Saturday, December 17, 2005

The (Second Annual) Cold Comedy Concoction

Stark Raving Theatre
December 16, 2005; closes January 14, 2006

An audience-pleasing diversion not unlike a good winter squall: voluble anticipation swirling around shiny-object flakiness ultimately dissipating in light of day. Deep: slick but formulaic; Squirrels: unfinished foreplay; Pizza and End: onto something. Good clarity, pacing, well cast — so surprising that four directors with diverse premises yielded such homogenous shouting.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you elaborate on "unfinished foreplay?"

Follow Spot said...

Anonymous 4:04 a.m.:

Insomnia, eh? But to your question...

I thought it was fun to see what the pemise could get away with, but personally didn’t feel there was a compelling, well-rounded story with satisfying resolution. Interestingly, my not-in-the-biz companion thought this was best of the four, though he also added that it wasn’t crafted as well as Day.

Follow Spot said...

whoops -- of course "pemise" should be "premise" -- heh ....

Anonymous said...

They're just trying to hard.

Anonymous said...

While I really appreciate what Stark Raving does, it reminds me of Triangle. Serving a purpose and successful with its own niche.
Unfortunately, for me, the niche just comes across as a juvenile one, filled with artistic choices (like Triangle) that I might have made when I was quite young and green.

My bigger concern, though, is that for a company whose real niche is that of new play development -- *this* is the best they can come up with? Out of all the new work available to them, this is the best that's out there? How can that be?

And I ask this not to be mean-spirited, but peformance and production values aside, compare the actual writing with new plays being done at other venues in Portland alone (far less other parts of the country), and the discrepancy, at least to me, is, well, stark.

Is it just me, or what does this say about the temperature of new play development today?

Bonnie said...

more divergence of opinions .... compare Followspot and mercury with Oregonian and WWeek .... fascinating ...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it. I don't think this festival was meant to be a showcase of fantastic new work, but rather an opportunity for three nationally respected playwrights and one local student playwright to let loose and have fun within a specific framework. I'm not implying that half hour comedies are of necessity fluff -- in fact this group of plays arguably raises the issues of the disparity of medical procedures for disease versus vanity, the shattering of societal boundries to find true connection/love, a breakdown of the hero's journey, and the existential angst of being unwanted -- but that in that this is basically a Stark gimmick, and within those parameters the concept works. If this were all that Stark did, with a full season of gimmicks, then I would agree that they are not fulfilling their mission, but once a year it's fine.

miles m. said...

I had the exact same thought, the "THIS is the best they could come up with," writing-wise. Each play was sort of built on a gimmick, and the gimmick got old, for me, about 15 minutes into each piece. The fact that it is, for the most part, well-acted and slick, made watching bearable long after I'd lost interest in the story.

And what did "Pizza" have to do with winter?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:35

I can assure you that none of those issues that you eloquently assigned were ever part of any post-show discussion I had about these plays. Not once. And to read those larger issues into all this is stretching it, in my opinion. That may have been what the authors wanted to imply, but it just didn't come out in the writing or the production. I wish it did, though.

Also, referring to my "is this the best they could come up with" -- I meant as a whole -- the whole season -- or, well, the whole that I've seen, since of course we're only haflway throgh -- I didn't mean just CCC, but in the larger picture -- this is the best there is out there? or is it the best they can afford? or ... you know, it doesn't even have to be the best that's out there, but I'd like to have some clear idea of why an audience should care about the choice they made -- i mean, they might say ,, oh sure, this may not be the most subtle, exquisite thing with the most to say, but it is interesting because -- and we are exploring this because -- and you should care because of .... X.

And just that it's plain funny -- without any social commentary -- is a very fine "X" in my mind, by the way. Which would fit this Stark "gimmick" -- funny for funny sake. So then I ask you -- this was the funniest-for-funny-sake that's out there?

Follow Spot said...

How any company curates its season is one of the most fascinating things to me. Watch for this very subject to come up in a Followspot profile coming later this spring.

