Concerning Revenge From The Sea's third Voyage and Complications
overcome to achieve said Venture, viz; the slothful Saboteurs and irrational
Accords endured by our valiant Crewe in their Pursuit of theatrical
Grace. With certain Names altered to protect the easily butthurt...
In most cases no single actor can save a show yet any one actor can ruin it. When someone screws up during performance somebody else has to cover for them and a painful truth of theatre is that the one doing the covering is usually perceived by the audience to be the one screwing up. For this reason most troupers are wary of going onstage with anyone they suspect is unprepared, or incompetent. Yet it's a pirate's lot that such situations will occur..
|Lazarus drew the invite cover for the third cruise.|
i'd never believed that talent or experience mattered as much as reasonable intelligence and a work ethic. To show up at the requisite time and make a good-faith effort to do the work was all i asked. If anyone drank liquor during rehearsals i wouldn't give them some soberer-than-thou rebuke, most pirates drank, as long as they knew their lines and blocking it didn't matter. Lazarus came to rehearsals sober but he would be drunk during performances. i still considered him one of the better performers though because he never complained about things and there were certain lines he could deliver better than anyone else, like the definitions. Whenever any character used an obscure or uber-nautical term that the landlubbers in the audience wouldn't understand, (i.e., Moses Law, Keel-hauling, Rosary of Pain, Marooned, etc.) Lazarus would follow by defining that term for everybody. But whether he remembered the definitions depended on how much he'd drank, and there was no way to predict that.
|Bastard and Wolf.|
In Sea of Darkness 3 my character, Mr. Crow, insists the reason they've all been lost at sea for three years is because the crew's refusal to stop frigging has lost them favor with the Lord. Lazarus stepped forward to define the word "Frigging."
But Lazarus had some difficulty with the line:
Here's Lazarus blowing his line at the final rehearsal,
yet still not nearly the worst actor in the show.
After Lazarus blew the line four times at our final shipboard rehearsal i tore that page out of the script and pasted just the one line on the side of his tankard. During the show he held it blatantly in view of everyone yet still read the line incorrectly. He didn't break character at all though and the crappy delivery came across so natural it didn't detract from the efficacy of the scene. No one really expected Lazarus to know his lines because he wasn't an actor; just a pirate pretending to be an actor.
|Lazarus eventually paid for his lack of preparation.|
Nobody is discouraged by a bad actor who is trying to do better, but the ones who don't even try are a poison to the morale of everybody else.
Two of this Idiot Faction were blatantly detrimental to the show. Their very presence was dispiriting to the people who were actually working. These wankers had nothing to offer yet felt entitled to be involved simply because they'd been around so long (that is, they were too dense to realize nobody liked them or wanted them around). You probably know their type: lazy, complainers, excuse-makers, takers of frequent cigarette breaks, habitual fomenters of gratuitous interpersonal drama, constantly affronted by irrelevancies, gigantic egos with irrationally high estimations of what they contributed to the shows. Eventually i outright fired these morons but in those days i had to make Faustian deals just so the shows could go on at all.
One of the Idiots, Monkeyass, (i'll just use the name the others used when speaking of him) had the line immediately following Lazarus definition of frigging:
i had triaged that line to Monkeyass because i knew that if he blew it (as i expected him to) Louie would be there to immediately deliver his own line and give Doxy her set up. The line could be omitted completely without effecting the scene at all. i didn't think the scene itself was funny though. When the crowd cheered and clapped for Doxy's line i attributed that to their drunkenness and her bawdy delivery. The "dumbing down" of the dialogue from Lazarus lengthy definition to Doxy's quick punchline seemed very obvious and downright uncreative. The joke was almost dependent on the audience being drunk.
