'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Thursday, February 21, 2002 ]

March, 1997.

Right now, I am rehearsing for a Broom Street show called "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll: The Real World." It’s a parody of MTV’s The Real World.

I’m playing a number of different parts in the show, including Butthead, from Beavis and Butthead. I hadn’t really done an impression of Butthead before the audition, but John Sable, the writer-director of the show likes it.

My main part is a character named Clark, an MTV executive—well, actually, it’s eMpTyVee in this version, to keep us from getting sued—who comes up with an idea to cast The Real World with all dysfunctional types to boost ratings, much to the chagrin of the show’s creator/producer Mary-Ellis.

She is played by Betsy McNeely.

In three years, she will be my wife.

But that’s in the future.

In 1997, in the here and now, I’m walking down State street, trying to catch a bus to rehearsal.

Ahead of me is a car parked in the middle of State street, across from The Den.

This is odd in itself; the only cars allowed on State are cabs, busses, cop cars, and, under some limited applications, delivery vehicles.

The car is parked right in the middle of everything.

The driver is still inside.

A cop car pulls up behind it. The two officers are yelling at the driver to stay in the car.

This is happening less than a block from in front of me. I have not stopped walking. If I miss the bus again, I’ll be late for rehearsal.

The guy starts to get out of his car.

The cops draw their guns and start yelling at the guy.

Their guns are pointed down the street—where I’m walking. If they start shooting, I’m right in the line of fire.

This is happening almost thirty feet from me. I am so close I can tell what make the guns the cops are carrying. Glock 17s. I’m guessing 9mm.

One of the cops starts yelling in Spanish.

Now the driver seems to get it. He stays in the car.

One of the cops walks over, gun still out.

This is behind me now.

I see the bus.

The guy is getting cuffed on the hood of his car.

I get on the bus.

The guy is read his rights in Spanish.

I go to rehearsal.

I am not late.

Rock On, Sisterfriend.
Part 5: Sucking Face With Mandy.

The email is from “Netscape User.” I have no idea what this is about.

The email reads something like:

You suck.

Nobody cares about you. Why don’t you just get one of your guns and kill yourself?

Oh, that’s right—THEY’RE ALL FAKE.

I hate you.

This gives me pause.

Now this sounds a lot like one of the scenes in the show: Lauri Harty plays a character with multiple personalities who ends up working on a suicide hotline, so my first suspect is the show’s director, John Sable.

Confession time, John, I say, did you send this to me?

I show him the printout of the email. He reads it as Nate Beyer, who is now the stage manager looks over his shoulder, and says, “Damn, man—you’ve got some enemies.”

“No,” John says, clearly surprised, yet amused, “that wasn’t me. If it were me, I’d tell you.”

“I’m kind of disturbed by the threatening tone of it,” Betsy says.

I just don’t normally inspire this kind of passion, I say.

We have already lost one cast member—we actually lose her in the first day. I later find out it is because she is pregnant. She runs out of the theater in tears as John announces that her part, a middle-class white girl convinced that she is African-American, will now be played by Tracy Wieczorek.

As a result of this, everyone’s parts seem to shift a bit. I end up playing an aerobics instructor. At the auditions, I requested to read for this part.

I do it with a cigarette in my mouth, a thick jersey accent with a raspy voice, wearing a t-shirt with a handgun on it that reads “New York: It ain’t Kansas.” The idea being is that this guy doesn’t work out, but he tells you to.

This show requires a lot of costume changes, running back and forth backstage—I never see how Betsy does it—she has to get to the other side of the theater and in another costume in about ten seconds.

Dan Jacobson plays Mortimer, the nerd of the show, who ends up passed out for a good portion of the show. He does a bit where his unconscious body gets pushed off the couch—he hits the wall with a WHAM as it happens. It looks like he gets hurt, but he doesn’t. He and Tracy worked together in the show “My Favorite Alien.”

Julie Levinson, who I know from “Please, Please, Please Love Me” returns as a valley girl who no one can understand—this is a clever irony, since after this she will go on to teach English.

Also from “Please, Please, Please Love Me” is Mandy Jones. She’s playing a part that she believes is somewhat based on her—which isn’t that flattering, considering that the character’s a drug addict who eventually dies of a drug overdose.