Matt Zrebski said...

I rarely comment in a public forum such as this, because I am deeply troubled by anonymous postings and/or reviews. I've had endless debates about this with my colleagues and there seems to be a 50/50 take on the issue - so perhaps that can be another discussion...

I will say a few things here; one of SRT's key staff members brought this strain to my attention, and I figure what the hell, I'll bite. I want to make clear that CCC is not a selection of scripts, but a selection of writers who are then commissioned. That some are not enjoying the resulting work is sort of out of my control. I appreciate the opinions; we often divide our audiences...I think new work often does. But I doubt many can question the resumes of the three professional playwrights chosen this year. Ebbe Roe Smith, Amy Wheeler, and Ellen K. Anderson are widely respected and have achieved great success around the country and in Ebbe's case - also on screen. Andrew W. Metcalf is a student who worked very hard on developing his craft for seven months to get to this point - and sharing a young writer's progress is exciting to me, and so we produce it - and overall, our audiences love that we do. The divide in reaction to CCC2 is very similar to last year - The Oregonian gushed over Sam Gregory's Empirical, Followspot much preferred Karam's The Principal and the Pee, and The Mercury loved the student offering Mixed Messages. Audiences either loved or hated that Pee was a political piece on GWB...some want fluff - others demand satire. That's sort of what you get when you attend what is essentially a festival. Most find half the evening enjoyable with a few loving or hating it all. After only 3 performances of CCC2, people who have seen both years are split right down the middle on which year they preferred. I'm excited to see how CCC does in the future - to see how audiences rate each year. Reactions - both good and bad - are incredibly interesting to me.

I can't debate anyone's opinion over our choices for the 05-06 season. People are going to have opinions. Dreampuffs of Lorna divided everyone. And I knew it would when we chose it. But I think Jennifer Haley has a streak of absolute genius in her - the play had been work-shopped in Cincinnati as well as at Brown under Paula Vogel's guidance - and I felt it was time to offer this emerging artist a production to see where the play stands. I also find the play incredibly relevant. Act Two still needs some work - she's doing that now as I understand. What I think some fail to understand is that we are almost always doing the absolute FIRST full production - so the plays are not perfect - some are in dangerous territory - some are walking a line between truly inspired writing and major missteps - that's the risk of new work. And maybe some find our choices poor and lacking judgment. All I can say is Literary Manager and playwright Gretchen Icenogle is anything but "green" and that the season selection panel is made up of extremely well educated and experienced theatre practitioners. The process is tedious and takes six months of weekly meetings where hundreds and hundreds of submissions are sorted and read. In the case of The Mark, Gretchen took herself completely out of the process - she privately gave me her play to read - I brought it to the committee and said, "one of the best writers we've seen happens to be right here" and sure enough, her play was the only unanimous "YES".

Bottom line: there is a great deal of integrity in our process. A great deal of care goes into it by many qualified individuals. For the many "anonymous" - I hope you will consider no longer posting anonymously - and for everyone, I love email inquiries. I'm at matt@StarkRavingTheatre.org - and I'll happily engage in a dialogue and listen to questions and concerns.

I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend.

Warmly,
Matt Zrebski

MM said...

When I go to Stark, I always think of it as a special opportunity to see a work-in-progress, a workshop, if you will ... And in that, there's a special sense of collaboration, even as an audience member. A special sense of patronage, if you will, that I am helping to foster something new. And with my help (as an audience member), I get to be part of the process.

Isn't that cool?

Ethel M. said...

Nathan Gale is a funny guy. He's got a good career ahead of him. I can't wait to see what he does next.

And as far as "anonymous" posting goes... We work in theatre, so how about we pick stage names so that we can know one anonymous from another?

Anonymous said...

Alright, Nathan. From henceforth your stage name can be Ethel....

Nathan G said...

No, that's not me! I swear! (However, I think my mom found out about the internet.)

miles m. said...