Doxy Pox practices her delivery.i decided to reverse the concept: Rather than 'dumbing down' the joke we would 'wise it up.' Instead of reiterating an idea in ever simpler terms until the crew finally grasped it, we'd go the opposite direction and restate it in degrees of escalating complexity, finally culminating in a sesquipedalian gallimaufry of six-syllable words forming an overlong sentence our audience would be tortured to comprehend. It wouldn't be gibberish, it would convey a specific and clear idea, the logic would just be difficult to follow. Having established with the "frigging" joke that the crew were simpletons, this reversal of the approach would be unexpected and, hopefully, funny.
i worked hours on just the one line, an act of pure science: first listing a few dozen five and six-syllable words then struggling to cram as many of them as possible into a single sentence which conveyed a definable thought. Wolf was the only one i trusted could handle the line. i presented him the page of script as a challenge to his thespianic skills. i didn't actually think this would challenge him -he'd been an actor since he was five years old and starred on Broadway at age six- but hoped if i expressed some doubt in his abilities he'd be inspired to excel all the further. (Yes, i really did read Dale Carnegie and remember some of it)
(the rest of the crew express their sudden comprehension as well)
Here's Wolf getting it ALMOST perfect in the final, shipboard rehearsal.i construed Wolf's long line as a balloon being blown up to complete fullness as he delivered the words, the words filling it to nigh bursting, followed by a half-second pause and then: "Oh, I get it!" spoken fast, like a pinprick, bursting that fat balloon in a loud, sudden POP!
But Bugger didn't POP the balloon as intended. No, he just let the air out of it steadily, gradually. He didn't quickly proclaim: "Oh, I get it!" Instead he said: "O-o-o-o-o-o-o-oh, I-I-I-I get it..." Rather than the punctuating 'POP!' it was just a slow deflation to nothing followed by the others who had waited for him to finish before they piped in with their own lines. Instead of a gloriously shocking loud noise followed by laughter, Bugger's delivery left us with just an empty balloon, limp and wasted. He may as well have been a deliberate saboteur.
Why had i cast this undisciplined moron? Oh yeah, because he had whined and begged to be in the show and -idiot that i was- i pitied him. My bad. My very, very Bad. i learned from this experience that an effective director must be Without Pity for anyone or anything except the show itself.
My mission now was to thwart the Idiots so that the competent people could shine. To save the joke somebody else would have to deliver the line. But Bugger wouldn't just forfeit his dialogue to another, better, actor. He was difficult. A Four Star General of the Butt-Hurt Brigade, he would pout and be a bitch about things and slow down the rehearsal process with his bullshit when we were too close to the performance date to waste time dealing with nonsense. i had to be crafty.
On the very last day of rehearsals, after weeks of insisting the performers not step on one another's lines, i took Doxy Pox aside during a break and told her: "i need you to betray one of your fellow actors."
"What do you mean?"
"i want you to step on his line, to actually say it before he does. Quicker, and louder too, than he does. Steal the punch from him before he ruins it."
"Hell yes, I'll do it. He sucks and he's an a**hole!"
i didn't even have to explain which line i was referring to, she knew.
"Don't do it in this rehearsal though. Wait until the actual performance so he doesn't know it's going to happen."
"Thank you," i whispered. "You're saving the show."
One of the setup lines got blown and other things went wrong but Wolf delivered his line perfectly (people even applauded) and Doxy Pox came in just in time, loud enough to follow it to maximum effect. So the joke worked, mostly, and the show was saved.
Mary Widow had printed up two documents on parchment paper, one of them affirming that Wolf had, indeed, delivered his line correctly and awesomely "..as witnessed by all of the crew." the other declaring that Wolf had "royaly screwed up and failed" to deliver the line. We intended presenting one or the other to Wolf after the performance to commemorate his success or failure.
We got about half the crew to sign them, thinking the rest could sign on the ship. But the 'success' paper got misplaced and left ashore.
"Damn!" i said, "Wolf won't get his commemorative document."
"Unless he blows the line," said Mary. "I still have the 'fail' one." So Mary went about the crowded ship, dodging drunken pirate-folk, surreptitiously getting the rest of the crew to sign it.
Wolf, of course, delivered the line perfectly, ergo it was with some apologies that we had to present him with a parchment proclaiming his complete and utter failure.
Oh well. Sorry, Wolf.
A few years later that original parchment, the 'success' one which had been left ashore, turned up in a pile of documents betwixt D.B. Cooper's birth certificate and William Kidd's privateering commission. Behold: