Recently, I discovered a wonderful reel of bloopers and deleted scenes from the shooting of Raiders of The Lost Ark, way back in 1980. I was amazed that I'd never seen any of this stuff before; how on earth did it escape me? Call myself a fanboy?
Anyway, in case it's somehow eluded you for all these years too, HERE it is.
Watching this, and enjoying it so much, got me thinking about some of the moments when things didn't quite go as planned during the two seasons of Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade, back in 2013 and 2014.
So here, for your edification, and in no particular order, are some...
- BLOOPER #1
On one of the first nights, while performing the Raiders truck chase, I fell off the stage, grazing the inside of my left leg quite badly.
Well, when I say "stage"... I was performing on a small platform less than a metre above the floor, but when my left foot went too far upstage, and off the edge of the platform, my leg was scraped along the edge of the platform as my foot found its way to the floor. i soldiered on, of course - I was less than a third of the way through the show, so I had to - but I do remember worrying for the remainder of the performance that the inevitable blood stain would start to seep through my trousers, and be visible to the audience. I knew it would prove disconcerting, not to mention distracting, for them....
As it happened, the bleeding wasn't that bad at all. and so there wasn't ever any danger of a large patch of crimson becoming visible through my pants. It still hurt though, and in future performances, I was always extra mindful of the stage's edge...
- BLOOPER #2
I accidentally omitted an entire Last Crusade scene one night.
Around the time of the book-burning scene. was annoyed when the lights didn't come up as I expected, but Siobhan wasn't wrong; i was. It was dark. I was supposed to be doing the book-burning scene but I'd skipped ahead to a later scene which was set in the desert. The lights were low when I was expecting them to be high. "Dad? Dad? I can't see you!" Eventually, (after only probably 5 seconds) Siobhan cottoned on to my mistake, brought up the lighting state for my (wrong) scene and I carried on with things. It was only later that I realised that I'd excised an entire scene from the show that night. audience would have been none the wiser, but i did kick myself for my sloppiness, and felt embarrassed that I was initially angry at Siobhan The fault was all mine, and she was, as always, the cheerful consummate professional.
- BLOOPER #3
Sometimes, when you're playing over 40 characters at breakneck speed, things can tend to get a bit muddled. One night, as I was performing the opening scene of Temple of Doom, I inadvertently did Indy's line "Where's the antidote?!" in Willie's voice and Willie's line "Where's the diamond?!" in Indy's voice. There's no time to stop and dwell on that, so I just said "switch that", re-did the lines in the correct voices and carried on. The audience didn't seem to mind. One of the joys of live performance.
And HERE is the clip of that moment... (apologies for the picture quality).
- BLOOPER #4
This next one showcases the power, the pedantry AND the helpfulness of die-hard Indiana Jones fans.
One night, while performing the Last Crusade section of the show, I had a brief lapse of concentration, and messed up the line when Indy's enlightening his father about Marcus Brody's navigational skills....
"You know Marcus;" I said as Indy, "he once got lost in his own library".
This prompted a voice from the audience to ring out loud and clear, instantly correcting me;
I incorporated it into the performance.
"Museum, Dad. His own museum. That's what I meant to say," after which I threw the briefest of looks out to the audience - "Thanks" - and carried on. Indy fans certainly know their stuff.
- BLOOPER #5
Driving in to the venue for one of the first shows in the Fringe Festival, feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive... I had a car crash. Well, not exactly a "crash" perhaps, but I was stopped in heavy traffic when another (admittedly slow-moving) car rear-ended me. Already in my Indy costume, I jumped out of the car, angry, hoping that I hadn't just got a case of whiplash. The driver of the other car was an old man with his adult son in the passenger seat.
The son apologised profusely; "Sorry! Sorry! He has trouble judging distances."
"THEN HE SHOULDN'T BE DRIVING A CAR!", I snapped. We exchanged phone numbers, but the damage to my car was negligible, I left it at that, shakily and over-cautiously driving the remaining distance to the venue to do that night's show. Looking back now, perhaps it was an omen - after all, didn't Harrison Ford get his chin scar in a car accident? Didn't do him any harm. And if the roles of those two blokes had been reversed, they could have been reminiscent of Indy d=riding the motorbike with his old man in the sidecar.... Okay, now I'm clutching at straws. And I know that this was not technically a blooper from the show... but it certainly did come under the heading of "Well THAT wasn't supposed to happen".
- BLOOPER #6
I'd prepared a retort for anyone whose mobile phone intruded into any of the performances. But I never got to use it. As it turned out all the audiences for the show had impeccable mobile phone etiquette, and had all turned off their phones, or at least set them to silent before coming in. In a way, that was a pity. I had my stock response to ANY mobile phone activity locked and loaded and ready to go. Each night, I was fully prepared, if any mobile sound emanated from the audience to stop the show (in mid-sentence if necessary) and turn to the audience and bark - as whatever character I was playing at the time -
"TURN THAT OFF! It hasn't been invented yet."
I'd have loved to see how that would've been received, and was 100% prepared to do it, whether as Indy, Marion, Short Round, Henry, Marcus or even Kazim the spy. Alas, though, I never got to deploy it.
And as far 'DELETED SCENES' go...
In editing all three movies down to a 75 minute show (I tried really hard to get it down to 60 minutes, but I just couldn't crack it), many scenes from the original movies went by the wayside. These included:
- The drinking scenes with Marion and Belloq in his tent (Raiders),
- The scene in the jungle where Willie is scared of every type of animal there is (Temple of Doom) and
- The scene with Indy and Henry in the zeppelin (Last Crusade).
