Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jerkology Recap

I did it. I finally put up my very own show. I wrote it. I directed it. I even performed in it a little bit. I did all sorts of other stuff, too. I organized box office workers, bought and organized the props, chose the pre-show, in-show and post-show music and I cleaned and shut down the theater every night after the show. It was fun and stressful and frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. I'm glad I did it. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Below, I'll break down each part of the process and give my thoughts on how it went, how it could be better and anything else I think of to say.

The writing process for Jerkology was very disjointed. When I decided that I wanted to write a sketch show, I didn't have a theme or general idea in mind. I just wanted to come up with the funniest sketches that I could and see if a theme developed. I had notebooks full of ideas and about three or four sketches that were already written when I sat down to write some more to try to fill out the show. The completed sketches that I had ranged in age from a few days to a year old. Therefore, I didn't have a single thread in mind and my sketches just came to me from random ideas that popped up in my life. For this reason, the writing felt less like a process and more like a series of individual tasks.

Once I thought I had enough sketches to make a show, I reviewed them all to see if a theme emerged. At first I struggled a bit because they all seemed completely disconnected. Once I started thinking about how the actors would play the characters in the sketches, I realized that I wrote parts for a bunch of jerks. Then I realized. This show is a study on jerks - jerkology.

I began organizing the sketches into a show-esque running order and realized that there was still something missing. I then wrote what ended up being the second and fourth monologues (named Time and Seeing) and wrote the closing song. Dee helped me choreograph an opening dance and I had a show.

The rehearsal process was fairly brief. We had about eight rehearsals and I was originally worried that it wouldn't be enough. After the first rehearsal where the actors were to be off-book, I knew that we wouldn't need any more than that. In hindsight, I wish that we had had one or two more rehearsals so that we could polish the material a little more even though the first show went very well.

My favorite part of the rehearsal process was watching Jason, Marty, Tristan and Aaron interpret the scenes and find their characters. They really didn't need much direction, but took direction very well when I gave it. Marty had a great idea on how to deliver his monologue and it went over very well with the audience and created the effect he had hoped it would. Jason provided the extra little bit that put You Stink over the top (and he wasn't even in that scene). Tristan provided the suggestion that lead to the idea of completely revamping Adopted from it's originally written form and turned it into a mostly improvised scene where Jason was the only one with any written lines and Marty just improvised. Aaron brought his magic to Deal or No Deal and Elephant Fucker as I knew he would.

In the future, I think I will take a little more time between the first reading and the first actual rehearsal to think a little more about the direction of each and every character in the scenes. I pretty much let the cast run free from the very beginning and I got the feeling that they were looking for a little more direction from me. They eventually got it where they needed it, but I think I could have saved some time by offering my vision a little earlier in the process.

Pre-Show Prep
Music and props. Those were the two big things I had to worry about before we could actually put this show on stage. Fortunately, this show didn't require many props so I didn't have to spend a lot of time looking around for things. Plus, the cast brought a lot of their own costuming to the show. I only had to buy a case and bald cap for Deal or No Deal, some tiny martini glasses for State School and Cheetos, Ho-Hos and a can of Coke for Junk Food Dealer. Anything else was brought by the cast.

Music was a different story. I had to find songs to play pre-show, between scenes and post-show. This was probably the hardest part for me as I struggled to find songs to follow up each scene. I don't have much else to say about this so I'll just include the entire playlist I used for the show:

Friend of the Devil - Grateful Dead
Hello, My Treacherous Friends - Ok Go
Italian Leather Sofa - Cake
The Slow Descent into Alcoholism - New Pornographers
The Dirty Glass - Dropkick Murphys
Hair of the Dog - Nazareth
Helter Skelter - Beatles
Song for the Dumped - Ben Folds Five
Chinese Bombs - Blur

In-show: (all songs are played during the transition between scenes unless otherwise noted)
Sabotage - Beastie Boys (opens the show)
The Safety Dance - Men with Hats (in scene)
Beat It - Michael Jackson (in scene)
Clap Hands - Beck
Pretty Vegas - INXS
We Can Work It Out - Stevie Wonder
Streetcorner Symphony - Rob Thomas
Toxic - Local H
We Are All On Drugs - Weezer
The Rockafeller Skank - Fatboy Slim
Bright Future in Sales - Fountains of Wayne
Juicy - Better Than Ezra
A Little Less Conversation - Elvis Presley
Accidentally in Love - Counting Crows
Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
Been Caught Stealing - Jane's Addiction
My Best Friend - Weezer
Naked Eye - Luscious Jackson
Walking On Sunshine - Katrina & The Waves
Song 2 - Blur
Illinois Loyalty - University of Michigan Band (in scene and transition)
So Long Farewell - From the Sound of Music

Get the Fuck Out - Skid Row
Get Over It - Ok Go
Root Down - Beastie Boys
Over the Cliff - Old 97s
Bury Me With It - Modest Mouse

I won't say too much about the performances here since you can go back and read all of the other Jerkology posts about each of the shows. The first show went very well and the audience loved it. Unfortunately, I had to perform all of Aaron's parts in the second show. That show got reviewed by Time Out Chicago ( and he pretty much hated it. Fortunately, the review didn't get published until the last week of the show. The run peaked in the second to last show which was easily our best show. Unfortunately, we couldn't sustain it for the last week.

In the end, I'm happy with the shows that we put up.

General Thoughts
I now know that the twisted shit that pops into my head is funny to other people, not just me. I think this show turned out about like I expected it to. It certainly wasn't a mega-hit, but it definitely holds its own against some SNL episodes I've seen recently. I definitely have an idea of what I can do now. With little time and focus I know that I can create something even better.

Now I just have to get back to work.

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