Sunday, March 29, 2009

Join Captain Santa’s Reindeer Space Patrol!

Playlab NYC is looking for a composer/lyricist or an existing songwriting team to collaborate with Artistic Director, Kevin P. Hale on a nostalgic 1950’s Ed Wood-esque Sci-Fi holiday musical.

Playlab NYC’s intention is to develop a signature Christmas show, that can be mounted annually Off-Off Broadway.

At Playlab NYC, we create, support, and perform absurdly enjoyable amusements that unleash the imaginations of artists and audiences by engaging them in the spirit of play. Our goals are to create spaceships out of cardboard boxes, recruit mops for dance partners, and turn blankets into capes. Our motto is, “Taking fun way too seriously.”

Applicants are asked to provide a recording of two contrasting songs; please include a short introductory set-up for each song.

Include a resume and a brief statement why you would like to collaborate on the project.

Leading contenders will be asked to write a sample song based on a scene from an existing rough draft of the script.

Email applications to:

Or send hard copies to:

Playlab NYC

P.O. Box 5838

Astoria, NY 11105

No Pay.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Theatrical Piracy: With Mat Lageman

NOTE: This was originally published on Harshman’s Adaptive Theatricality Blog on January 31, 2009.

For me the spring day in 1993 when Mat Lageman presented his Star Wars infused scene from Hamlet is a day that lives in infamy. Without the aid of action figures, Mat became an unknown forbearer of both Twisted Toyfare Theater and Robot Chicken.

Twisted Toyfare Theatre is a comic strip that began appearing in 1997 in the pages of Toyfare Magazine. The magazine’s staff creates each month’s strip by photographing action figures on sets that they have built themselves. The comic is known amongst comic and toy collectors for its bizarre humor and pop-culture references. An early strip (seen below) included Spiderman giving readers lessons on the Macarena.

The Emmy award winning animated series, Robot Chicken has its roots in Twisted Toyfare Theatre, as more than one Twisted Toyfare Theatre writer has joined the staff of Robot Chicken. The Adult Swim series, which also features animated action figures, first aired on Cartoon Network in 2005.

The jokes on the stop motion animated series tend to fall into two categories. Placing fantasy figures into situations that are meant to shock the viewer into laughter, because the sketch is at odds with their established personas. These sketches usually have violent or scatological results. One episode revealed that Roger Rabbit was responsible for the murder of O. J. Simpson’s wife. The second involves pop-culture characters being placed in realistic situations. One sketch for example revolved around a group of super-villains who are stuck in traffic while carpooling to work.

Mat Lageman’s scene for Bob Hetherinton’s directing class similarly placed pop-culture characters into incongruous situations, this time classic literature.
In darkness, the ghost of Ben Kenobi speaks to Luke Skywalker, to rouse Luke to revenge. Appalled at the revelation that his father has been murdered, Skywalker cries out, “O my prophetic soul!” As the ghost disappears into the dawn, Ben says Shakespeare’s immortal line, “May the Force be with you.” Intensely moved, Luke swears to remember and obey the ghost.
Inspired by recent viewing of Robot Chicken’s second Star Wars episode, I contacted Mat last month to see what he remembered of that day.

HG: Where did the original idea for your Star Wars Hamlet come from?

M@: The idea came from of all things...THE LION KING. Watching that movie, I saw the Hamlet parallels and wondered: "What other Hamlet themes are out there that I missed?" The idea came like a thief in the night.... who.... brought a dime bag of pot with him.

HG: Which scene was it? I seem to think it was Hamlet's first meeting with the Ghost)

M@: Yep. First meeting with the Ghost. This is painful.

HG: Who were your partners in crime? Who was in your cast?

M@: Ray Nardelli played Hamlet/Luke Skywalker and Tim Shinner was Ghost/Ben Kenobi.

HG: How long did you rehearse it?

M@: We had 2 rehearsals. The only thing I wanted was Tim not to laugh on the line I added at the end: “May the force be with you.” The rehearsals were short and I wanted it to be serious...sadly they were more funny the more serious I had them be.

HG: Were Tim and Ray able to get through the scene with straight faces?

M@: Yes, but Tim smirked after the "may the force be with you" delivery.

HG: Was it in costume?

M@: Yes it WAS in costume. Tim was in a large brown robe with a collapsible lance, which was the “light saber”, and Ray wore a long white shirt with the robe's sash around it and a gun holster.... I cannot remember if he had the gun or not. I can't believe I remember as much as I do now...

HG: Maybe this was covered in the class critique, but I need to know: What were you thinking?

M@: This is exactly what I was thinking: a.) Can I Pull It Off? b.) Can I Get Away With It? c.) How Far Is Too Far?

HG: What was the class’ response to the scene?

M@: There was a resounding laughter when Tim said: “May the Force be with you.” There was a cackle of Charlie Clark. Ray Nardelli looked ashamed at what he did. Brian Fagan couldn't believe I messed with Shakespeare’s writing. What I walked away with feedback wise from that day was kudos for the attempt but “no, No, NO!” The overall response was: "Too Much!"

HG: Were you surprised by the laugher in the class?

M@: No. Not at all. It was a gamble and I thought it would come but I HAD to see if I could pull it off. There are times where no matter how many people will tell you the oven is hot that I still find myself waltzing towards the burner just in case they're wrong.

HG: And Bob Hetherington’s response?

M@: Bob Hetherington in his Bill Cosby sweater just shook his head and said: “There are levels in hell for directors like you."

HG: Earlier you said, "Sadly they [Ray and Tim] were more funny the more serious I had them be." Do you mean the more straight they played the scene the funnier the scene became?

M@: Yes. The more they played it straight the more funny it was. Some of the most hysterical scenes ever performed were done with absolute seriousness. Monty Python is a perfect example. The material is preposterous and silly but the delivery is committed and serious. Star Wars Hamlet or as I like to call it: The Denmark Strikes Back is silly...the idea is silly...the whole concept is absurd and obviously silly....BUT...I still touch the burner...

...just in case they're wrong.

HG: What grade did you get?

M@: D+ & the phrase: "This was an exercise in insanity & futility!" I was proud. It doesn't work and that should have been apparent from the start. It was a class. I fell so I could learn to fly. I abandoned the project but I had a whole cast list and everything. I will STILL do it one day as a joke and do a series called: 'Forbidden Shakespeare'

In the age of Twisted Toyfare Theatre and Robot Chicken and You Tube mash-ups what Mat’s Star Wars infused scene work from Hamlet is old hat. But for a select few (meaning me) what Mat had done back in 1993 was a revelation. That day inspired some of my own short plays, including “Master-Smurf Theatre,” and “Scooby Doo and the Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

I can’t help but wonder if Mat would get a better grade now that American culture has caught up to his way of seeing the world. It is with that mindset that I have recruited Robot Chicken in an effort to give you just a taste of Mat Lageman’s Hamlet!

"Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing/To what I shall unfold."

ABOUT M@: Mat Lageman is originally from Columbus, Ohio and he studied acting at Wright State University. After school he moved to Chicago to study Improv at Second City. While in there he performed in Flanagan's Wake (a Irish variation on Tony and Tina’s Wedding), and he was also a founding member of the Baum House Theater Company. Right around the time I made my own way to the City of Big Shoulders, Mat relocated to LA where he is currently an Ensemble Member of Improv Olympic's Mainstage Sketch Cast. His one big dream is to bring the soothing music of Motorhead to those who are lost and alone.