Hello, Stephen here - long time, no post! Sorry about that.
Just a very quick one today (something I had to get off my chest), as the premiere date for Harrison Ford's final Indiana Jones adventure draws closer and closer... In fact, it's now just a little over three weeks away!
But before we go any further, a reassuring announcement...
*** DON'T WORRY - THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS IN THIS POST! * * *
How can there be? I'm deliberately avoiding any reviews or new information about the movie before I see it.
That's me, that is.
All I do know is when the story takes place, and roughly who the characters are, from what we've seen in the trailer(s) and the poster at the top of this page. But I've been thinking...
Since this is Harrison's last appearance as Indiana Jones - this character we know and love so well, this character we first met 42 years ago, in 1981 - there's an exchange I'd like to see, as part of rounding out our decades-long adventure with him, as a neat little bookend to one of his most memorable lines from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
You know the one I mean...
In Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, I'd love to see the following moment, immediately after Indy (Harrison Ford) and his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) have narrowly escaped some villains in a fast-paced, action-packed chase sequence...
INT. ROOM. DAY.
INDY FLOPS DOWN ON THE NEAREST HORIZONTAL SURFACE, PANTING AND EXHAUSTED. HELENA STANDS OVER HIM. SHE LOOKS AT HIM WITH CONCERN, BUT THERE'S A HALF-SMILE ON HER LIPS.
HELENA: No wonder you look terrible - we've just raced all the way from Istanbul to Manhattan!
INDY LOOKS UP AT HER, GRIMACING THROUGH VARIOUS ACHES AND PAINS.
INDY: It's not the mileage, honey - it's the years.
Just a little something I thought of. Will there be an exchange like this (or indeed any moments like this) in the movie? I guess we'll know in about three weeks' time. We'll also find out if any of my other predictions / wishes from two years ago come true... I can't wait!
And yes, before you ask, I AM available for freelance Hollywood blockbuster script doctoring, joke massaging and one-liner writing, at very reasonable rates. Simply contact my agent Emma Winterburn at Mollison Keightley Management. Thank you very much and goodnight.
... I'm so excited about this, I just had to mention it here. My brand-new book
50 Things To Be Seriously Grateful For Today* *and 50 not-so-serious things to illustrate them
is available NOW as a paperback and eBook on Amazon, by clicking on this link:
50 Things To Be Seriously Grateful For... on Amazon.
And from other retailers by clicking on this link:
50 Things To Be Seriously Grateful For... on Books2read.com.
I've been working on it for ages, and it feels so good to finally get it out into the world. I like to describe it as "a very sincere and very silly non-fiction book that's chock-full of fiction". Here's its blurb:
After a quick look out the window the other day, Stephen Hall thought it might be an idea to remind himself – and you - of some Things worth being grateful for.
50 Things, in fact.
From Memories Of People You've Loved, to The Taste Of Your Favourite Food...
From Being Able To Read, to Having Your Rubbish Collected Each Week...
From Visual Art, to Instant Access To All The Knowledge In The World...
From This Morning's Sunrise, to Dogs (they don't even have to be yours).
And to illustrate these 50 hand-picked Things, he's included a bunch of not-so-serious clippings, excerpts, articles and assorted ephemera that have never been seen anywhere before. Ever! This is a book like no other. Inside, you'll find:
Join Stephen for some gentle and timely reminders that the glass is half-full, after all... and that even getting the glass in the first place was a bonus!
If you'd like to know a bit more about the book, I've set up a dedicated website for it at 50Things.today.
Thank you for reading this far (I'm grateful for that!), and I'll see you next time, when I'll return you to your regularly scheduled Indiana Jones-related content.
By now, you’ve probably seen these photos of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the set of Indy 5...
Sorry, but I can’t say I’m 100% excited. While these images have got me cautiously optimistic, they’ve also got me really worried.
What follows may be seen by some as controversial - perhaps even heretical - but here goes…
I’m hoping that 78-year-old Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is NOT the main star of this movie.
As you know, I LOVE the original Indiana Jones trilogy… but when Crystal Skull came out, all the “jokes” in it about Indy’s advanced age made me a bit sad. Of course, that was just one of many things in it that made me sad, but I couldn’t help feeling, many times during the film, that the character was just too old for a lot of the things he was being asked to do. The movie then bizarrely addressed this by making him virtually invincible.