It was a shame to lose them all, but with such a limited amount of time, some sacrifices had to be made. In the development, workshopping and rehearsal process, too, quite a few lines - and gags - were edited out. One in particular that sticks in my mind is an idea I had about taking Marcus Brody to task over his slightly tautological line in the first movie...
"For nearly 3000 years, man has been searching for the Ark. That's not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets."
The idea that I had was for Marcus to say something like
"For nearly 3000 years, man has been searching for the Ark. That's not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets. Well, they wouldn't, would they? Because they're secrets. So obviously no one knows them. In fact, that's sort of implicit in the definition of the word "secrets", isn't it? No one knows them. Yes. Yes, I probably should have rephrased that just now. It was a bit tautological, now that I think about it. Sorry, Indy - where were we?"
And then a moment of Indy looking at him, nonplussed, before carrying on.
On the page, it looks very ineffectual and waffly, but then again, that's Marcus, isn't it? I'm sure I could have made it work, but it would have been a little speed bump in the show that we just didn't need, when the rest of it is - by necessity - so pacy. So I think it's probably best that that one didn't make it in.
... And that's it for today. Thanks for reading. See you next time, for another instalment in The Journey of The Making of The Stageshow of Raiders of The Temple of Doom's Last Crusade!
Today, I'm taking you on a little detour... a detour into movie poster art territory. Territory that's so brilliantly ruled over by the great Drew Struzan and the late, great Richard Amsel. We've all seen their work - whether we know it or not, we've grown up with the images they created. Images that seem to burst out of the posters for the movies that shaped our childhoods. I love those posters.
When the time came to think about the marketing of Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade, I wanted a poster that showed my love for the character of Indiana Jones, teased the idea of what the show was, and made a bold, eye-catching, tempting, easy-to-understand proposition.
It hit me straight away; the classic Last Crusade teaser poster achieved all of this, brilliantly, way back in 1989...
How good's that?
We know who this guy is, and it's good to see him again.
The text hints at the story we'll be seeing,
and the smirk on Indy's face and the twinkle in his eye tell us "This is gonna be fun"...
Given that the show is a loving tribute to - and re-enactment of - these movies, I figured the poster should reflect that,
I thought having a poster for the show that's an imitation of the poster for the movies would give the audience a clue as to the show's flavour. And hopefully help to convince them to buy a ticket to this unknown, untested project...
The first step was to contact my old friend and BRILLIANT professional photographer James Penlidis and arrange a photo session that would give us the image that would be the basis for this. My plan was to get a shot of me in costume, imitating Indy's pose from the original, and then get it graphically treated to look as much like a Drew Struzan-style painting as possible. I booked the session, and after James taking around 60 shots, (while I ensured that the Raiders soundtrack CD blasted loudly in the background), the one that finally made the cut was this one:
The next stop was to find a graphic designer to edit and massage the image to make it look as much like Drew Struzan's original classic painting as possible. Being on a budget, I turned - as I often do - to Fiverr.com.
I love Fiverr - you can farm out work to a number of different practitioners from all over the world simultaneously, and pick and choose from the results that come back to you. It's affordable, too, but that affordability can be a double edged sword. It means that you can cast your net wide, but it also means that sometimes you get what you pay for, and there can be varying degrees of quality with the results. And this 'casting the net wide' did indeed return a few early results which didn't exactly fill me with hope...
But I had farmed the job out to 7 or 8 designers, and there were two or three who were really, really on the right track.
In the end, this is the treated image I chose. I was really happy with this - I figured it was as close as I was ever going to get.
And, to compare it to the original, here's a jpeg I like to call 'Comparrison Ford'....
The draft of the poster there on the right is an initial draft. By the time I'd tweaked it and tweaked it and tweaked it again (Microsoft Paint is a wonderful thing), this was the version that ended up publicising the show's first season in 2013:
Then, when I came to do the second season in 2014, I was able to revisit the poster, rejig it, and add in a couple of quotes from reviews (which is always VERY valuable). I also had a website and a Facebook presence then, so I made sure to include that information... AND I was also very pleased to find and include the "Village" font, which is the font that's used in the opening titles of Raiders.
I know, I know - I'm a nerd.
So there you have it; The Blog Post of The Story of The Poster of The Stage Show of Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade.
Oh, and I apologise for the terrible pun in the headline.
And for "Comparrison Ford", too.
See you next time!
This post contains detailed discussion of personal finances, both outgoing and incoming. So, if you're uncomfortable with, embarrassed by, or bored by such matters.... look away now.
October 7th, 2013.
So, with the first ever season of Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade behind me, and my aching body beginning to return to its pre-show state, it was now time to put my producer's hat back on, and do my sums. I should preface this next bit by saying that, as a veteran of many Melbourne International Comedy Festivals, the shows that DON'T lose money are the exceptions to the rule. Any artist wanting to mount a show in one of these festivals doesn't go in expecting to make money from it - if you manage to break even, you're doing better than most. It's expensive to put a show on in a festival. There are venue hire fees, festival registration fees, advertising costs, public liability insurance....
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. If you're interested in exactly what costs are involved in mounting a one-man show in a festival of this size (and I'm guessing you are, or you wouldn't have read this far), let me break it down for you.
Full disclosure, people. These are ALL of the itemised expenses I incurred in taking the show from idea to performance....
