed a blockbuster, something to ‘finally put butts in the seats’ of the expensive Pondicherry Performance Center that was built a few years ago. Other productions written by fellow reporters did not sell many tickets. Dick Oates, Jr’s ‘Funny Stories’, Brock Belvedere Jr’s ‘Onion Soup For Breakfast’, and Fingers Rolly’s ‘Screaming In the Desert’ while to me were solidly-written stage pieces somehow didn’t capture the audience’s imagination. I thought long and hard in my basement apartment about what theater goers would want. A time period piece in the backdrop of the rough, struggling ‘prairie years’ would offer plenty of human drama to embrace. And out of these struggles, a ray of some hope, the promise of breakfast sandwiches to come perhaps, would be a sure fire hit. Also there needed to be spanking, lots of on-stage spanking, folks really get into that. So working with the center’s stage director, ‘Eggs And Bacon On The Prairie’ was born. I was particularly proud of the character of ‘Zachariah’, a young man with special visions (bumpkin maybe?) who sees the breakfast sandwiches in his dreams and will one day make them a reality to save the others.

The original cast, Zachariah is on the far right

The original cast, Zachariah is on the far right

With the writing of the screenplay being the easy part, the grueling task of auditions were up next. The two-day process was filled with lots of singing, dancing, laughter, tears and one unfortunate challenge. The stage director was ultimately pleased with the casting, I was just concerned about the proper actor to play the Zachariah role. Honestly, I found it hard to focus on all the little details of the production especially with the selections of catered food and vending machines in the performance center. But I knew the play was in good hands with this director- we shared the same vision and he promised me none of the spanking scenes would be cut.

Of course, nothing ever goes to plan. With production in full swing, the sets being built and the actors learning their lines, the stage director mysteriously left and never came back. The Chairmen of the Performance Center needed me to fill in until another director could be found. Well, we all knew this was going to be a disaster but no one could even begin to fathom how badly it would turn out. Everything spiraled out of control quickly, the actors (even though they were just community players) tried to change their lines and wanted the spanking scenes eliminated. The dude playing ‘Zachariah’ said he couldn’t find the character’s ‘voice’ and could not understand how the breakfast sandwich visions were such an integral part of the show. Within only a few hours to go until opening night, the entire original cast walked off. After calming my nerves at the vending machine (they had some excellent barbecue pork rinds) I had no choice but to have the stagehands take over the roles. These guys were VERY uncomfortable not only with acting in general but also with dressing as women and spanking each other. Yet, they agreed to take on the roles and I had to admire their dedication to making this screenplay work. The down side was that the set creation had to take a back seat plus with their lack of stage skill I had to cut back on a lot of the dialogue and improvise a few more spanking scenes.

​One of the many spanking scenes.

​One of the many spanking scenes.

The next day, the Chairman approached me by the vending machines. He was not happy with what he saw.

“The story didn’t make a lot of sense to begin with but I have no idea what’s going on now. Seems to me a lot of men in drag paddling each other with some other guy running around holding his head yelling about breakfast sandwiches. Now, I have nothing against new wave theater but this just doesn’t have a place in our performance center.”

He was back a little while later with some crazed-looking woman sporting a big afro which I was pretty sure was a wig. “Bri, this is Lizzie Starlight. She is a very renowned stage director (I had never heard of her) with years of successful shows (I had never heard of them) and I think she is the best person to take this shambles over. We have a very short period of time to get this back on track and make it a hit. Please sit down with her and see what can be salvaged.”

Things did not start out very well- she just didn’t see eye to eye with my vision. I tried to tell her that even though most things had gone downhill the original story was still solid. Flipping through the screenplay Lizzie shook her head. She said the play needed a major overhaul for it to work. She still thought it should take place on the prairie but advised that the play should focus on the character of Zachariah. “It should be of Zachariah coming home after a day of hard work in the fields and going to sleep. They play should center around his dream, it will be a MARVELOUS dream!!  He will meet and encounter colorful and delightful characters that can only come from a vivid imagination. All these creatures will help to form his understanding and love of breakfast sandwiches. He could also travel into the future and bring back the sandwiches from some wondrous space city.”

​Lizzie Starlight, did not share my vision.

​Lizzie Starlight did not share my vision.

Even though I did like the breakfast sandwich aspect remaining in the play, I had a hard time understanding how the dream would work. The dream seemed somewhat goofy not like the powerful visions I had originally written. I made two points– one, the Chairman not liking ‘new wave’ theater and two, the disastrous ‘onion dancing dream’ scene in Brock’s play. She was very stubborn like me in the creative process and did not acknowlede my concerns. I huffed off for some more pork rinds (major kudos to the person for keeping the the Performance Center’s vending machines fully-stocked).

The next day Lizzie was there early and had the sets changed with the dream creatures brought in. I had to salvage some aspect of my original work so I talked to her about some of the spanking scenes. We agreed to include a part where Zachariah would enter a ‘terrifying nightmare’ in which he would encounter a mass spanking going on in a field. Lizzie thought the scene would show ‘the limitations of simple joy and wonder in adult people’– I just thought people would like it.

The dream creatures Zachariah will encounter.

The dream creatures Zachariah will encounter.

After coming back from getting my ‘daily rinds’, I sat back and watched the production start to take shape. I had to admit she did have a strong presence about her and took firm control of the production. I even found myself chuckling at a few scenes where Zachariah meets a few of the dream creatures. I felt comfortable chiming in on some technical aspects of breakfast sandwiches that they were getting wrong.  Even though this was a long way from my original intent, I feel like part of my voice is still in the play and I back this show 100%. So if you are looking for some upcoming weekend good times stop by the Pondicherry Performance Center and catch the show!  Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. ‘Good fluffy’ seats up front-$22.50 (comes with a free foot message coupon for ‘Al’s Foot Rubbin’ Palace’) or $4.50 for the rickety rusted gym seat (no coupon). I will keep you updated dear readers on how the first weekend goes! Until next time, please keep your mind and mouth open to new ideas. Happy Eating!!-Bri

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