Category Archives: Theatre

Early Notes from ‘They Came From Woking’

In ages past, I was in a play. Here are some old notes about it.


This is a page for recording ideas about Kristen McGorry’s script for a comedy play based around HG Wells’s book ‘The War of the Worlds’ and the Jeff Wayne 1978 rock opera album based upon it.

  • Have a character called Nathaniel so someone can shout out, “NATHANIEL!”
  • Set in Woking / Byfleet etc
  • Use the phrase, “The chances of anything….. are a million to one”
  • Use flare sound from first track, where Burton is describing the flares coming from Mars
  • Ominous unscrewing sound – someone opening a jar? Possibly a burglar? Tense scene.
  • Smoking the Red Weed?

Opening scene:

  1. Darkness
  2. Voiceover – hero quoting first lines from album, “Noone would have ever believed ….” through to “…they drew their plans against us”
  3. Music starts as in album
  4. lights up simultaneously, revealing character on stage in tin foil outfit on roof watching the skies
  5. possible dance routine, like ‘Thriller’?
  6. interrupted by Mum?

Improv Again

When Friend Kristen was in town way back in late 2012 (again), we went out on the town on Friday. After a nice curry and too much Taj Mahal lager at Little Delhi, we went to the regular improv show from Big City Improv at the Shelton Theater in downtown SF.

It’s a small theater, but clearly part of a thriving scene. It reminded me in many ways of the Wimbledon Studio – slightly broken, many layers of black paint, posters from old shows everywhere, and a slightly chaotic feel. Example: we bought our tickets at the bar just as someone told the barman they had run out of tickets, so they had to use DumDums instead.

We got seats in the front row, and enjoyed a fun show. The usual kind of stuff – a selection of quick games based on audience input and participation. I was encourage to take the stage and act as a puppeteer, manipulating one of the two performers while they attempted to extrapolate from the positions I was putting them in.

After the show, Kristen and I chatted with the cast and told them that we had dabbled in improv a couple of times in the past. It was lots of fun, and great to see how this kind of thing is done in a big city like San Francisco.

Time passed.

Earlier this year, I realised that I needed to get back on stage in some way or other. It was an urgent thing, an itch to be scratched. I went and auditioned at a place in Oakland, but the fee structure was too vague, so I went along to Berkeley Improv in of all places Berkeley, where I joined the Sunday evening (actually night tbh) “Improv for Performance” class.

It turned out to be loads of fun, liberating, exhilarating, exhausting. The group had people from all backgrounds, and all levels of ability. Everyone was keen and ready to learn. After the classes were done at the end of February, we performed a free end-of-class show for friends and family. It was great to be able to get back up there and lark about in front of people. Blind Freeze, Space Objects, Yes And…, Isn’t That Great?, Follow The Thread, Change In Status, I Have A Dream, Opera, Raise The Stakes, all the great exercises and games, some familiar, many new to me.

As soon as the February class was over, I signed up for the March class, and a couple of sessions in, it’s even better. Several alumni rejoined, and I reckon the showcase at the end of this month is going to be a corker.

In addition to that, the teacher Alex invited me and one other class member along to a group called the Berkeley Players, who perform semi-regularly. This was a much more intense session, with very few pauses to catch breath and discuss. We jumped straight from exercise to exercise, and by the end of the session I was even more exhilarated/exhausted. I don’t know if this means I will be performing regularly, but it has got the creative juices flowing once more. I hope to use these new skills and contacts in other fora, perhaps even on the podcast. We’ll see.

The Carlton Pantomime 2005 – The Full Script!

From the vaults, I present the polished-up script for the Carlton Dramatic Society Pantomime for the 2005 Xmas party. This was written by Kristen McGorry and I, and performed by a bunch of miscreants, some of whom are named in the script.

This is a combination of two very British things – the nativity play in the style told by a primary or elementary school, and the raucous pantomime (and that’s pantomime in the British silly naughty play sense, not just the “mime” sense). In this case, there were no children watching, so we played the crude stuff as hard as possible.

Just for information, I used the fantastic free script editing software Trelby to format the script, then export it in the beautiful, simple Fountain text script format, which is then displayed here in WordPress using the WP Scrippets plugin, which allows chunks of Fountain-formatted script to be included and formatted.