“Invincible?” you say, “Really?”
Yes, really. He runs, he jumps, he fights, he wins. He evades or beats the bad guys every time, and he never gets injured, he never gets tired.
By hiding in a fridge.
I have nothing further, Your Honor.
The character of Indiana Jones was far more human in Raiders, 27 years earlier. And that’s one of the things we all love about Indy; he’s human! He gets bruised, he bleeds, he gets tired… he hurts! He has faults and foibles; he’s fallible.
In real life, when you get older, you become less athletic, not more athletic! But the 65-year-old Indy we meet in Crystal Skull was virtually bulletproof, dispatching villains half his age, one third of his age, without even breaking a sweat. He was just a couple of steps short of being a superhero.
That’s not our man. That’s not the Henry Jones Junior we know and love.
Which brings me to Indy 5. My great fear is that this movie will have Indy doing just as much running, jumping, fighting and stunt work as he did in Crystal Skull.
13 years ago.
Back when he was just 65.
He’s 78 now.
78 years old. 78.
I just looked it up, and Harrison Ford is 4 MONTHS OLDER THAN JOE BIDEN!
Surely that’d stretch the audience’s suspension of disbelief beyond its limits, even in such a heightened universe as the Indiana Jones franchise. One of the things I always loved about these movies was that, despite their exoticism and melodrama, they were always grounded in reality. They played out in real places, alongside real events, in the real 20th century. If Indy 5 could bring some of that real world grittiness back into the franchise, after the vapid grownups-playing-dress-ups, alien-hunting silliness of Crystal Skull, it’d be a big step in the right direction.
And I think that although Indiana Jones should be the star of the upcoming movie, Harrison Ford should not.
What I’d really love to see is 78-year-old Indy bookending the start and the end of the film.
In a perfect world, here’s what I’D like to see in Indy 5…
We join 78-year-old Indy half way through an adventure concerning an artefact that has a very personal history for him. It’s an elusive prize that slipped through his fingers 50 years ago, and it’s haunted him ever since. This artefact does something dramatic, destructive and supernatural every 50 years. It happened back then, and it’s about to happen again now. For 78-year-old Indy, it’s a race against time to stop it. He needs to utilize every scrap of his life experience; everything he’s learned from a lifetime of amazing adventures. But most importantly, he needs to use everything he learned from the last time he went after this powerful object; way back in 1928, when he was just 28 years old…..
Then, the middle section of the film is THAT adventure. It’s 1928, and the new young actor to play 28-year-old Indy has his very own adventure here, which takes up the middle hour of the movie. As this adventure ends, the artefact slips through 28-year-old Indy’s fingers, and we dissolve back to the “present day”, where 78-year-old Indy completes the adventure, and defeats / destroys / neutralises the artefact by drawing on all his accumulated knowledge, wisdom and resourcefulness… and by using just a small dash of age-appropriate stunt work / ass-kicking too.
The Indiana Jones universe is no stranger to this ‘bookending’ story format; they did it in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of The Blues. What I’m proposing here is the same principle, but done much bigger and way, way better.
I think this structure would be a great way to set the franchise up for more movies, and for Harrison to pass the baton to the next fresh young actor to play the role. My choice would be Anthony Ingruber, who has already played a younger version of Harrison in The Age of Adaline...
Then, future Indiana Jones movies can be made, featuring the 20-something / 30-something Indiana Jones having adventures in the 1930s…. all of which will unfold (and this is important) with Harrison’s blessing.
Of course, I’m just daydreaming here, but that’s what I’d like to see.
And I’m certain that’s not what we’re gonna get. I suspect that a more-athletic-than-is-humanly-possible-for-a-78-year-old Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones WILL be the all-action hero of this film, and he'll be on the screen most of the time.
So there they are, for what it's worth; My Thoughts On, Reservations About and Hopes For Indy 5…
What are yours?
There's an old, time-honoured saying that states "no one man re-imagining of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is ever truly complete without a rendition of Willie's performance of Anything Goes at the start."
Wise words indeed, And who was I to ignore them? When I was putting the show together, I knew early on that I wanted to recreate - as best I could - the glamorous opening musical number from the second movie. As you'll remember, the original was an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, in the Shanghai night spot 'Club Obi-Wan', with Kate Capshaw radiant as Willie Scott, flanked by dozens of tap dancing beauties.