So $10, 702.25 was the out-of-pocket total; what it cost me (in monetary terms) to make my one-man Indiana Jones stage show a reality.
"Hey, wait a minute, Hally! Where did all that money come from?", I hear you ask.
Good question. Well, as these expenses tended to come through in dribs and drabs, I was able to pay for them in dribs and drabs; they were generally not huge outlays. As you can see, though, there were a few larger sums. I bit the bullet and took that money out of our mortgage, hoping that, at the end of the season, I'd be able to put that money back in to our mortgage.
Did I mention that I have a very, very understanding wife?
In addition to making all those concrete financial investments, there were also the other, less tangible, investments I put in;
The writing, the editing, the learning of the lines, the rehearsing, the choreography, the publicising, the designing and making of props, the transporting of stage furniture, and so on and so on.
So, having put so much of myself into this enterprise, would it pay off? Would I be moving forward on solid ground?
Well, as it turned out... yes.
The further I pursued my dream of doing a successful one-man Indiana Jones stage show - my Holy Grail, if you will - the more my doubts and misgivings just seemed to fall away.
Okay, I think I've probably laboured this metaphor enough now.
When the final show report came back from the good people at The Melbourne Fringe Festival, these were the salient figures:
WHOO - HOO! A PROFIT!
A profit of 7 whole dollars and 75 cents! I'd done it! I'd put on this crazy idea for a Fringe Festival show and broken even. That money I'd taken out of the mortgage would be able to go back into it, after all.
I calculated that I sold an average of 41 tickets per show.
And I calculated that, in a 65-seat venue, that was a 63% occupancy.
I also calculated that my profit of $7.75 equated to me being paid 55 cents to perform each of the 14 shows.
But I decided not to think about that last calculation too much.
I decided to think of that magic number of $7.75 as proof that my idea worked. AND that it may have a future. AND that if I did do a second season, there were a number of expenses that wouldn't bother me the second time around (props, costume and stage furniture items, for example).
So that $7.75 was good news. Really good news!
This show wasn't going to make me rich any time soon... But for now, it had made me very, very happy.
And so, the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2013 was underway. And my shamelessly commercial, pop culturey show was playing, shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the boldest most experimental performance art going around. To see what I mean, you can download the Festival's program here. Would my show work here, or would it be too much of a fish out of water? Was this the sort of show that Fringe Festival goers would come to see? The next fortnight would provide the answer.
All I had to do was keep repeating what I did on Opening Night.
All I had to do was perform the show another 13 times, without forgetting any of my lines.
Or any of my moves.
Or running out of energy.
Or injuring myself.
Oh, and publicise the show any way I could. To that end, I managed to score an interview with an emerging online magazine called Issimo. You can see the video of that interview here. And earlier, I'd approached Ed Dolista from the wonderful Indycast podcast. He'd interviewed me back in August, and you can hear that interview here, around the 14:30 mark. Both of these interviews were recorded well before Opening Night, so at that stage I had absolutely no idea whether the show would work or not. It was very much - like that scene at the end of Last Crusade - a leap of faith.
Of course, each night, once I was in the venue, and getting ready to perform, I had to swap my producer/promoter hat for my Raiders of The Temple of Doom's Last Crusade performing hat.
This was each night's pre-show ritual;
I'd arrive at the the venue, and go and get changed into my costume in the mens' toilets.
Then I'd go into the room, and set up the steamer trunk, the puppet theatre, the smoke machine and the easel and map.
Then I'd place and check all of the show's props (including the shadow puppets) and make sure I had all the small personal props I needed throughout the show (Henry's diary, my laser pointer, etc.)
I'd also greet our technician - who'd been provided by the Melbourne Fringe Festival - the brilliant, talented and charming Sarah Wong. She was a delight to work with, and executed all the many lighting cues, and sound effects flawlessly. Thank you, Sarah.
In fact, along with Russell (the show's marvellous director), Sarah was more of a support and help to me than she'll ever know. The thing about doing a one-man show is that it's... well, it's a bit of a solitary pursuit. There are no castmates with whom you can bond, create in-jokes, and share all of the show's highs and lows. Sarah's calm, cheerful presence, her extraordinary skill, and her just BEING THERE from the start of each show to the end of each show made me feel less alone. It truly was great to have her in my corner.
Then, when all was in readiness, and as showtime drew near, I'd make my way out of the room (in full costume), walk past the audience in the corridor who were queuing for my show, trying not to make eye contact (not awkward at all), and duck around a corner. This is where I'd wait anxiously until showtime, when they would have all filed in, and I could re-enter the performance space, through its one and only door. One night, early in the season, I spotted my friend Guy LeCouteur in the queue. I made eye contact with him, but wasn't sure whether to stop and talk. I didn't. I was on a mission - I had to walk another 3 metres, duck around a corner, and stand there waiting until showtime. Like I say, not awkward at all.
As the season progressed, it became apparent that people were enjoying the show. All my work was starting to pay off; I Had Built It, And They Had Come (to mangle a quote from another movie). In fact, there were even a couple of sweet, sweet nights when THIS appeared on the poster in the foyer:
Granted, it was a very small room, and there weren't that many seats to fill, but I can't tell you how much that little red 'SOLD OUT' sticker gladdened my heart.
And so the show went on. The more often I performed it, the better I got to know it, and the more I could tweak and play with small details - drawing out a look here, a pause there, finding new laughs and moments of drama... Thankfully, my body held up for the remaining performances, although I did put quite a bit of pressure on my knees and legs with a lot of the jumping around in the 'Raiders' section of the show.