Anyway here it is. I present:

THE NAVITITTY

or

NO ROOM IN THE INN

[scrippet]

INT. SCHOOL GYMNASIUM

We are at a school nativity play. The real-life actual audience are taking the place of the parents forced to come and see the play. The “children” have written the play themselves, as is made clear by the quality.

All the “children” must keep picking their noses, and all the dialogue (apart from the TEACHER) must be in a monotone and stilted. Actions should be broad and wooden. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The TEACHER comes to the front of the stage and smiles at the assembled audience of proud parents

TEACHER
Welcome to Carlton Junior School for the Educationally Challenged’s first nativity play. It is nice to see so many parents here tonight eager to support their little ones. Just a few notices before we start. Due to unforeseen circumstances the part of Nervous Shepherd will now be played by Wayne Whiteside, Wayne Whiteside’s previous part, Innkeeper number 3, will be taken by Faye Wey. Faye Wey’s original role of Carrots, will now be played by a teddy on a piece of string due to Faye’s little accident in the donkey suit. Vladimir Petty-Stewart refused the small role we offered him on the basis it wasn’t worth his bus fare for three lines. Please can I ask you not to take flash photography as it will startle the children and could cause them to stampede. Especially if they are on medication. And please turn off your mobile phones – no-one’s impressed any more. So without further ado from me, I would like to encourage you to settle back and try to enjoy our Christmas story. Please bear in mind that the children have written this themselves so it’s not going to be that good. No point giving you false expectations. It gives me great pleasure… erm, well, I present No Room In The Inn!

She starts the clapping. TEACHER steps to the side, but is always ready to narrate or step in to move kids into position.

Scene settings from now on are literal, rather than saying “INT. A SCHOOL GYMNASIUM WITH A SHEET HUNG UP TO LOOK LIKE SOMETHING ELSE” which would get tedious very quickly, even more so than the play itself. So…

INT. A COUNCIL FLAT IN NAZARETH

The Virgin MARY enters, with JOSEPH in tow.

MARY
Hello. My name is Virgin Mary. I live with Joseph and we love each other very much.

She pulls JOSEPH towards her and kisses him, which he finds deeply disgusting.

JOSEPH
(Sullenly)
I am Joseph and I live with the Virgin Mary in a council flat in Nazareth on account of us not being married. Goodbye Mary I am going to work now. Bye.

MARY
OK Joseph have a nice day making shelves. And don’t talk to strangers!

JOSEPH leaves. MARY potters around the house.

I will kill Joseph; he’s always leaving his socks on the bedroom floor.
(She is startled)
Ohhhh!

The angel GABRIEL enters, turns off the light and enters with a torch under his face. He always faces the wrong way and has to be moved into position by the teacher.

GABRIEL
(In a spooky voice and waving his arms around like a ghost)
Whoooooooo Behold, I am the angel Gabriel.

MARY
That’s a girl’s name

GABRIEL
No it isn’t. Virgin Mary you are with child. This is the will of God. Go to Bethlehemalemalem and await further instructions.

MARY
Why?

GABRIEL
Because I am God’s messenger and I said so.

MARY
Why couldn’t he come himself?

GABRIEL
(dropping his spooky voice)
He’s busy. Whoooooooo!

He leaves and turns the light back on. JOSEPH enters

JOSEPH
Hello Virgin MARY. Have you washed my socks by night?

MARY
Joseph, Joseph I was visited by angel Gabriel. He says we have to go to Bethlehemalemalem.

JOSEPH
OK

MARY
Oh and I’m up the duff.

They leave

TEACHER
(Reading from the script as written by the children)
After the identity of the father of Virgin Mary’s child was established by a DNA test like with my mummy…
(looks around)
Who wrote this rubbish?
(Shakes her head)
Mary and Joseph set out for Bethlehemalemalem… I mean Bethlehem straightaway at once.

EXT. SHEPHERDS’ PART OF THE DESERT

Meanwhile in the desert… Enter the Two SHEPHERDS and their very pissed off SHEEP. They sit down and pretend to warm themselves on the fire. They sing.

