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?
Hello. Stephen here.
This is my first post here, in what will be an attempt to document the entire journey of my one man stage show Raiders of the Temple of Doom's Last Crusade from its genesis, right up until... well, right up until today.
And so I suppose I'd better start at the beginning.
The idea for the show first came to me after I saw Charles Ross's brilliant One Man Star Wars show, when it came to Melbourne seven or eight years ago. If you're not familiar with it, that show does exactly what its title promises - Charles Ross performs the entire original Star Wars trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) on stage at breakneck speed, all by himself, with no props or costumes. All the characters, all the events, all the space battles, all the special effects... It's an incredible, energetic, funny, virtuoso performance, and seeing it instantly planted a thought in my mind.
"Could I maybe do the same thing with the Indiana Jones trilogy?"
At that stage, it was little more than an idle thought. Something that I would find really fun... but if I were to do it, would there ever be enough of an audience for it? Is this one of those things that would seem like a good idea to me, but to nobody else?
I let the idea sit, promising myself that I'd get back to it one day. Then, a few years later, my good friend and colleague Michael Ward told me of his idea for a stage show that attempted to cram all the James Bond films into an hour. Again, of course, the trailblazing Charles Ross was something of an inspiration here. Michael invited me to write the show with him, perform in it with him, and produce it with him, and so our Bond-A-Rama odyssey was born.
Oh, a bit of background may be required here... I'd written and performed with Wardy many times over the years. We'd written on various TV comedy shows together, including Full Frontal, Newstopia, TV Burp and Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell, and we wrote and performed in a two man show I Said, I Said for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2001. That show picked up the Comedy Festival's Moosehead Award, so we went into Bond-A-Rama feeling relatively confident that we could probably find a way to do this and make it work. And that we'd have a lot of fun along the way.
Now, I know you're not here to learn about Bond-A-Rama, so I'll cut to the chase.
We did a season of Bond-A-Rama! in 2011 at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne, with Michael, me, Lawrence Mooney and Emily Taheny playing all of the roles. The show was directed by the brilliant Russell Fletcher, who had directed Michael and I in I Said I Said, back in 2001. (Which is important for later on - bear with me....)
Due to the success of the first season of Bond-A-Rama, we did a second season in 2012, in a bigger venue, with a slightly updated script, and with the brilliant Ben Anderson replacing Lawrence in the cast, due to Lawrence's unavailability.
As Michael and I had served as writers, performers and producers on the show, I had learned a LOT about how to take a show from its inception to its Opening Night, and beyond.
As 2012 wore on, the idea of that Indiana Jones show popped into my head again. With all that I now knew, perhaps the idea of writing, producing and performing my "One Man Indiana Jones Trilogy" as a fully-fledged show that people would actually pay to see wasn't quite so silly after all.....