Before I knew it, this runaway train was about to come to a halt - it was Closing Night, Saturday October 5th. A very busy day, as it happened. Since it would be my job to remove all of my stage furniture and props from the venue, I'd hired a van for the weekend. My actor friend David Whitney was performing in a matinee of Cho Cho San that Saturday afternoon, so I packed my costume into the van, drove it to see his show, then drove it to North Melbourne (where I was performing), parked the van, and had a 2 hour nap in the back. It seemed the strains of the season were catching up with me. After my nap, it was time to go in and do my final show for this season.
The show went well, and afterwards I immediately lugged the trunk, puppet theatre and all the other props out of the venue and into the van, while still wearing my sweat-soaked costume. I parked the van around the corner, got into the back, and changed into the suit I'd also brought along from home. Locking the van, and checking that it was secure (after all, it contained every physical element of my show!), I was now able to go to the Fringe Festival Closing Night After Party, which was in the venue where I'd just performed.
When I entered the party, with its thumping loud music, the last two weeks seemed to catch up with me all at once. There was no one else involved with my show there who I could celebrate with, and I didn't know another soul in this crowded room. On top of that, they were all 15 - 20 years younger than me. At the end of Raiders, Indy says "It's not the years, Honey; it's the mileage".
For me that night, it was a bit of both. I bought and drank one beer, realised how exhausted I was, and how little I was enjoying myself there, at what should have been a very triumphant moment.
I drove the van home, had a much-needed shower, and poured myself a glass of champagne.
I'd done it.
Well, as Indy says at the start of Raiders (and at the start of this show)...
"This is it."
All that editing, all that writing, all that line-learning, all that choreography and all that rehearsal... all comes down to this.
This is either going to work, and they'll all enjoy it, coming along for the ride and revelling in the celebration it's intended to be...
Or it's going to fail, and they'll all sit there, stony-faced, with their arms crossed, thinking "You're not in your bedroom now, Nerdlinger!"
If it DOES fail, I will know pretty darn soon. If there are no laughs in the first 2 minutes, I'll have an absolute mountain to climb for the following 58 minutes. On stage all alone. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
I'm hoping that the reaction to my Opening Night won't be like this one, from Mel Brooks's The Producers.
I've invited my wife, my mum, my sister and quite a few friends from television who I've worked with over the years, in the hope of an Opening Night audience who'll be gentle with me.
A week or so earlier, I'd been to the The Fringe Festival launch, and was reminded quite starkly of how much my show is perhaps not ideal Fringe material. I remember the director of the Festival making a speech to all of us who were about to put on shows in the Fringe; "You're all amazing, you're all innovative. You're all bold, experimental and really pushing the boundaries of art. You're all fresh, you're all original." And I'm standing there contemplating my upcoming performance of three movies from around 30 years ago, and thinking "Um, thanks, I'll see myself out...."
I'm reminded again of this fact, before the show, as I'm waiting to go on, standing in a corridor of the North Melbourne Town Hall. I hear ushers calling patrons in to various other shows in the building; "Homage to Uncertainty! Anyone here for Homage To Uncertainty? Your show starts in five minutes! Five minute call for Homage To Uncertainty!" Which certainly sounds a lot more artistic, a lot more esoteric, a lot more "Fringe" than "Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade? Anyone here for Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade?"
Back in May, the Melbourne Fringe Festival had contacted me and offered to extend my season from one week (8 shows) to two weeks (14 shows). Now, I don't know who'd pulled out in order for me to get this offer, but I eagerly accepted. A chance to amortise - and hopefully recoup - my expenses. On the other hand, if the show didn't work, this would be a very long and lonely fortnight....
And as Opening Night approached, if any doubts of this nature ever crept into my mind, I kicked them out again, immediately.
I can't afford to have any self-doubt; audiences smell that stuff a mile off. SELF-DOUBT DOES NOT LIVE HERE!
A fact I'd been reminding myself of six days earlier, when I was taking part in the filthy, strenuous - and sometimes painful - obstacle course challenge known as Tough Mudder. (I know, I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time). On that day, as I fronted up to the various challenges - whether they involved crawling on your belly while being electrocuted, or jumping from heights into muddy water - I repeatedly asked myself "What Would Indy Do?" Of course, the answer was always the same - he would dive in and GO FOR IT; decisively, boldly.
And so it was with this.
As I took my position outside The Meeting Room, ready for my Opening Night entrance, I felt nervous. A type of nervousness that I hadn't really felt since my stand up comedy days. But tonight, I told myself, I just have to do what I did back then; Step off the edge, and Stick to the plan.
The lights go down, and the jungle noises fade up.
That's my cue.
I open the door, enter the room, and start the show.
A minute in, at the first bit of physical business (when Indy swings across the pit in the temple), there's a little laugh. A minute later, when Indy comes face-to-face with the impaled Satipo, there's another laugh. When Indy's escaping the temple, running to the plane, and interrupting Jock's fishing, there's a bigger laugh.
I can not tell you how sweet those sounds were.
This IS going to work. The audience DOES get - and appreciate - what I'm trying to do here. Their laughs - and my immense RELIEF - spur me on, and my performance seems to gather energy as the show goes on.
Much like Dr Jones in the opening scenes of Raiders, we were off to a flying start.