SHEPHERDS AND SHEEP
(singing)
While Shepherds watched their turnip tops,
All boiling in a pot,
An angel of the lord came down,
And ate the flippin lot

SHEPHERD 1
Blimey it’s a bit cold tonight

SHEPHERD 2
But aren’t we in the middle of the dessert?
(pronounced “dessert”)

SHEPHERD 1
Yeah but its December.

SHEPHERD 2
How come there’s 2 of us, but only one sheep? Maybe we should get another.

SHEEP
(in a broad Cardiff accent)
You can’t! I’m the only sheep in the village.

[[This is a reference to the Little Britain one-note gay joke that was popular at the time. Aiming low, we were.]]

SHEPHERD 2
I didn’t see that one coming!

SHEEP
I wanted to be Mary!

GABRIEL enters as before

GABRIEL
(In a spooky voice)
Whoooooooo Behold, I am the angel Gabriel.

SHEPHERD 2
That’s a girl’s name

GABRIEL
No it isn’t! A child is to be born in Bethlehemlemmelm. Go there and give him stuff this is the will of God.

SHEPHERD 1
Why?

GABRIEL
Otherwise I will smite you.

He leaves

SHEPHERD 1
How far is Bethlehem?

SHEPHERD 2
One million miles!

SHEPHERD 1
Better get a move on then if we are going to get there before Christmas. Come on Sheep.

SHEEP sticks two fingers up at the Shepherds. SHEEP and SHEPHERDS exit.

EXT. WISE MEN’S PART OF THE DESERT

The three WISE MEN enter and pretend to walk across the stage. One of them is wearing a Spiderman mask. The TEACHER enters at the side.

TEACHER
Meanwhile in another part of the dessert, three wise men, Casper, Melchior, and …
(frowns at script)
…Spiderman were playing at home in Leyton Orient.

[[Leyton Orient is a football team. Boom. Gold.]]

The 3 kings sing. The Kings Singers! Ahahaha ah ha

[[There was a group called the Kings Singers. Folky stuff. 60’s I think. Maybe 50’s.]]

THREE KINGS
(singing)
We three Kings of Orient are,
One in a taxi, one in a car,
One on a scooter, beeping his hooter,
Following yonder star.

CASPER
My name is Casper the friendly ghost and I am very wise. There are 386 Pokemon.

MELCHIOR
My name is Melchior and I am also very wise. I have six uncles and no dad. And sometimes they stay the night, don’t they mummy?

He waves at his mum. Pick someone who would be embarrassed, implying they are a tart. So many to choose from!

SPIDERMAN
I’m Spiderman! Pshew!
(striking pose and doing web-fluid noise – ref “Matt Damon!”)

The angel Gabriel enters with a torch and turns off the light

GABRIEL
(In a spooky voice)
Whoooooooo Behold, I am the angel Gabriel.

CASPER
We know. A child is to be born in Bethlehem. Go there and give him stuff this is the will of God.

GABRIEL
How did you…?

MELCHIOR
We told you we are wise.

SPIDERMAN
I used my spidey sense! Pshew!
(strikes pose again)

GABRIEL leaves. The three turn to each other.

CASPER
What shall we do? We have no gifts.

MELCHIOR
It’s OK. I stopped at the 24 hour garage and picked up some stuff on our way from Leyton Orient. Behold, I have something for everyone.
(He hands out the gifts)
All Gold, Frankenstein … and More!
(He hands out a box of Terry’s All Gold chocolates, something to do with Frankenstein (a DVD?) and keeps a plastic carrier bag full of other stuff (aka More!))

CASPER
Follow that Star!

The two wise men point in different directions look at each other, then CASPER adjusts himself and points the same way as MELCHIOR. Exit THREE KINGS.

TEACHER
(getting drunk on sherry as the show wears on)
And lo Gabriel’s job was done and God said he was free to go off on his annual skiing holiday as long as he left a contact number in case of an emergency. MARY and JOSEPH were heading to Bethlehem on their donkey but it was very busy due to it being nearly Christmas and late night shopping and everything.

