Monday, October 04, 2010

None Of This Would Be Possible Without Hats

So you folks that are familiar with this Slapdash Flimflammery thing I was tweeting and Facebooking about last weekend can ignore this post, but several of you non-Austin peoples out there expressed some interest in what this was all about, so here goes. 

Back in 2002, Loaded Gun Theory Productions decided to try something a little nuts: writing, rehearsing, and performing a series of short plays in the span of 24 hours. And when I say performing, I mean up on stage, lines memorized, the whole deal. 10:00 on a Friday night, the playwrights lock themselves in the theater. Or they get locked in, depending on your perception. Each writer writes down a single line of dialogue on a note card. This will ultimately be the last line of the play they write. The cards are dropped in a hat and each writer picks, and whichever line they pick is the first line of their play. Picking of one's own card is not allowed. Then, for each actor that is signed up, a note card is placed in a hat, each of which simply says "M" or "F" for the actor's gender. Each writer draws three cards to see what genders they are writing for. So each writer has a first line, a last line, and three gender-identified actors to work with.

With this year being the seventh SDFF, a new element was tossed into the mix: the 7 deadly sins. Each of the deadlies was written on a note card and tossed into, you guessed it, a hat. Each writer chose one, which they were to use as a theme or whatever for their play.

From there, writers write all night, directors show up at 7 AM and draw a writer's name out of a hat to see which script they're directing. We won't even get into all the randomness involved in how they select actors. Actors show up at 8 AM and they rehearse all day, and it all hits the stage that night at 8 PM. Does it work? Let me just say that terms like "magic of the theater" were coined to describe experiences such as this. And this year was one of the best ever. Below is the play that I wrote between 10 PM Friday, September 24th and 6 AM Saturday, September 25th while seated among six other very talented writers. The sin I pulled out of that hat probably won't be hard to guess.

Pecking Order

Eleanor Goldenbelt stands on one side of the stage, prepping, primping, generally obsessing over her appearance. She is readying for her match, and she has a reputation to maintain as both the most beautiful and feared fighter ever to set talon in the ring. Every hair must be in place, every feather glossed and sheened to perfection. She stares at herself in the mirror with a predator’s intensity, turning this way and that, eyefucking her reflection for all it can take. 

On the other side of the stage stands Nancy Ray-Ray and her manager, Red-Bo. Red is holding up pads and Nancy is going after them in a series of combinations. When Eleanor speaks in this first sequence, it is towards her reflection. She trembles with fury.


ELEANOR
I....

NANCY
          Stops punching, sniffs herself
Should have showered today!

RED
A shower? Is that what you want, a shower?

          Red pops her in the head.

NANCY
Ow!

ELEANOR
I am so...

NANCY
I thought I was fighting a chick tonight, you old cock!

ELEANOR
...incredibly....

RED
This ain’t no chick you’re fighting, babydoll.

ELEANOR
...fucking...

NANCY
I’m just saying I stink is all.

RED
Yeah you do. You stink something awful. You’re nasty. Grimy. Disgusting.

ELEANOR
...beautiful!

RED
You got something rotten deep down in your breast that ain’t no shower gonna wash off, you hear me you cheap little bottom-of-the-pecking-order piece of garbage?

NANCY
I hear you, you old capon.

RED
Been hearing that since day one, ain’t that right?

NANCY
You know it.

RED
This bird you’re battling tonight--

ELEANOR
I am....

NANCY
Goldenbelt.

ELEANOR
Eleanor Goldenbelt.

RED
The Ten Gallon Talon.

ELEANOR
Undisputed...

RED
Fryer-weight champion...

ELEANOR
...of the galaxy.

          Eleanor does some shadow boxing.

RED
...of the Intergalactic Battle Circuit.

NANCY
Formerly undisputed, Red. There now exists dispute thanks to me.

RED
That fight was a draw, hence this rematch. Don’t get cocky.

NANCY
I knocked that egg-squatting whore down once, Red. I’m going to do it again.

ELEANOR
I’m going to pick your bones clean, Nancy.

NANCY
I’m gonna shove that bitch’s tail feathers so far up her twat, her next dozen eggs are gonna feel it.

ELEANOR
You hear me, you little McNugget? I am going to roast your ass on a spit.

Attention shifts to center-stage where a little boxing ring is setup, perhaps created out of folding tables laid on their sides....you know, just a suggestion. Two birds are in their opposite corners of the ring, eagerly awaiting the bell. It’s Nancy and Eleanor, but their parts are played by birds now. Not real birds, but prop birds, the ones in that pile over there. No there. Look where I’m pointing. Red is in Nancy’s corner with her.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
In the western corner, weighing in at an even six pounds, the current reigning champion of the galaxy, Eleanor “The Ten Gallon Talon” Goldenbelt!