I would very much like to see a thread that addresses anonymous posting. It seems to be a topic that comes up continually, and frankly, I don't see why it's such a big deal. But I'll say more if an appropriate thread presents itself. As for this thread, Zrebski's contribution (if that, indeed, was Matt Zrebski) did shed some light on why the collection of plays was what it was, and I do respect the "new works" aspect of their particular mission statement.

miles

Nicole said...

That was, indeed, Matt Zrebski.

Addressing mm's comment, YES, our audiences are the first eyes on a full production of a particular work. Night to night the difference in audience reactions is fascinating to watch. It's good to hear that we do engage our audience not just as viewers, but as part of the process of developing these plays. Yea!

Nicole Gladwin
Stage Manager in Residence,
Stark Raving Theatre

Anonymous said...

Great actors soldiering through with mostly weak writing. High schooler's play was best of the lot. The increasing reliance on wacky sound effects and painfully home-made music (played at deafening levels) to create a mood otherwise lacking in the script is a disturbing trend at SRT and threatens to undermine a lot of what is good on stage. Again - the actors were great and did have some moments to strut their stuff.

Follow Spot said...

For those of you who don't read PDXBackstage ... There's now a discussion thread there regarding the benefits and drawbacks of anonymous posting, for those who are interested.

I'll continue to allow anonymous comments on this blog, though Nathan's--er, I mean, Ethel's--point is something to think about.

Nate said...

It's NOT ME!

miles monroe said...

Unfortunately, one can't post anonymously on pdx backstage, so the debate there is sort of a moot point. But it's very relevant here....

m.m.

Matt Zrebski, SRT said...

Anonymous said:

"The increasing reliance on wacky sound effects and painfully home-made music (played at deafening levels) to create a mood otherwise lacking in the script is a disturbing trend at SRT and threatens to undermine a lot of what is good on stage"

Ouch! Okay, bruised composer's ego aside... When you say "trend", my assumption is you've been witness to most of our season offerings. I'd love more specifics on your concern. I have been seriously looking at sound in the past two years and how we handle it, which is one of the reasons we now have the gifted Elias Foley as our Resident Sound Designer...this adds variety and "artistic shake-up" to the process which is terrific. Could you give a couple of specific examples as to where you felt the sound choices buried the intent of a particular script? And as always - it really is okay to sign your name. Ugh, the anonymous thing drives me crazy! But okay, dead horse... Thanks!

Joe Theissen said...

I REALLY wish that people would stop using WW, Mercury & Oregonian reviews as "supporting evidence" of their own opinions.

We can all read, and we choose to agree or disagree with these reviews.

In my humble opinion, there is no 'gospel' reviewer, certainly not at these publications. . . and if we could trump anyone's opinion by simply saying, well, the Oregonian liked it, so nyaa to you!", what would be the point of this blog?

Matt Zrebski, SRT said...

I scanned quickly, but where did anyone use those references as "supporting evidence" in this strain? There are papers mentioned but only in highlighting how diverse opinions have been. Maybe I missed something.

Joe Theissen said...

Consider my whining tangential. =)

You are correct - in this particular string, the 'reviews' were simply used to point out diversity of opinion. . .I think it is my knee-jerk rection, as I have seen it used elsewhere. . . so apparently I was merely proselytizing, unprovoked.

Mea culpa - I'll try to keep a lid on it. ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't see that Anonymous posting has been taken up in any separated thread, so this appears to be the place to address it.

I'm glad the Anonymous guise remains an option here, for now. I'm fairly dogmatic about signing my name to everything, and not disguising my headers, everywhere else on the Web, and I frequent a range of Usenet groups, Bulletin Boards, and discussion lists (almost none of them to do with acting or Portland theater). I've seen how anonymity on the Web can be a force for misunderstanding and outright abusiveness. I agree that setting out with the assumption that you will sign your name tends to make you choose your words with greater care.