EXT. OUTSKIRTS OF BETHLEHEM

MARY and JOSEPH enter. MARY has a cushion up her top. This is to simulate the gestating foetus. JOSEPH is dragging a donkey (or a teddy etc) on a piece of string. They sing.

MARY AND JOSEPH
(singing)
Little donkey, little donkey
on the dusty road
mumble mumble mumble mumble
mumble with a Toad!

MARY
Are we nearly there yet?

JOSEPH
No. There are many roads and we must always stop and look both ways before crossing. We crossed the road to Domestos, all the roads from Leeds to Rome, the road to Manderley and the road to Perdition.

MARY
JOSEPH I am really tired, the baby is kicking and I really fancy a Kit-Kat.

JOSEPH
We shall stop at this inn

JOSEPH knocks on the door. INNKEEPER 1 answers it

INNKEEPER 1
Yes?

JOSEPH
Innkeeper. We have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehemalemahem, my wife is with a child and we are tired. Do you have any room at your inn?

INNKEEPER 1 looks terrified – she has forgotten her line. Extended bit here as she comes close to tears as the TEACHER tries to prompt her by mouthing “No” and gesticulating.

INNKEEPER 1
No

INNKEEPER 1 shuts the door

JOSEPH
Come on MARY we must try somewhere else or we will have nowhere to stay.

MARY
Look at my face. Do I look bothered?

[[This is a hilarious reference to a television sketch show catchphrase of the day. Again, aiming low.]]

JOSEPH and MARY do the ‘walking on the spot’ thing to go to the next inn, which is the same inn. JOSEPH knocks on the door. INNKEEPER 2, played by the same person with a different beard answers it.

INNKEEPER 2
Yes?

JOSEPH
Innkeeper. We have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, my wife is with a child and we are tired. Do you have any room at your inn?

INNKEEPER 2
Yes!
(TEACHER corrects her)

INNKEEPER 2
No

INNKEEPER 2 shuts the door. JOSEPH and MARY do the ‘walking on the spot’ thing to go to the next inn, which is the same inn. JOSEPH knocks on the door of the 3rd inn. INNKEEPER 3, same person again with a different beard answers it.

INNKEEPER 3
Yes?

JOSEPH
Innkeeper. We have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem my wife is with a child and we are tired do you have any room at your inn?

INNKEEPER 3
Hang on a minute.
(Does some calculations behind her back and brings out an abacus. Or if we can’t get a prop, just say ‘Computer’)
The Abacus says no.

[[This is a hilarious reference to another bloody sketch show catchphrase that was popular at the time. Seriously, we were clutching at straws.]]

INNKEEPER 3 shuts the door. JOSEPH and MARY do the ‘walking on the spot’ thing to go to the next inn, which is the same inn.

JOSEPH
Never mind MARY. It’s lucky there are so many inns on Bethlehem High Street. And they’re all open 24 hours a day!

[[This is social commentary about licensing.]]

MARY
I bet I won’t be allowed to smoke though.

[[This is also social commentary.]]

JOSEPH knocks on the door. A NICE INNKEEPER answers it. Same person again.

NICE INNKEEPER
Well hello there, how can I help?

JOSEPH
(in one breath)
Innkeeper we have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem my wife is with a child we are tired do you have any room at your inn?

NICE INNKEEPER
Have you booked?

JOSEPH
I meant to but…

NICE INNKEEPER
I’m sorry, we’re completely full. The Derbyshires are having a small get-together, with marquee, indoor regatta, full orchestra and performing midgets. On ponies.

[[This is a cross between a private joke, satire, and sour grapes.]]

JOSEPH turns away.

JOSEPH
Fine, MARY’ll just have to give birth in the street then.

Audience says Ahhh

NICE INNKEEPER
So your wife’s up the duff then? I thought she was just really fat.
(mutters to MARY)
I wanted to be MARY.

JOSEPH
Yes, it’s God’s apparently.

NICE INNKEEPER
How did that happen?

JOSEPH
She sat on a boy’s toilet seat.

NICE INNKEEPER
I thought it happened when a man and a woman love each other very much and they lie down together and the man inserts his …

As the innkeeper starts to describe and demonstrate the teacher rushes in and grabs her and takes her off gives her a stern talking to. MARY and JOSEPH pick their noses. The innkeeper comes back sullenly. She is made to apologise to the audience.