Today, a word or two (or 1421, to be more accurate) about the rehearsal process for the first season of Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade. As I mentioned earlier, the brilliant Russell Fletcher had agreed to be the show's director, and after we formalised our arrangement with a contract, we both mapped out a rehearsal schedule for the show that took into account our various work and family commitments. I remember we couldn't rehearse on September 4th, 5th or 11th, because I was shooting a small role in the movie Now Add Honey, for example. It was quite tricky, but eventually we got there. This was one of the times that, as the show's producer, I was glad that I was the only person in the cast. It certainly made this scheduling easier than it would have been with more people in the show.
In the end, the rehearsals ended up taking place over the six week period just before the show opened. Here's how it all broke down;
Monday 19/08: 12 PM - 3 PM
Wednesday 21/08: 12 PM - 3 PM
Friday 23/08: 12 PM - 3 PM
Monday 26/08: 1 PM - 3 PM
Tuesday 27/08: 9:30 AM - 3 PM
Wednesday 28/08: 9:30 AM - 3 PM
Thursday 29/08: 9:30 AM - 3 PM
Tuesday 03/09: 9:30 AM – 3 PM
Friday 06/09: 9:30 AM – 3 PM
Monday 09/09: 1 PM – 3 PM
Tuesday 10/09: 9:30 AM – 12 PM
Thursday 12/09: 9:30 AM – 3 PM
Friday 13/09: 9:30 AM – 3 PM
Monday 16/09: 1 PM - 3 PM
Tuesday 17/09: 2 PM – 4 PM
Wednesday 18/09: 10 AM – 1 PM
Thursday 19/09: Tech rehearsal at North Melbourne Town Hall 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Friday 20/09: Dress rehearsal – day, FIRST PERFORMANCE 8:00 PM
77 hours of rehearsals in total. They took place mostly at Russell's house, sometimes at my house, and we did manage to get a few in at a great production space called Revolt Productions, which was run by a friend of Russell's.
So, what was the process like?
Well, the earlier rehearsals consisted of Russell and I "getting the script on its feet", working through it, and devising and locking in all the staging and choreography. We'd go through the show, scripts in hand, quite slowly, one scene at a time, repeating it as often as necessary, with me jotting down all of our agreed moves - and sometimes lighting or sound effects - in my hard copy of the script. After each session, I'd take those notes and type them up into the next draft of the script. This gave me a document that I could use to also rehearse at home, in between 'official' rehearsals, marrying the moves to the words, so that eventually the whole thing would become second nature.
As I became more and more familiar with the words and the moves, and they started to sink in to my head, we'd rehearse longer and longer sections of the show, rather than just single scenes. Eventually, we got it to a stage where we could rehearse each of the three sections of the show (Raiders, Temple of Doom and Last Crusade) from start to finish.
I'd always be exhausted and dripping with sweat afterwards, but on we went...
Little by little, my stamina improved to the point where I could finally manage to do all three, one after the other, from start to finish, and keep the required energy levels up. But it wasn't easy. This required more cardio fitness than I'd ever been called on to provide in any other show. But the constant repetition of the show served to train me up physically as well as mentally.
As we ran the show again and again and again, and it got well and truly into my bones, Russell's notes and tweaks could become more and more specific. And they certainly did. Here's an example of his notes after one of our run-throughs;
So, as you can see, he really was polishing this show. I was, and am, so grateful to Russell for all of his incredibly detailed work.
By the end of that laborious, painstaking, fastidious - but still very enjoyable - process, we were finally ready.
Ready, that is, for OPENING NIGHT.....
For the show, I knew I had to recreate the climactic 'Opening of the Ark' scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with terrifying beams of energy, melting Nazi heads and the lid of the Ark spiralling up towards heaven, before returning to earth with an almighty Dolby Digital, THX, bone-shaking thud.
What could be simpler?
You can see in this clip from the show exactly how I tackled it...
I obviously made the lid of the Ark myself, and it occurred to me that if there are any super die-hard Raiders fans out there (and I suspect that you probably are, or you wouldn't be reading this), they might like to know how to make an Ark of the Covenant lid of their very own. And so, here are some step-by-step instructions to ensure that you too can be the proud owner of this magnificent replica movie prop made from SOLID GOLD-coloured cardboard.
ARK LID INSTRUCTIONS
You're going to need:
Now, here's what you do:
3. Cut the four shapes out.
4. Using the tape, stick the 4 angel shapes together, back-to-back. You should now have 2 angel shapes that are gold on both sides.
5. Now we need to invert the 'lip' of the third gold tray, so, at each of the tray's four corners, use the scissors to make a cut inwards to edge of the lip.
6. Fold the four lips out and down from the tray, and stick them in place. The lips of the tray should now be inverted, so that the tray looks more like a low platform.
6. Fold the bottom tabs on the 2 double-sided angel shapes inwards, and tape (and/or staple) them to the centre of the tray.
9. Now take the crowns, and cut off the top bits, so they look like this.
10. Flip them upside down, cut them into four lengths to fit around the edges of the tray, and then tape them around the edges of the tray, like this....
And there you have it! You can spray paint the underside of the lid gold, if you think anyone's going to see it. I did, because of course in the show it had to spin majestically up towards the heavens (with the help of a black stick I'd attached to the underside of it).
NOTE: Of course, you could also make the base and the angel figures out of normal cardboard, and then just spray-paint them gold.... I just happened to be lucky enough to find these golden coloured serving trays in the first place.
Your very own cheap and cheerful Ark of the Covenant lid replica, for less than $15!
If you do feel inclined to make it, I'd love to hear how you get along (and to see a pic of your finished product).
See you next time!