Also reunited are Cindy Toth, Betsy, and Lauri, who all were in “Irish Lesbian Vampire” together. Betsy said that she’d never do another show for Broom Street again after that show, but Lauri has talked her into it. At this time, 1997, Lauri and John Sable are married. In four years, they will be divorced.

But that’s in the future. In the here and now, in 1997, it’s Betsy who I hear is getting a divorce.

This is in the bar we all go to after rehearsal, after I ask why Betsy isn’t out with us.

I am told she’s getting divorced.

I hadn’t even realized that she was married.

The show opens. It is received very well.

Chet Toni, the light operator, has also made it into the cast as a guitar player during a club scene. It’s Chet’s house we usually end up partying at.

This is important information for later.

Betsy invites me to go and see “Waiting For Guffman” with her. The only place it’s playing is down in Milwaukee, but I’m up for it.

As it turns out, no one else is going—so it’s almost like a date.

Almost, except neither one of us admits it.

We have dinner at a nearby place.

We see the movie.

We spend almost a half hour trying to find Betsy’s car.

Betsy is mortified, but I’m in unusually good spirits.

We’re heading back, and Betsy apologizes again.

“I just feel like such a bonehead,” she says.

I smile, because I know this has something she’s heard me say.

“Shut up,” she says of my look.

Then, I suddenly think:


What’s happening here?

That night, Betsy answers her phone, and learns that Cindy has fallen and damaged her foot. This is on a Thursday.

This means that whatever we do to fix it has to be done fast.

John asks Betsy to step in for Cindy. Cindy’s playing a singer/guitar player in the show, and has solos.

Betsy does not sing. At least, that’s what she tells me, but there she is, as I walk into the theater, on stage and practicing. She doesn’t sound bad. John is taking over all of her parts, in drag. Nate Beyer takes on a few of the roles.

Betsy mentions that once again, she’s gonna have to suck face with Mandy, which she had to do in “Irish Lesbian Vampire.”

I’m not going to tell you how this makes me feel. Those thoughts are mine, all mine.

At any rate, we do the show, and Cindy, all dolled up and in a foot cast watches the show from the front row.

Check this off as one of those things I will always treasure: Cindy, tears in her eyes, applauding at the end of the show.

She’s so doing it next week, she tells us. Betsy tells her to be careful with her foot, but Cindy is determined.

The next week, Cindy’s back in the role.

But Mandy has to drop one night—she is sick, as John informs us.

N-Digo, another cast member offers to do her part—just from listening back stage, he tells us, he knows most of her lines.

In fact, he knows all of them. Nate plays almost all of N-Digo’s parts, at least the ones where N-Digo can’t because Mandy character and his character are onstage together.

The show is sold out. We’re goin’.

What’s amazing is that the show goes really well.

On closing night, everyone who had ever replaced anyone, all the people who had to come in at the last minute, came in to reprise their roles.

It was one of the coolest closing nights I’ve ever been part of.

Followed by a cool closing night cast party at Chet’s apartment.

John has asked N-Digo and I to make it like a phony awards show—“The Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll: The Real World Awards.” N-Digo and I shorten this to “The Druggies.”

It’s a fun night—some old friends show up.

At least one guy has to be forcibly removed from the party, and I almost get into a fight with a guy (for reasons I can’t remember other than he’s really being an asshole). Betsy has to break us up. I find out later that same guy was telling people that he likes to gay bash and has a shotgun in his car right now.

That night, some of us crash on Chet’s floor.

Cindy and Joe, who was at the cast party, retreat to another room, and close the door.

This leaves two other cast members, who start making out, and Betsy and I.

It is very late.

Betsy and I lay next to each other. I’m either trying to sleep, or pretending to sleep.

The two other cast members are all over each other, rolling around as Betsy and I try and pretend like it’s not happening.

The two of the roll into my foot, and one of them says “Ooh!”

I can’t help myself. I start laughing.

We all start laughing.

And then the two of them go back to fooling around, as Betsy and I go back to pretending to sleep.

I roll over.

I feel Betsy’s arm around my stomach.

I feel her kiss my shoulder.

I think:


What’s happening here?

To Be Continued…

Bonus link: Click here for the Elevator Scene from Irish Lesbian Vampire 2.

posted by Rob on 11:41 AM | link



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