TEACHER
What do you say to the nice people?

NICE INNKEEPER
(by rote)
Sex is dirty and wrong and you shouldn’t talk about it until you are married.
(back to the script!)
Look, I have a knockthrough stable out back. I can move the team of oxen my wife uses to take our child to the school two minutes round the corner, and you can kip in there.

[[This is satire about SUVs.]]

There are some cows and pigs there as well.

JOSEPH
Why?

NICE INNKEEPER
Where do you think beef flavour crisps and pork scratchings come from? Just mind the hooks in the ceiling.

JOSEPH
(Going down on his knees in gratitude)
Thank you kind innkeeper your kindness and generosity has saved us.

NICE INNKEEPER
No problem. Do you want full English in the morning? I’ll stick it on your tab.

JOSEPH
Yeah cheers

INT. STABLE

TEACHER
Due to the Innkeepers kindness, MARY and JOSEPH had a place to sleep. But there was a problem!

JOSEPH
Innkeeper, there’s no bed! There’s just loads of dry grass.

NICE INNKEEPER
That’s ex-“straw”-dinary. Hay! Wheat a minute.

[[Jeez]]

I know! There’s a lowly carpenter who is always in my inn. I’m sure he’d be able to knock something up. I have heard he is both efficient and reasonably priced.

TEACHER
So JOSEPH went and paid the lowly carpenter. The lowly carpenter then stayed up all night, with no help from anyone, and made a wonderful bed out of 2×4 and nails. And for good measure he added a row of sinks and an en-suite toilet.

[[This was an affectionate nod to Mike T, who always did amazing things with 2×4 and nails for sets.]]

NICE INNKEEPER
Here you go, and if you need an extra pillow, there’s some cowpats there.

The innkeeper leaves

MARY
It smells in here

JOSEPH
Stop complaining

MARY
Where’s my kit-kat

JOSEPH
They haven’t been invented yet.

MARY
We should paint this room. And get new curtains. I’ve got some colour charts here what do you think JOSEPH? I thought the green or perhaps the pink, and what about lamps, JOSEPH? As for curtains I’ve been thinking and I got these cloth samples. You’ll need to – JOSEPH are you listening to me?

JOSEPH
Yes!

MARY
What was I saying then?

JOSEPH
Something about … paint.

TEACHER
And so the couple settled down in their new home and praised their good fortune as the beautiful Snowflake fairy covered Bethlehem with a layer of pure white magic.

A girl in a tutu, the SNOWFLAKE FAIRY, comes out and does very bad ballet to the Sugar Plum Fairy.

SNOWFLAKE FAIRY
(mouthing whilst dancing)
I wanted to be MARY!

Dance ends

TEACHER
(Starts clapping)
That was Ruthie Brooks, daughter of our School Governor and Chair of the Parent Teacher Association and Budgeting Committee, Mrs Emiline Waldorf-Brooks. Wasn’t she lovely everybody? A round of applause for Ruthie there.
(Teacher really claps and grins, scared for her budget)
And so it came to pass that MARY had the baby even though it was only a couple of days since the angel Gabriel had visited her. God works in mysterious ways.

MARY
(Going into labour.)
JOSEPH it hurts! Hold my hand.
(She grabs his hand.)

JOSEPH
Ewwwwww. Get off.

MARY pants and screams and thrashes about. She is really milking her part

JOSEPH
(Awkwardly patting her head)
Calm down dear. It’s only childbirth.

The SHEPHERDS and SHEEP enter

SHEPHERD 1
Hello. Are you Mr MARY and JOSEPH?

JOSEPH
Yes who are you?

SHEPHERD 2
We are the shepherds, Ant and Dec.

[[This is a reference to the popular TV presenters of the time. It is a hilarious reference.]]

MARY
Which is which?

SHEPHERD 2
We don’t know.

SHEPHERD 1
The angel Gabriel sent us, cos of the baby.

JOSEPH
Oh, she’s not had it yet. Come back in about an hour.

SHEPHERD 1
OK.

MARY
And get me a Kit-Kat!