In my show, I had just me.
No music (getting permission to use John Williams's original music was out of the question), no special effects, no sexy costume, no fellow cast members... and most certainly no tap-dancing talent.
I did it anyway.
I resolved to sing a verse, mimic some of the choreography - putting my own spin on it - and do my own very lo-fi version of the very impressively choreographed and shot dance routine.
The first step was watching the sequence again and getting my head around some of the choreography. Apparently, the moves originally devised for Kate Capshaw in the number were far more elaborate than what we see in the finished film. They had to be simplified and scaled back during the shooting of the sequence, because the dress that they'd made for the character of Willie Scott was too tight, and it restricted her movements! Or so the story goes. I was grateful for this - you'll see that most of Kate Capshaw's moves in the sequence are pretty basic, and therefore pretty easy to copy.
Learning the lyrics was tricky. According to various websites, Kate Capshaw is singing them in either
C) Some 1930s Shanghai dialect... or
D) Just plain gibberish.
Whichever one of these is correct, I was determined to imitate what we hear in the film as accurately as I could.
I played the mp3 of the song (from the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom soundtrack) on my computer, using the VLC Media Player to slow the playback right down. In this way, I was... eventually... able to transcribe it phonetically.
This is what I came up with:
Eewong zu-urr var a ekondar
Shing Lee binya la ching bownching
Ewung ee loo choocha koo-cha nayha
Chin su shoosha la fong yen
Won quon, zu zhesh-eh
Ee bin del tel
Pyen poh wei pah
Pyell wei bau
Mong wazong zu dah du
Zuzhu qway nu koo shah
Gootsoo woosway fay wahlong zhu-lau
Don motso hong sudassong yi ding wei booow
After I'd written it down, I drilled it and drilled it and drilled it, singing along with the original track - first in its slowed-down state, and then, as I gained confidence, working it up to full speed. Getting my mouth around these deeply unfamiliar collections of consonants and vowels proved to be not just a tongue twister, but a real brain teaser as well. Eventually, I got there, and these words (whether they were gibberish or not) became part of my muscle memory, and I was able to do them fairly easily.
The next question was how to tackle the tap dancing sequence. In the movie, it goes for a full minute, and it's spectacular to look at. I knew I wanted to do a parody version of it (just me doing crappy, cheesy, making-it-up-as-I-go tap "dancing" moves) but how long could I get away with it for? How much of... that... could I do, before I started outstaying my welcome?
I decided to risk 19 seconds. I found some audio of tap-dancing in my trusty BBC sound effects collection, and carved out a 19-second chunk of it, to be played into the show as one of the few audio cues. I must confess, there were times during the season when that 19 seconds of ridiculousness did feel pretty long from where I was standing (well, from where I was prancing), but I think generally the audience were on board for it. After all, by this stage in the show, we'd already got through all of Raiders together, and if they weren't on my side by now, they never would be...
As Russell and I worked on the sequence in rehearsal, we ended up dropping the second verse. The finished product comprised me just doing the first few lines, then the tap dance, and then the end of the number. All in all, this bit ended up going for 53 seconds.
And below is a link to the video of the end result. I apologise - as always - for the poor picture quality.
Enjoy, if you can.....
... and I'll see you next time!
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
At the start of Raiders, when Indy's in his classroom, he writes the word “NEOLITHIC” on the board, while saying
“'Neo-‘, meaning ‘new’... and ‘-Lithic’, meaning ‘stone’.”
For some reason, I often got the second part of that line wrong, instead saying
“'Neo-‘, meaning ‘new’... and ‘-Lithic’, meaning ‘age’”.
Perhaps it was to do with my miming of the chalkboard writing at the time. As I mimed writing the word, I would make the sound of the chalk scraping across the board, exaggerating the time it takes Indy to write three letters;
“ Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh .... Neo...”
“Sh... and 'lithic”.
Perhaps the action of doing that caused my mind to wander a bit. Also, when I looked up the word neolithic later, I saw a definition of it as the “new stone age.” Perhaps I'd looked it up earlier, and substituted “stone” for “age” subconsciously as part of that.
It wasn't the end of the world though, and I'm sure it only would have been noticed by the absolute nerdiest Indiana Jones nerds.
- BLOOPER #7
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.....