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.....