TEACHER
And so the baby Jesus was born … what’s the matter?
(The sheep is tugging at her)

SHEEP
(with a serious face)
Miss, MARY’s lost the baby

TEACHER
What oh my god. How?!

SHEEP
She left it on the bus

TEACHER
(relieved)
Well you’ll have to improvise.

SHEEP
Yes Miss.
(Muttering)
If I’d been MARY I wouldn’t have left the baby Jesus on the bus.

TEACHER
And so the baby was born.

MARY takes pillow from under top. JOSEPH takes it and throws it off stage. An action man is thrown back, which he catches.

JOSEPH
Hey that’s mine!

SHEEP
(from behind the screen)
I think you’ll find that it’s Gods.
MARY enters

MARY
Ah my beautiful baby. Give it ere

The WISE MEN enter.

CASPER
You are Mr Virgin MARY and JOSEPH

JOSEPH
Yeah I know
(like on Little Britain)

[[This is a hilarious reference to a popular sketch catchphrase of the day. In case you were wondering, this went through several drafts.]]

MELCHIOR
We are 3 Wise Men from Leyton Orient. We have travelled a far to bring you these gifts.

CASPER
All Gold, Frankenstein – and More!

MARY
More what?

SPIDERMAN
(Checks in plastic bag)
Just more

The shepherds and pissed off sheep enter

SHEPHERD 1
They didn’t have any Kit-Kats so we got you a Big Mac.

MARY
Great, I’ll give the baby that for breakfast.

JOSEPH
(out of character, to audience)
Social commentary or Snobbery? You be the judge!

SHEPHERD 2
And this sheep
(pushes sheep forwards)

SHEEP
Up your bum!

SHEPHERD 1
You are our gift to the baby. The choice is yours. It’s either that or lamb chops.

JOSEPH
I fancy a nice juicy rack…of lamb!

All laugh, including the audience, I’ll bet. The Snowflake fairy enters.

SNOWFLAKE FAIRY
And I the Snowflake Fairy bring you the gift of peas on earth and good will to all men.

SHEEP
I don’t like peas

SPIDERMAN
(Giggling)
She said peas…

SNOWFLAKE FAIRY
And the gift of dance.

She starts to dance again. Everyone starts to grumble. MARY shouts and she stops dancing.

MARY
I’m MARY pay attention to me. Thank you everyone for the presents, although to be honest you could have brought something a bit more useful, like some Burberry nappies, or a Gucci pram. And how am I supposed to get back to size 6 again by next week with All Gold?

SPIDERMAN
Sorry. So what are you going to call the baby?

MARY
(Religious pause)
I was thinking of ….Streatham. After where he was conceived.

The assembled cast mutter their approval of the name. GABRIEL enters and does the torch thing

GABRIEL
Whoooooooooooo, you shall call the baby Jesus

JOSEPH
OK.
(gets out his mobile, and presses the buttons)
It’s going through to voicemail.
(or how about)
You have reached the Vatican – If you are having difficulty understanding the concept of immaculate conception press the star key now.

MARY
(In a spooky voice)
I shall call the baby Jesus.

EVERYONE
(Like Ahhhh Bisto)
Ahhhhhh Jesus.

SHEPHERD 1
We should sing a song to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.

SHEPHERD 2
I know!
(starts singing ‘Happy Birthday’, all join in)

CASPER
Although this is a happy occasion, I am saddened for the future of this child. I predict he has a lifetime of pain and suffering ahead of him.

MELCHIOR
Why?

CASPER
His birthday is on the same day as Christmas, he’s only ever going to get one set of presents!

[[(that joke is now 2005 years old)]]

The cast sing ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’, with an extremely extended ‘Gloooooooooooria’. Keep it going as long as is possible – really go for it.

Then the serious song – ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, with songsheets!

THE LIVING END!

[/scrippet]

Theatre Database Available Again

I’ve managed to get my little database of theatrical productions I’ve been involved with back up, after an extended period of not being able to remember my MySQL password (thanks, ICDSoft tech support!). It’s part of my ongoing relationship with theatre – the small-scale, amateur, just-for-fun kind.