But in this case, I think the option is useful, because of the politics. On PDXbackstage, posters have talked about "vindictiveness" in the theater world. I think that's too strong a word; however, if you manage to ruffle someone's features -- inadvertantly or by airing an honest opinion -- it might make him or her more likely to choose someone else to work with next time, given the choice. I'd like to be able to state when I feel someone's work in a particular instance might be less than we've come to expect, or even less than the script "deserves," without having that opinion come back to haunt me.

Consider this: If another actor auditioned for a role that you won, and then that person criticized you publicly in your performance of the role, would you be inclined to give that opinion just as much weight and consideration as if he had not auditioned for it . . . or had unsuccessfully auditioned for it and then praised your performance warmly? Ideally, you should, but I expect most of us would not. And that's perfectly understandable. How would you feel if no one else who read those critical comments was aware of the fact that the speaker had also wanted the role?

Ideally, we criticize a particular production by a certain director or theater because we would have liked to have seen it done better; we may even KNOW the person or company has done better in the past and thus we could have reasonably expected better in this instance. There is something positive at the heart of all critical commentary, ideally speaking -- and for the most part, I think we can see that in most of the remarks posted on this site.

But one still might like to shield oneself from potential resentment if someone takes a critical remark badly and can identify the speaker, such that future opportunities might be reduced.

miles m. said...

I think that was very well said and I agree completely. The nature of this forum means we are all working on the honor system. If people wanted to be malicious, this would be the place, and in more ways that just being anonymous. Egos are quite fragile, which, as anon pointed out, is completely reasonable. It's not an easy thing we do. Still, we need a place where we can give (and receive) honest, critical feedback without fear of preventing future opportunities. Right on.

-miles

Matt Zrebski, SRT said...

I appreciate the articulate post by "anonymous" and I can certainly see your point. I still think the importance of signing a name is great if we are to promote a community of constructive criticism. Let's go back to an initial post about SRT - not sure if this is the same anonymous or not...

"While I really appreciate what Stark Raving does, it reminds me of Triangle. Serving a purpose and successful with its own niche.
Unfortunately, for me, the niche just comes across as a juvenile one, filled with artistic choices (like Triangle) that I might have made when I was quite young and green."

This is not helpful - and let's be real, it borders on name-calling - at us and Triangle. It also lacks specificity. I wish so badly there were examples. Is everything juvenile? Do you feel our production standards are that of untrained artists and how so? What "niche" are you referring to? What show(s) made you feel this way?

My experience is "anonymous" posters often enjoy the broad generalization. And I don't know any dedicated artist who pays much attention to that. To be fair, it did urge me to respond - to clarify our inner-workings in hopes it would help others understand what we do; I think we have failed to fully articulate our process to the theatre community at large. But the comment itself offers little to help us assess the actual work. Now, a specific comment - a specific question - even if pointed - and signed by a colleague - I think most artists would take notice. And I sincerely doubt this "black list" threat. Feels like a myth to me.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I simply want to believe that our egos aren't so fragile - that an intelligent and critical dialogue can take place, free of worry for unwanted consequences.

Hmmmmmm.

Matt Z

Dan said...

Nathan, I sincerely hope that's not your real SS#. That is all the information identity thieves need to make your life hell, and they lurk everywhere. If that's your real #, I'd ask Mr. Followspot to remove it for you immediately, dude.

Follow Spot said...

Nate's or not, it was probably someone's social security number, so I deleted comment.

But here's the content of what Nate actually said (besides his SS#):

I, for one, appreciate the anonymity of deconstructive posts. You see, not only do I have a fragile ego, but a short fuse as well. The "anonymous" tag keeps from punching my fellow theatre brethren squarely in the face.

...

KIDDING! (...no, I'm not...watch yourselves...)

Nathan Gale said...

It wouldn't be the first time I ruined my credit for a laugh...

Erin Elizabeth Matley said...

Quoting:
"While I really appreciate what Stark Raving does, it reminds me of Triangle. Serving a purpose and successful with its own niche.
Unfortunately, for me, the niche just comes across as a juvenile one, filled with artistic choices (like Triangle) that I might have made when I was quite young and green."

This is not helpful - and let's be real, it borders on name-calling - at us and Triangle. It also lacks specificity.


Matty Z., the anonymous person was expressing an opinion; it doesn't have to be helpful. I have found opinions to be quite equally helpful and not, both depending on circumstance and the origin of said opinion (which, I realize, speaks to the anonymous debate).

I've been watching this thread grow ever longer and was not moved to post until I read what you wrote. While it would be lovely to have a purely helpful, constructive-criticism-only theatrical website focusing on Portland's theatre scene, this is not that place, nor does it have to be. Personally, I'm more interested in what people have to say about stuff than who said it, and if whoever's doing the saying doesn't want to add his or her name, that's his or her prerogative. This seems like a mountain out of a molehill that you're making, to me(although it is an intriguing debate). If you take exception to the principal of anonymity in criticism or on message boards, my advice would be to ignore it.

Beep-Beep said...

But let's take Erin's argument even further....

Let's say you're selling something that I want to buy, but you are making it in blue, and I hate blue.

While it is undeniably more helpful (especially for those who are of an artistic bent) to know why someone might not like blue, it is also helpful in itself simply to know that I don't like blue. In fact, I may not be able to articulate why I don't like blue other than to say I don't.

More may be better, but there's something to think about in whatever is voiced.

Statistishun said...

A more tangible concern is not knowing for sure how many "anonymous" posts come from unique sources. If there are 10 "anonymous" posts, there's no way to tell if 10 individuals wrote one each, if one person wrote all 10, or somewhere in between.

Matt Zrebski, SRT said...

Erin,

My "helpful" comment was somewhat in response to this quote from anonymous.

"Ideally, we criticize a particular production by a certain director or theater because we would have liked to have seen it done better."

I think this makes a lot of sense. Why post an opinion if there's no objective? The basic goal is to make theatre better. But general comments (i.e. I hate blue) don't yield much info for contemplation. If the idea is to make things better, then more specific commentary is needed...at least for me. And you said it yourself: "I have found opinions to be quite equally helpful and not, both depending on circumstance and the origin of said opinion (which, I realize, speaks to the anonymous debate)."

Exactly - the origin is often key.

As for making mountains...my point is still - people are far more likely to fully think through comments if they are going to sign their names. I'm not trying to make a mountain; it's simply something I feel deeply about.

But you're right - this site may not be the place for what I want - point well taken!

And Erin, thanks for signing your name!

Matt Z

nathan g said...

But can you believe they removed my social security number? I think we are all missing the big injustice, here...

Anonymous said...

I wonder though -- are we also seeking out further contemplation of overly general compliments as much as we do of overly general criticisms?

Perhaps SRT does, becuase that's their biz -- development -- but what about the rest of us?

Joe Theissen said...

Erin has a great point about taking opinions at face value, regardless of the source. Not that some folks aren't more. . .uh. . .creditable than others, but the compulsion to know WHO is agreeing/disagreeing with you seems a bit paranoid to me.

It's like an actor blaming a Philistine audience for not appreciating his performance. One of the cool things about this site is that people can be comletely honest - even if they are a complete neophyte and have no real basis for critique, I'm a firm believer in the notion that audience response, good or bad, should be taken into consideration. (Even if the considering is quite brief and yields only tut-tutting)

That said, I agree with Statistishun - at least being able to distinguish among the 'anonymi' would be nice. That way at least there could develop a discrenable sensibility or 'personality' if you will, with which to put things into some context - and in the event that an ongoing discussion thread ensues, you would know that you were engeged with the same person, and not a different 'anonymous' each time.

It's pretty easy to make up a name, even if it's nonsensical.

nonsensical said...

Here, Here!

miles monroe said...

Well, when people are giving their responses and opinions to shows, they become, (as mentioned before) no matter how uneducated or inexperienced, a reviewer of sorts. (Incidently, wasn't Followspot's identity a mystery for some time?) But we all know how reviewers are reacted to. We saw, not too long ago, the reviewer for the W.W. called "shallow" because of her review of a particular show. And I can't tell you, nor do I probably need to, the things that just get said about reviewers amonst casts when they need to try to bolster their own self-esteem after a bad review.

It makes sense. It's difficult to put yourself out there at all, and when you fear that an audience is going to be extra scrutinous or whatnot, because of a negative review, it makes it that much harder. So naturally, it's difficult not to feel resentment. Or be hurt. I have worked with at least one person who said, in all seriousness, that a certain reviewer hated him, simply because he'd been given a bad review.

I agree with Matt that reviews should have an element of constructive criticism, no matter how rare it seems to be that the constructiveness of criticism is applied by those at whom it is aimed. But ultimately, it's not a matter of literal "black-balling," so much as reviewers so often get treated like the enemy, and the community doesn't want the dissent to be coming from inside the house, if you will.

I also agree that, if you don't want to sign your real name, a fake name helps keep people sorted out.

-miles

Anonymous said...

Aside from the issue of telling one anonymous from another, which IS desirable, I don't see the issue with anonymous posting. Obviously no one wants to see malicious postings that use the cover of anonymity to grind axes. But those attacks have a way of backfiring if you believe in karma. I really liked the point about when was the last time someone demanded to know who made an anonymous good comment, i.e., "I loved the show." I don't know if I have ever seen someone demanding to know who was the anonymous author of a glowing comment. Why would you? This shows the real issue here is not anonymity, but rather the content of the comment. Someone makes a critical comment, our ego gets dinged, the natural human response to fight back is "Hey! Who the heck WAS that!?" All of us should focus on the comment and not the individual. A dumb comment is a dumb comment, whether it was written by Ben Brantley or anyone else. Comments that have no basis in reality or are extreme will likely be dismissed by the group. But it's those close to home comments that touch a nerve (because obviously there is something there) and get people going! That means the comment had some validity. Whereas if someone writes "I would rather be dragged over hot coals and then run over by a truck than see this show" no one (sane) will respond.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, I saw that exact show that you're talking about....

La Foi said...

It's funny, because I actually DID leave a positive review on this site a while back, anonymously. I don't even know why I wanted to be anonymous. I just did. But the funny thing is I was talking to someone a few days later, and out of the blue she asked me if I'd written that comment. Because it 'sounded like me'. I thought this was fascinating. Apparently no one is as anonymous as they think. Especially in a theatre/ performance community as small and interwoven as Portland's.

Having said that, is there another topic we can rip into that's more interesting than this anonymous issue? Let's talk about critics and whether or not they make a damn bit of difference! Let's talk about what kind of critique WOULD be welcomed in our fair city! In addition to followspot, of course.

Liz said...

Let's talk about critics and whether or not they make a damn bit of difference!

I came across a quote last night that I really like about this issue - it was an article on visual art, not performance, but I think it applies -- "I believe an art critic can help educate the public about art, pointing out patterns of continuity, explaining what an artist or a group of artists intended. But in the end the highest office for the critic is to be a sort of aesthetic marriage broker: a successful critic brings a viewer before a work of art, sets the stage for the encounter, and then gets lost. " -- Roger Kimball, NRO's Q&A http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/kimball200407200829.asp

The kind of critique I welcome is constructive, not personal (i.e. doesn't make assumptions about the actor's home life or history), and is well articulated and specific. As someone who sits on the season selection committee for Stark, it is incredibly helpful to hear or read people's responses to the plays (or in this case, playwrights) we selected -- but if the comments are limited to "that was great" or "that sucked" then not so much. I'm actually pretty impressed by the amount of specificity that followspot can put into 50 word increments, although, don't think I didn't notice that last year's Cold Comedy got 50 words per play, rather than 50 words for the whole concoction!

And to answer Miles M's question from way back, the pizza play (I assume you're talking about the one set in the pizza parlour, rather than the one featuring the "existential angst" of a pizza slice) happens because the pizza parlour is closed due to a blizzard - that's how it's related to cold!

Only one more weekend to see what all the fuss is about -- and check out the trailer on the Stark web site (why, yes, I did create it! shameless plug, what?)

Liz Young
Director of play 3 (written by brilliant high schooler Andy Metcalf) of this year's CCC.

Follow Spot said...

I started a new thread for a discussion of theater criticism. Feel free to take continue the conversation there.

Andy Metcalf said...

I am the Andrew W. Metcalf who wrote the pizza play, as many call it. I know this comment is two months late, but I just came across this thread, so all these ideas are new to me and there are a few things I'd like to say for posterity only as it may be because this is an old thread.
First of all, the notion that there is a clubby atmosphere within SRT and that jobs go to mainly friends of Matt's is flat wrong. I have worked with Matt and SRT in many different capacities and, from what I have observed, Matt judges each actor/writer on his or her merit ONLY. The SRT staff works themselves sick reading over show after show combing through pounds of paper to find the diamonds in the ruff. I commend SRT for producing shows that question the absurdity and lovely mystery of the human condition both dramatically and comedically. I feel privileged that I had the chance to work with such professionals.

In defense of Matt’s amazingly awesome music stemming from the quote “The increasing reliance on wacky sound effects and painfully home-made music (played at deafening levels) to create a mood otherwise lacking in the script is a disturbing trend at SRT and threatens to undermine a lot of what is good on stage”. In CCC2, my play had by far the most sound effects so I will address this critique with respect to my show and then with respect to the company as a whole. I wrote my show with wacky sound effects in mind. My goal was to use sound effects in a way so over the top that it spoofs horror movies—which have terribly contrived sound effects. In my show I believe and hope the sounds brought a sense of melodrama which accentuated the utter absurdity of the entire conflict of my show—people dieing over a fucking pizza. I wrote suggestions for where sound effects should be into the script early on. Matt Zrebski, Elizabeth Young and I were all on the same page with respect to the purpose of these sound effects. We wanted them to be painfully cheesy because we thought it would add to the horror movie satire theme. Matt’s music accomplished my goal wonderfully. I freely admit my show would not have been nearly as strong without the sound effects; I wrote the show knowing sound effects would be an essential ingredient; they were meant to upstage the actors because those cheep horror movies did so blatantly.

Now, moving on to SRT’s use of sound effects as a whole. First let me preface that I do not speak for Stark Raving Theatre and these opinions are solely my own. Here's a personal story. The first time I cried at a play was at “Landscape With Stick Figures”. Being a high school student, the premise of school shootings struck a very personal chord with me. What really brought me to tears though was the combination of well executed drama and this terrible screeching sound that played over and over and over at a deafening volume—obviously a Matt Zrebski touch. This sound symbolized the pain and anger reflected on stage and brought it closer to home. In that music, I could hear my friends screaming as my imagination ran wild plunging my life into a Columbine H.S. like vortex of fear, anger and pain. The sounds and drama ensnared me and drew me in on a very deep level. The human voice just can't do that. A year and a half later, Matt played that sound for me at his house and it still made me sick. Music, when used like SRT uses it, often has a profound impact on the audience if they open their hearts to it. Dramatic sound effects are not a Matt Zrebski invention either. Sound effects are a proven tool in entertainment and they are often what people remember most about a piece (take Psycho for example: who hasn’t held up a butcher knife and made that screeching sound?). Comedy is an even riper place for sound effects. Most people grew up watching cartoons and have a special place in their heart for wacky sound effects--many of were home-made too. A baby could watch an episode of Looney Tunes and laugh when the anvils fall with a BAM! Some sounds are just funny. I think SRT taps into that aspect of human nature in its music and mixes it with a wonderfully dry wit on stage that comes together nicely. In general, I believe SRT uses sound effects appropriately and uses them to build the drama on stage. Their heavy use is not a dangerous trend, it is just good storytelling.