Props, props, props. Unlike Charles Ross's One Man Star Wars - an early inspiration for this show - I knew that I did want to have some. But only a few. The overall idea was to be cheap, cheerful and lo-fi. But resourceful and inventive, too (just like a certain archaeologist we know).
The biggest single item (in terms of its design, its prominence, and the expense) was the custom-made steamer trunk. I'd had the idea for this very early on in the show's development. I knew I wanted a central, multi-purpose piece of stage furniture, big enough to fit me in it, and strong enough to have me stand on it. I reasoned that a classic 1930s-style steamer trunk could do the job, fit in with the period feel of the show... and double as a storage space for the show's props and equipment. At various times in the show, it would need to serve as a truck, an altar, a table, an elephant, a speedboat, a mine car, the Ark of the Covenant, a bed and a mountain... among other things.
I got in touch with the BRILLIANT Art Director David Triscott, who I'd known for many years, through working on various TV shows together. David is the best in the business, and can make anything that's physically required by a production. In particular, I'd often marvelled at all the things he was called upon to create for Talkin' Bout Your Generation - from a flawless replica of a chair from Blade Runner, to a spring loaded meerkat that popped up out of the host's desk.
Luckily, David had the time available to build this for me, so I sent him very specific instructions, measurements, and a few sample pictures... and just two weeks later, he'd worked his magic yet again!
For my micro-budget show, it was the single biggest ticket item on the expenses sheet, but it was so, so, SO worth it!
(And it had already well and truly paid for itself by the end of the first season.)
Here it is;
For the shadow puppet theatre, a refrigerator box was sourced by my mum. She cut it in half to fit it in her car, which necessitated me putting it together again with lots of gaffer tape. We painted it black together. We cut a window int the front "wall", attached some tracing paper, and attached a work-light attached to the left "wall" of the thing, and it was done.
A slightly sad, not terribly solid and quite droopy-looking specimen, but it still did the trick.
For the shadow puppets themselves, I looked up a few silhouettes online for some of the ones I needed... Indy riding a horse, for example, but the rest were slightly cartoonish designs, invented by me (and my daughter Lily helped with some of the cutting out and attaching rods.)
Well, when I say "rods", I actually used drinking straws - big, fat, thickshake-capable ones... and I made sure they were colour coded too.
You see, I had three shadow puppet scenes - one for Raiders, one for Temple of Doom and one for Last Crusade. I made a separate set of puppets for each. The straws on the Raiders ones were blue, the Temple of Doom puppet straws were pink, and the Last Crusade puppet straws were yellow. This made them easy to find in the heat of the moment, and ruled out any unnecessary confusion in all that frantic scrambling in the half dark behind the screen...
To give you an idea of how this part of the show worked, here's the Raiders shadow puppet scene....
The umlauts on the fuel truck were Russell's idea!
In all, we made 21 shadow puppets, and before each show, I would set them on the small patch of floor inside the shadow puppet theatre in batches, from Raiders to Last Crusade, left to right.
The shadow puppets served me well - they broke up the structure of the show, giving the audience something different and interesting to look at, and they were also just a different, fun way of delivering gags. I'm certainly no expert puppeteer, but I think having them in the show added to the whole desperate, frantic one-man-band vibe.
Here's the full prop list for the show.
- World map (laminated)
- Cardboard backing for map
- Shadow puppet theatre
- Shadow puppets
- Custom made steamer trunk
- Handheld laser pen
- Lid of the Ark of the Covenant
- Model plane (+ white board marker)
- Henry's diary (+ brown paper wrapping + stamps)
- Swivelling stool
Early on, too, I'd had the idea of how to recreate the red line map sequences. I headed to eBay for a model of a plane from the era, and managed to find a 1/100 scale Douglas Delta DC-3 model for $30.77. It was also on eBay that I found the world map ($34.95) and the easel I needed to prop it up on ($18.90).
The cardboard backing for the map (to keep it rigid) came from the 4th wall of the refrigerator box, and the whiteboard marker was one we already had.
After I'd had the map laminated at a local office supply store, the only other piece of this puzzle was a bottle of Spray N' Wipe and a cleaning cloth. As the map needed to be pristine at the start of each show, part of my post-show routine each night saw me on my hands and knees on the floor, bent over the map, spraying and scrubbing until all the white board marker lines were gone.
Ah, the glamour of showbiz!
The only ongoing expense in the prop department was buying a new cantaloupe once a week. This served as the boulder at the start of Raiders AND as the head of the decapitated soldier at the end of The Last Crusade. With all that rough treatment, the fruit tended to be a little worse for wear after a few shows...
There were nerdy things I had fun doing before each show, such as wrapping Henry's diary in brown paper, addressing it to Indy, and adding a few Italian stamps from a the 1940s... (I found these online and printed them out).
So there you have it. All the props for the show.
The cardboard shadow puppet theatre didn't survive past the end of the first season. For the second season of the show, I commissioned a sturdier, plywood version from David. It was vastly stronger, neater and superior.
Perhaps the one prop that I'm happiest with, though (apart from the steamer trunk), was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. After looking at lots of pictures of the original online, I was really pleased with the super cheap facsimile I managed to make. And in my next blog entry here, I'll go into detail about exactly how I did make it, and provide detailed instructions, on the off-chance that YOU might like to make one too!
Until then... so long!
So, this thing is going to need a script.
And the script needs to be about an hour long.
Where on earth do I begin?
Well, like I do with any project that's large and daunting at first, I decided to break it down into steps.