I now need to update a lot of the information in the database. It was set up as an exercise in PHP and MySQL, but I would like to get it moving again. Many of the links are broken, and I would like to add more information, and if possible integrate it more into the rest of the site.

Regarding that last one, it would be great if there were a WordPress plugin that could manage the realtionships I have in my custom database. There are a few that deal with theatre bookings, company schedules, but none that cover the full extent of what I want. I shall explain.

What I have in this database (here’s a dump of all the raw data):

  • Table containing information about Groups or Theatre Companies
    • Name of group
    • URL of homepage
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Venues
    • Name of Venue
    • URL of homepage
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Roles
    • Name of role
    • Onstage or Offstage (to cover backstage work such as lights and sound)
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Performances
    • Name of show
    • Author
    • Blurb
    • Dates (either exact or just a quarter)
    • etc
  • Table containing Links to other information about a Performance
    • URL

Relationships (created by the queries at the time of page creation):

  • Each Performance is related to a single Venue and a single Group. Not every Group has its own Venue, so these had to be kept separate. This is where most of the plugins and tools for managing show data fall down. They assume that a Theatre Company has a Theatre where they do Theatre. Most groups I’ve been involved with have not. (The “get-in” and “get-out” are often the most fun parts of a show week).
  • Each Performance may be related to multiple Roles. This is to cover the possibility that I may have had more than one Role in a show, including roles on and offstage, for example designing the poster, or helping build the set.
  • Each Performance may be related to multiple Links, which point to resources like an image of the flyer, a show website, or a photo gallery. This is to allow multiple resources to be connected.

Fancy graph!


Any ideas for what I could do next? Anyone know of a good WordPress plugin along these lines (that doesn’t fall foul of the requirements above? Anyone want to help me get this information more presentable? What I definitely need is a way of entering and editing information in the database without burrowing into PHPMyAdmin and doing open-table surgery.

The question of whether I want to ever add some new performances to the database remains open…

Sad News From The Carlton

I received some very sad news today from my old friends in the Carlton Dramatic Society. Philippa “Pippa” Cain (nee Booth) died suddenly on April 28th. She was a huge part of the society, driving the shows, the direction and the character of the group for several years. She met her husband Adam there, and it was a love story worthy of the stage. She leaves behind Adam and two children, Topaz Albany Zoë (aged 11) and Merlin Orion George (aged 9) – as you can tell, she was one of a kind!

Pippa’s time at the Carlton only just overlapped mine – I was never involved in one of her shows apart from creating the prorgams and websites for a couple. But I wish I had been – from the enthusiastic descriptions given by the cast and crew, they sounded like lots of fun. Pippa had a distinctive sense of aesthetics – her productions often made great use of sets and props to give a quirky style all her own. She was handy and practical as well – she made me a moulded plaster mask for one show, which I still have.

Only recently, I posted the preserved show pages for all the old Carlton shows, up to when I left the group. In particular, Pippa directed:

I’ve picked out some of the choicest pieces of Pippa’s original artwork from the various show pages. See the gallery below.

Judging by the emails flying around in the last couple of days, she will be sorely missed. A tragic loss.

Carlton Production Pages

Back when I was a member of Carlton Dramatic Society in Wimbledon, I was for a while the newsletter editor, and by extension, the website editor as well. The site was already packed with pages from the earlier productions, so when I spruced up the site, I corralled them into a new page, and tied them together with some semi-automating PHP. This is a language designed for use on websites, which allows dynamic content, file access, etc.

I was learning PHP at the time, and of course learning by doing is always best, so I was quite pleased with the way they came together, and how it was easy to reuse bits and pieces to reduce the work each time a new page was needed. Basically, each show had a main PHP file, a selection of reused INC files (which were just snippets of text with an INC extension to remind me they were to be INCluded, and which provided the repeating structure), and a couple of CSV files containing the cast list and crew list, which allowed me to display the cast without having to fiddle with HTML and UL/LI tags.

When a new show was announced, all I needed to do was copy the previous show’s folder, rename a few things, change some copy text, change the CSV files, and drop in the relevant graphics. Simple, but flexible, and it made possible the great difference between the simpler pages for Teechers and Stags and Hens, and the one for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. In some cases I added in some custom bits, for example with 84 Charing Cross Road, which had extra airmail-style borders.

Once I’d got the PHP toolkit set up, I started to go back and create retrospective pages for productions which came before my time with the group (some of which came before the web was properly around!). I had gathered and scanned some programmes from older members, and I was able to OCR and edit the pages together from the program notes. I used the free program SimpleOCR for this. A classic example of this retroactive webpage creation is the page for the 1991 production of The Crucible, which uses the same components, a generic CDS logo as a marker, and a scan of the program as the artwork.

This was a good experience of trying to learn a new skill, so I decided to put up all the pages I created on this website. The full list of productions page can be found here. Many of the links originally led back to the Carlton’s homepage, so I’ve changed them so they go to the group’s new website.

Fresh Meat Casting

Back when I was involved in amateur/independent theater in London, some friends and I found some of the things actors put their CVs pretty funny. So, we created our own casting agency, Fresh Meat, and threw together some fake CVs. The names have been changed, but they were based on ourselves – see if you can guess who is who?

A bit of an in-joke, and an old one at that, but I found this stuff when I was clearing out out drafts and crap, so I thought I’d post it for fun & completeness. Enjoy Fresh Meat Casting.

A Day In The Life Of The MC

From the archives, here is a short piece I wrote to be my biography in the program for an old improvisation show that I compere’d in Wimbledon a few years ago. See if you can spot the subtle references.

~~~

I live in Tooting, on Renmuir Street, on the 1st floor.
My name is Matthew Petty.
I’m 30ahem years old.

Despite appearances, I believe in taking care of myself, in a balanced diet, in a rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an icepack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now. After I remove the icepack, I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower, I use a water-activated gel cleanser. Then a honey-almond body scrub. And on the face, an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply a herb mint facial masque, which I leave on for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. While the kettle boils for my Co-op Red Label Tea, I feed my West Highland Terrier and talk to him. His name is Shuggie and I love him, although his opinions on Intelligent Design are a little worrying.

I always use an aftershave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm, followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.

I enjoy the music of The Human League. Interestingly, I enjoy their early avant-garde work as an electronic 3-piece (The Black Hit Of Space, Dreams Of Leaving) just as much as the later, more chic, cinematic cocktail disco of Don’t You Want Me and Open Your Heart. I also like The Who, Talking Heads and Dollar, and there is no shame in that.

There is an idea of a Matthew Petty – some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me. Only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours, and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable –

I simply am not there.

comperebadge

Sweaty Greeks

Thursday. Audience = 20.

This is one those liveblogging things where I’m typing backstage, while Tiresias applies her Amy Winehouse eye makeup, and on stage Oedipus and Jocasta discuss the stories that will soon intertwine to reveal their terrible fate. Not exactly liveblogging, because this won’t hit the web until later, but kinda.

My first two scenes were hot: both in the sweltering-under-the-lights hot and pretty-damn-good hot. Of course, I’ve jinxed myself by saying that, but we’ll see. The energy is up, but I am involved with stuff as usual, so I need to concentrate. It has become my duty later on to mop up after Jocasta, because she enters covered in blood, so I mop up after her to prevent the dressing room and the cast getting smeared. I feel like Norman Bates: “Mother?! Blood! Blood!!”

We’re Surrounded!

Saturday 3 May. Audience: 20 / 20ish.

A matinee performance where the audience outnumbered the cast? Unthinkable. But there we were, with people… looking at us… on all sides. Despite this unforeseen hiccup, the first performance was good with lots of energy. I think I saw the fabled Man of Wimbledon, with his harrumphing and stretching, but he’s always there. Didn’t see his flask of tea, but one can assume it was there. I was in a much better mood because of stuff anyway, so that helped lift it, even if it didn’t help the concentration.

After the first run, I joined Susie, Kylie and Ryan at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for too much food. The back to the theatre for some tips and tweaks to the chorus parts, and how they interact with the principals. Some good new bits that you ungrateful wretches that come and see it will never appreciate.

The evening run suffered a little from lack of energy, on my part at least, due to the hundredweight of beef in my stomach. But it was a good’un, and the audience was even bigger, as was I.