Monday, Feb. 16, 2009

Berzerking on a Sunday Afternoon

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Having finally cleared away enough time for a Sunday afternoon, I decided to work on my script for this Saturday’s upcoming BERZERK!!! show. The premise behind the show, co-presented by DIY outfits Insurgent Theatre and Alamo Basement, is a program featuring a bunch of shorts with scripts that were all written in ten minutes. The playwright receives a line drawn from an established work of fiction—sent by email from Alamo Basement co-founder Mike Q. Hanlon. Having read the line, the playwright has ten minutes to crank out a complete script. The finished work is presented at the program.

Hanlon had some difficulty getting in touch with me at first, so the short I was to write was simply a back-up for this week’s program, guaranteed to show up in the March BERZERK!!! if it doesn’t make it in this month. Having received a press release from Insurgent Theatre co-founder Ben Turk, I know in advance that the lines for this month’s BERZERK!!! are all drawn from Shakespeare. Feeling that this somehow taints whatever I’m about to write, I decide to make the BERZERK!!! writing experience a bit more complicated for me. I’ve chosn to place Hanlon’s email on a Microsoft word document assigned a random number
Then I chose lines at random from a much more contemporary work of pop fiction I’d written about for an entirely different piece of writing and  placed the lines on other word documents, assigning them all random numbers. Having shuffled the documents thoroughly, I will work on a ten-minute script for each line of text hat comes up until I finally arrive at Hanlon’s email. This’ll give me some warm-up time, but I won’t know how much. Hanlon’s email could come-up first or tenth. A worst, this’ll take me some two hours to finish. Here goes . . .

4:00pm
I get a line from the novel—“I think I’ll eat now.” It prompts an image I’ve had in my head about a couple of guys back to back with guns . . . nothing really develops, but it DOES give me some kind of idea what to expect from the ten minute time frame . . . Bob and Rob is the resulting short. The end is pretty clear . . . the end is the line I’ve given myself to work with.

4:30pm
The line I get reads like this: "No, you don’t."  Okay, so it’s vague, but it sounds good. This time, my mind is clear enough that I manage a really fresh interaction between two people. Like much of the rest of what I’ve written in the past, it’s a simple dialogue between  two people. Wouldn’t’ve expected the yo-yo to show-up, though.



4:45pm
Hanlon’s emails till hasn’t popped-up. This time the line is “your hair looks like a haystack.” This time, the short is considerably darker than the last one. I’m getting more of  a handle on how to crank out a ten minute script with beginning, middle and end, but by now I’ve spent over a half hour working on these things and I’m starting to feel something of a creative fatigue . . .



5:00 pm
Another line from the novel, which I remember being more than a it repetitious. This one is, “I shouldn’t have to run away.” I’m hoping to try something a little different with this one . . . and it ends up being quite a bit darker, This may very well be the first soap-opera styled bit of writing I’ve ever done . . .

5:15pm
The Hanlon e-mail finally comes-up. The line? “Nothing will come of nothing,” which strikes me as something of a pseudo-religious mantra of some sort. The resulting bit is kind of weird, but fun. I find out later on the next day that In Darkness will, in fact, make it to the stage next Saturday night, as a couple of scheduled writers had failed to make the deadline.

Insurgent Theatre/AlamoBasement's BERZERK!!! arrives at the Alchemist Theatre Saturday, Febuary 21st.

 

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