Saturday, April 14, 2012

STAGE: The Pinocchio Project

This was the fifteenth full-length play Dad and I have written for Hyland.
The play deals with a group of drama students at Bergen University. They are told that they drama department is going to be shut down. Desperate to save their program, they convince another group of students to help them out by letting them use a robot as their leading man in the upcoming play. Complications ensue.
In November of 2011, Dad and I discussed various ideas, not really settling on anything specific except the idea of the story built on university drama students.
Part of what we do is ask the Hyland students for input about what the roles they would like to play. Among the many suggestions, Tim Andrews mentioned he would like to play several different characters. This led to the idea of a robot.
We worked on the outline during Christmas break, trying to flesh out the story by developing the characters.
We quickly decided that Act I would begin with a badly done play and end with the same play (with the robot in the leading role). Act II was still pretty fuzzy.
In the end, we decided on several somewhat climactic scenes.
After the initial Act II Scene 1 set-up, this was followed by a multiple robot attack, then the main robot breaking through a wall, finishing with an all-out robot fight for the last scene.
Most of the script was written towards the end of December, just in time for a read-through of Act I during the first week of January.
Then it was all full-speed until the end.
Often we would be putting the semi-final touches on a scene a few hours before printing it up and handing them out to the actors. Definitely under the wire.
We sent the rough draft to Scott Anderson, who has a degree in artificial intelligence. He helped us make are jargon a little more authentic.
There was many complications to make the rehearsal schedule challenging. Snow and basketball interfered quite a bit. We also set a record for injuries. A.J. Javellana gave himself a bloody nose demonstrating how to throw yourself up against a metal trash can. While helping paint the set, Beth Andrews stepped off the stage. My nephew Caleb Oehlert was the lead and had knee surgery two weeks before the final stretch. We worked his limp and cane into the story. But Emmy Oehlert ended up with two concussions. I was very happy that everyone was alive and well enough to do the play. I would have been bummed for them if they had missed out. And of course, although we had already been taking many precautions and many of the injuries were due to flukes, much bonus extra caution will be a part of further productions.
The final result was wonderfully performed by the actors.
One particular special-effect involving the removal of the robot head when extremely well.
Mark Phillips wrote the music for the production and then put it on iTunes.


We built new flats.
We destroyed seven pieces of drywall.
The actors played music from the 80s in the dressing rooms (Journey, Queen, Rush, etc).
The Latin phrase on the school seal means “I’m a real boy.”
We finalized the exact details of the ending about a week before the performance.
All the music has song titles based on robot concepts from famous sci-fi books or movies.
We broke the rules by having an additional unexpected climactic scene in the last scene.
The working title was Man Number Five.
There are several puppet or Pinocchio terms in the first scene (unattached, pulling strings, etc.)

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