Sunday, July 13, 2008

Theatrical Piracy: Beautiful Stories

So over the Fourth of July weekend my wife Jessica and I took the girls to my parents’ house in Ohio. A visit Gran’ma and Gran’pa sort of thing.

I was in the basement looking though my warped water stained comic collection. A side note to comic collectors: Don’t store you comics in the basement, especially basements prone to flooding during summer rainstorms. Fortunately the “important” comics, the Daredevil Born Again arc, Watchmen, Electra: Assassin, and Ronin had long since left my parents’ house. So I was left quietly mourning for my Spiderman issues of the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline, and Secret Wars. It was a pity about the loss of GI Joe issue 21 though.

It was in the basement that I reconnected with the inspiration for one of my first forays into the dark underbelly of theatrical plagiarism:
Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. Written by Dave Louapre and drawn by Dan Sweetman, BSFUG was not a very traditional comic. The two dozen or so issues published in the early 1990’s were self contained short stories with illustrations, published in comic book form.

It has probably been fifteen years since I looked at those comics. Looking back on them, I see that what appealed to me about the stories were that most of the issues felt like little one acts. Single set, and only a couple people. So that is exactly what I did with an unauthorized (Do I have any other kind?) adaptation of a couple of issues of the comic back in college.

Issue #12: “Beneath the Useless Universe” was a variation on Death Takes a Holiday. With Death becoming a houseguest who over stays his welcome in the home of an elderly African-American man with the weathered face of a Delta Blues musician. Death learns to use a yo-yo and tries to name the old man’s pet goldfish.

Of course we didn’t have any male African-American students in the theater department let alone elderly ones, so you would have had to use your imagination watching the show.

Issue #14: “Dangerous Prayers” was the story of a woman who wakes up one day and decided that she isn’t going to get out of bed anymore because the world is too…well, I don’t really remember why she didn’t feel like getting out of bed.

The illustration that really drove the shape of the “Dangerous Prayers” script was a picture of the woman in bed surrounded by a bunch of men with leaf blowers. The illustrations made the outside world such an intrusion in her interior world. I conceived of a Greek chorus that was ever present in her bedroom acting as her answering machine, her radio, the people at her job, etc…

BSFUC was the first and last directing effort, to the best of my knowledge, of Playlab NYC's Managing Director, Jennifer Wilcox. The show’s ensemble cast included in its numbers Playlab NYC Artistic Director, Kevin Hale, who gave up acting shortly after the show. Come to think of it, in retrospect it seems to have nearly driven both Jennifer and Kevin right out of theater all together.

The show ran for two performances, and there doesn’t seem to be much incriminating evidence that survives. Nothing I could find, no pictures, no scripts. I did come across a program though…written on a typewriter.

I recall toying with doing a second night of one-acts the next year. I was pretty keen to tackle Issue #10: “Where the Tarantulas Play.” A love story set against a failing petting zoo in the desert was a personal favorite. But it wasn’t to be.

Gosh looking back at these I wouldn’t mind tackling the adaptations again…

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