I already had a few ideas floating around - I knew how I wanted to portray the red-line-on-the-map sequences, I knew that I wanted to do some of the bigger more difficult action sequences with shadow puppets, and I knew that I wanted to have a multipurpose piece of stage furniture. This was to be a steamer trunk (that I'd have specially made) that could "become" various things throughout the show. There would be no time for costume changes, so I decided that I'd wear the standard Indy costume and create the other characters (all 39 of them!) vocally and physically. There would be a few - a very few - props.
And although it's not an exact science, I knew that I wanted each of the three movies to take 15 - 20 minutes to perform on stage. (The concept was "Three Indiana Jones Movies In An Hour", after all).
This assignment was going to be one part creative invention, one part massive editing job. The first thing I did was to boil the three movies down into a manageable number of scenes, and note which characters and props were required for each of them. That gave me this document;
The next step was to flesh this framework out, but after quite a bit of searching online, I wasn't able to find any shooting scripts of the films. There were some earlier versions, but I obviously needed the dialogue all to be exactly as it was in the finished films. I gave myself deadlines, and reported regularly to the show's director, Russell Fletcher. This framework was essential to keep me disciplined and on track with what was, at times, a slightly overwhelming task.
Here's a progress report email I sent to Russell on 2nd July 2013. (Opening Night was to be 20th September)...
Tue, 2 Jul 2013 12:58 PM
'Raiders' script progress report.
I just wanted to drop you a quick line to let you know where I'm at with the script.
As you know, I've done my scene breakdown, (breaking each movie down to 15 - 20 scenes). I'm now going through Raiders and picking out pivotal lines of dialogue and action moments for each scene that still tell the story. ('Putting the meat on the bones', if you will). I'll then move on to 'Temple of Doom' and then 'Last Crusade'. As such, I'm hoping to get the VERY FIRST ROUGH DRAFT to you in the next week or two.
Hope that's okay by you.
Then, two weeks later, as I slogged on and on....
Thu, 18 Jul 2013 11:05 AM
'Raiders' script progress report.
Just wanted to give you a quick update on where I'm at with the script for the show.
I'm half way through transcribing the movies. That's right - transcribing them. As in word-for-word, as in "press PLAY, press PAUSE, then type, press PLAY, press PAUSE, then type, press PLAY, press PAUSE then type"... So I'm about half way through Temple of Doom, and hoping to get through to the end of Last Crusade by the end of this weekend.
After that, I'll do an edit, paring the dialogue back to the bare minimum we need to tell the story / stories. During that pass, I'll also put in any gags and bits of stage business that I've thought of so far, along with bits that I'll think of along the way.
Then I'll send it to you, to see what you reckon.
Sorry it's taking so long - the time I can spend on it is all a bit fragmented at the moment, due to work and family commitments, but there are blue skies ahead on both of those fronts. That is to say, Judi & Lily are going away for a week at the start of August, which is also when I'll be unemployed again!
Then, after he responded saying "No worries, I understand. But is there no freak out there on he web who's done the transcript?",
I got back to him with this...
Sun, 21 Jul 2013 9:42 PM
'Raiders' script progress report.
Thanks for your understanding.
No, I haven't been able to find transcripts of the movies as they actually ended up being shot. Various drafts of the scripts are online (which are interesting in and of themselves) but for the word-for-word accounts of the movies, I'm finding I need to go directly to the source. (Although the "quotes" sections of the imdb entries on all 3 of them have been helpful - luckily there are freaks who've already transcribed the various bits and pieces that they love....)
And so, on I soldier....
My wife and daughter did indeed go away for a week, and during that time, I worked on the Raiders script day and night, until by August 4th, I'd finally finished the first draft. It was 65 pages long, and contained WAY too much dialogue. There were virtually no stage directions, no shadow puppet scenes, and no mention of how any props or stage furniture would be used. I figured that these details would take shape organically as Russell and I rehearsed the piece. And I knew that, over the next few weeks, as we got it up on its feet, we would be cutting material, cutting material again, and cutting more material, as we streamlined the show, and made it - to quote George Lucas - "faster and more intense".
And that's pretty much what happened. Russell and I were able to schedule 20 days of rehearsal between then and Opening Night. As I ran the show with him again and again, we trimmed, we invented bits of business, and Russell gave me the benefits of his incredible mime skills. The show got faster, tighter, and entire scenes were sometimes dropped. The 8th draft of the script was just 30 pages long. And the ridiculous challenge that I'd set myself (of cramming all that material into an hour) even found its way into some of the dialogue of the show, as in this bit from Last Crusade, as Indy and Henry escape from Castle Brunwald:
INDY: I think I can get these ropes off.
HE DOES. REPO THE STOOL DSC.
INDY: Into the sidecar, Dad.
HENRY: What about the fireplace that rotates?
INDY: No time.
HENRY: Secret staircase?
HENRY: The boats?
INDY: Come on!
INDY COMMANDEERS A MOTORBIKE (LEG OVER). HENRY'S IN THE SIDECAR.
So by the time Opening Night rolled around, I was relatively confident that we had a script that was fast, funny and action-packed. It was a real runaway train of a show, that set a cracking pace and never let up. I had all the lines and moves down (after recording the lines into my phone, and playing them back on headphones ad infinitum), and I knew that this was the show I wanted to do. I was proud of a lot of the gags, of a lot of the stagecraft, and of a lot of the moments we'd created. As Opening Night drew nearer and nearer, I finished sourcing - and often making - all the physical props I needed for the show.
And they'll be the subject of my next post - Steamer Trunks and Shadow Puppets.
So in early April 2013, I started in earnest, by ringing the brilliant director Russell Fletcher, and sounding him out. Russell had directed both seasons of our previous show Bond-A-Rama!, as well as the show that Michael Ward and I wrote for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2001 - I Said I Said. I remember I was on location, shooting for Mad As Hell when I made that fateful phone call. In my lunch break, I rang and pitched the idea for the show to Russell - me, performing the 3 classic Indiana Jones movies all by myself onstage, in about an hour - and asked him if, in principle, he'd be interested in directing it. He liked the idea right away, and said yes.
First step done!
So now that I had the idea, a director (in principle), and a whole lot of enthusiasm, the next question was: When and where would I stage the show? Once I knew the answer to that, I would have a deadline, and I could start the process of writing and rehearsing with a definite time-frame. This show was always going to be a perfect fit for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and my ultimate goal was to put it on there. But the Comedy Festival was 12 months away, and I wanted to get cracking sooner than that.
I scanned Melbourne's cultural landscape and realised/remembered that the Melbourne Fringe Festival happened in September.
My proposed show was pretty mainstream (perhaps not ideal "Fringe" material), but I thought that a run in the Fringe Festival would be good; the time-frame would be workable, and it'd serve as a good "off-Broadway" practice run for the Comedy Festival next April. This was all before I'd started work on the script, of course, but I was feeling positive and confident. If I could sell this to the Melbourne Fringe Festival on the strength of the concept and my - and Russell's - reputation, I'd be off to a very powerful start.
So I went to the Melbourne Fringe Festival website, and downloaded and filled out their 'Expression of Interest' form.
In the "Show Description" section, this is what I wrote:
This is a one-man show, in the tradition of 'One Man Star Wars Trilogy'.
Playing a variety of characters, I will perform a fast-paced, edited version of 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' (1981), followed by 'Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom' (1984) and then 'Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade' (1989) in the space of approximately 55 minutes, live on stage.
I will play all the characters, and do some of the sound effects.
The show will have no video component, nor will it use playback of music from the original films (other than perhaps as house music, as the audience arrives and leaves).
However, I'm envisaging that it will require sound effects and quite a few different lighting states.
There will be very minimal (if any) costume changes - perhaps a hat or a scarf here and there - and I envisage that I'll be on stage for the show's duration.
In terms of props and stage furniture, I'm envisaging a single office chair on castors.
The point of the show is to make use of voice, mime and comic invention to convey all those amazing big budget sequences in this smash hit series of films.
While audiences will be very familiar with the source material, hopefully some of their fun and enjoyment should come from the talent and resourcefulness and low(/no!)-budget, low-fi way that I evoke these multi-million dollar movie blockbusters.
And in the "Show Background And Your Future" section, I wrote:
This show is an extension of the success of the previous show that I co-wrote and performed in: 'Bond-A-Rama! Every James Bond Film Live On Stage in an hour and a bit'.
Over two critically and commercially successful seasons of that show at Chapel Off Chapel in 2011 and 2012, we learned that there is a big appetite for shows like this; "affectionate pisstakes" of much-loved movie franchises.
This got me thinking about an Indiana Jones show - having been a fan since 1981, and knowing many other fans - I think this show would have broad appeal.
The idea of writing and performing it as a one man show is terrifying, to be sure. In all my years of performing, this is my first hour-long one man show. And if it doesn't work, there's no one to blame but myself. If I fail, I fail big.
And while there is a chance of it not working, and ending up as a "bold experiment", if it does work, it'll be the kind of show that's very easy to tour - no large cast, no props, no sets or big stage effects. It's the kind of thing that could have a long life span.
And that's my goal - to be able to tour the show anywhere and everywhere, as a one-man-band, for as long my body holds up...
But the first stop after the Fringe would definitely be the 2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival.
I added my staging requirements and venue preferences, noting that they anticipated receiving over 130 expressions of interest, but had only 40 slots... Once that was all completed, I added my CV, Russell's CV and 3 recent reviews of Bond-A-Rama!, and pressed 'Send'.
Four days later... THIS, from the Independent Arts Manager of the Festival, Felix Preval;
I’m pleased to be able to offer you a place in the Fringe Hub program for the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival.
The details of your programming offer are
Time : 8:00pm
Venue : Meeting Room (capacity 65)
Duration : 20 Sept – 27 Sept (no show Monday)
To accept this offer you must email me by 5pm MONDAY 29 APRIL [3 days time]. After that time, this offer will expire and it will be re-assigned to another artist.
NOTE: If you accept this offer, you will still need to register your show in this year’s Festival. Registrations open on 3 May and close on 24 May.
Fantastic! The Melbourne Fringe Festival believed in me, and they believed in the show… Even though it didn't exist yet.
When I contacted Russell to let him know the good news, this was his response:
Can't do much better than that slot and venue.
Talk next week?
We were well and truly on our way! Now... Providing I could write it, lock off the script, learn it and rehearse it sufficiently with Russ, get all the costume, have all the props and stage furniture made, create all the sound cues, lock in and learn all the choreography and shadow puppetry, organise and oversee all the publicity and get the show sufficiently technically rehearsed in its final venue by September 18th... we'd be all set!
I felt really empowered and excited. The Boulder had started rolling.
The next step; writing the thing.
How do I condense six hours of multi-million dollar blockbuster movies into one hour of theatre that can be performed by one man, on a small stage?