Cheers and boos from the crowd. The Eleanor bird plays to the crowd like an old pro.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
And in the eastern corner, weighing in at five pounds, twelve ounces, the challenger, all the way from the bottom of the pecking order, Nancy “Free Range” Ray-Ray!

More cheers and boos.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
Ladies, to your corners.

The birds return to their corners.

RED
Remember, she comes out hard, but don’t let that fool you! She ain’t reckless!

NANCY
I got it, Red!

RED
And keep that beak tucked!

The bell sounds and the birds go after each other at full speed. The feathers fly and the ring fills with the sound of blows landing and angry squawks. Red watches anxiously from the corner, his fists balled up, calling out the occasional encouragement or admonishment.

The fight slows down until it’s moving in slow motion. At the same time, Red’s posture relaxes until he’s standing with his hands at his side and his face relaxed. He watches the fight for a moment, but without excitement. It’s like he’s watching something from the past, something to which he knows the ending.

RED
That night, I saw the future. I knew what was coming. Oh, she won the fight. Decisively. But with that KO, she lost everything.

In the ring, Nancy delivers a knockout punch and Eleanor goes down with a pained slow-motion “Ba-goooook!” The crowd roars its approval as Nancy, the human, holds the victory belt over her head and parades around the ring.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the new intergalactic fryer-weight champion of the Battle Circuit, Nancy “Freerange” Ray-Ray!

NANCY
          Throwing her arms around Red.
I did it, Red! I beat the ever-loving snot outta that old biddy!

Eleanor limps by, very injured, very beaten, very angry.

ELEANOR
This ain’t over, little egg.

NANCY
Hey Elly, your pants are falling down. Lose your belt?

ELEANOR
Keep talking.

NANCY
And you keep walking.

ELEANOR
I’m gonna roll you in batter and fry your ass up, Ray-Ray. Just you wait.

Eleanor exits.

NANCY
You know where to find me, bitch! Up top of the pecking order!

RED
Kid, listen--

NANCY
Smile for the cameras, Red!

Nancy smiles big for the cameras. Red gives a weak grin, but then ignores it. Nancy continues posing with the belt, flexing, etc., totally playing to the camera.

RED
Yeah, yeah, kid, listen to me. We gotta get back in the gym, we gotta start training, we gotta--

NANCY
          Talking to invisible reporters
It was a tough fight, you know, she tried to overpower me with her size, but I just kept coming at her, kept wearing her down, you know? Just like pow pow pow! You know?

RED
Kid, you even listening to me?

NANCY
It’s time to celebrate! We’re partying all the way back home!

Nancy exits.

RED
And party she did, all the way back home to Earth. But there was another hen on that ship.

Eleanor appears. She’s training hard, getting ready for the inevitable rematch. Eleanor and Red give each other the stink-eye.

ELEANOR
Looking at something, old man?

RED
Just an ugly piece of poultry.

ELEANOR
Hope your little hatchling’s ready for the rematch when we get back to Earth.

RED
Looking extra meaty there, Goldy. Getting a little help on the side?

ELEANOR
Next time I meet your girl in the ring, I’m gonna rip her beak off and feed herself to...her...I mean--

RED
You’re gonna what?

ELEANOR
I’M GONNA KNOCK HER EGGS RIGHT OUT OF HER AND SWALLOW ‘EM WHOLE!

Eleanor exits. Nancy appears, still in full-on party mode.

NANCY
Red-bo! This is the guy. Taught me everything I know.

RED
Well let me teach you this, kid. We don’t start training now, and I mean right now this very instant in time, then you don’t stand an egg’s chance in an omelette of holding on to that belt.

NANCY
Were you not watching that fight, Red? I destroyed that old feather factory and barely broke a sweat.

RED
You think she’s not getting ready right now, as we speak? The bird you meet in that ring is gonna be bigger, stronger, angrier--

NANCY
Oh Red, shut your fucking beak.

Smacks her.

RED
Don’t you ever--!

She punches him, taking him completely by surprise. It takes him a second to recover.

RED
Okay kid, if that’s how you wanna play it.

Attention directs back to the ring at center.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
In this corner, weighing in at nine pounds, three and one-half ounces, the former-champion of the galaxy, Eleanor “The Angry Egg” Goldenbelt.

The Eleanor bird appears, but it’s bigger this time. Roar from the crowd.

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE
And in this corner, weighing in at six pounds, two ounces, Nancy “The Deadly Drumstick” Ray-Ray!

RED
The Deadly Drumstick?

NANCY
I liked the sound of it.

The bell dings. The hens go after each other, the crowd roars, we hear the sounds of the fight.

RED
Eleanor had nearly doubled in size since that last fight. Nancy had put on some weight too, all of it fat. It was a slaughter.

Nancy goes down. The bell dings. Eleanor the human appears holding the belt high over her head for all to see. She walks as if her legs are having a hard time supporting her weight. Nancy the human stumbles towards Red, severely beaten. She falls into his arms and he catches her.

RED (cont’d)
Come on kid.

NANCY
Red.

RED
Let’s go home.

NANCY
          She grabs his face to make him pay attention and struggles to get the words out.
Red. Must. Beat. Her.

RED
You did beat her, sweetie. And then she beat you. It’s over.

NANCY
Rematch. Must. Kill. Must.

ELEANOR
          Posing for cameras and talking to invisible reporters.
Who I really feel for are the fans who wanted to see a good fight. I do this for them, you know. My opponent just wasn’t able to hold up her end.

NANCY
Must! Destroy! Belt!

ELEANOR
It’s obvious I must have been under the weather during our last match. There’s no way that little pheasant could beat me in a fair fight.

RED
That should have been it. Nancy should have gone back to Texas and bid her boxing career adieu. But there was just too much money at stake.

Nancy and Eleanor start training on their own sides of the stage. Pushups, running in place, jump-roping, shadow-boxing, whatever. In all their motions, it is clear that their legs are struggling to hold up their weight. Could we get some good workout music going here? That’d be awesome.

RED
The next match was scheduled for three months out, and the venue of choice was Patton Station, a civilian space terminal situated just outside the jurisdiction of any of the Earth system’s gaming regulatory bodies. Nancy trained like a chicken with her head cut off. She grew strong, freakishly, impossibly strong.

Red holds up pads for Nancy to punch. She punches them in a series of combinations until she finally hits one so hard that it knocks Red to the ground.

NANCY
BA-GOK! I’m gonna eat her eyes right out of her head! You hear me, Red?

RED
What are you up to now, Nance? Fifteen? Twenty pounds?

NANCY
Twenty-one pounds, two-and-three-quarter ounces.

RED
So what is it? Corn supplements? Liquid soy? Straight up ‘roids?

NANCY
What do you care, as long as I’m bringing home the belt?

RED
What happened to free-range, Nancy? Grass-fed? All-natural? Look at you. You’re industrialized.

NANCY
Industrialized to win.

RED
You can barely stand.

NANCY
I stand just fine, cockface!

RED
Have a good fight, kid.

Attention back to the ring. The birds are ridiculously-huge now. The crowd roars. The bell dings, but the birds are so big, they can barely move to fight. They peck at each other weakly. The crowd jeers and boos, egging them on to fight. The birds try to fight, but then just fall over. The human actors appear and fall to the floor. They lay next to each other, still trying desperately to stand and fight, to get at each other somehow, but it’s futile. Red watches for a bit, but then turns and exits.

NANCY
As soon as I--ba-gok!--get my feet under me, I’m going to--

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding! This fight is over and the crowd is pissed! Lots of booing, lots of hissing.

NANCY
Bok?!

ELEANOR
Oh god. Oh god!

She clucks madly.

NANCY

What’s the matter with you?

ELEANOR
You and me just fought our last fight.

NANCY
What are you talking about?

Red reappears with various chicken processing implements.

NANCY (cont’d)
Red, you gotta help me!

He hefts Nancy and Eleanor into position to be processed and begins plucking their feathers.

NANCY (cont’d)
Red, what are you doing?

RED
I’m sorry sweetheart, but it’s my duty as your trainer.

NANCY
But I’m a fighting hen!

RED
You done got yourself too big to brawl.

Red places her head on a chopping block and holds a large blade over her head.

NANCY
What are you doing?!

RED
I’m real sorry about this Nancy. Now down you go my little hen, down, down, down into the abyss with the rest of us sinners.

Red brings down the blade. Blackout.

6 comments:

sybil law said...

Hahaha! I love it!!

It would also be a kickASS cartoon!

Didactic Pirate said...

Love it. The experience sounds awesome. You Austinites do the coolest stuff.

Homemaker Man said...

That was wicked fun. The whole thing sounds like a blast.

sweetney said...

Dude, you fucking rule.

Judy Schwartz Haley | CoffeeJitters.Net said...

You rock

Bri said...

this was great. sometimes you scare me, though. but in a good way.