Screaming Under Water

I babysit projects for a living.  I watch them closely as they grow up. I pat them lovingly, diagnose their ailments and I wave goodbye tearfully when they’ve grown-up into the product they were meant to be.  I do this every day and come the end of every August, I wish them well and get ready to welcome a new set.  When you do this daily, you start to think of everything as potentially a project.  It’s a bit of an illness, really.  “People are coming over?  Well, first we need to think about whether people need to come over, is it a feasible thing to have them here?  What are the activities that need to happen in order to get people here? I know, we’ll make a party plan and start executing it by sending out emails, organizing any food/drinks and checking in occasionally to see if we’re on track for those people to be here. Once it’s over, we’ll do mental “lessons learned” and identify what worked and then what we could do better.”

This is how I think.  I’m one of those overly planned sorts – the kind you’ll never get to spontaneously run away on some great adventure in the middle of the night unless you’ve given me a few days notice (a few weeks would be even better!).  I know.  I think among my friends, I’d be called a “fun suck” – the vacuum where fun goes to die.

I mention all of this as a way to lead up to an update on our upcoming sketch show.  Hey, you’ve been with me since my first sketch class, through the highs and the lows and then more lows, through the casting of the show so I owe you an update.  (FINE! I’ll give you an update on Sam later.  Just pretend for now that “sketch” is just code for a floppy eared beagle, if you must.)

Our show is in trouble.  I say this as a babysitter of projects – as the person who ushers in 20+ projects a year and waves goodbye to 10-20 more by year’s end.  The only way we’ll have a show on August 5th is if we reduce the scope and that means cutting sketches and giving up on the filming.  You see, right now there is no discernible plan beyond “we rehearse once a week”.  There’s no driver pushing this baby to its end and for me, the project babysitter, it’s frustrating.  Last Tuesday, we received the rehearsal schedule a few hours before the rehearsals.  It lets all of us know what is being rehearsed and when the actors should arrive.  One actor asked if the rehearsal had been canceled and I’m the one who had to say, “no, the schedule is late… please forgive…,” which wasn’t my place.  We ended up with four actors out.  Two notified in advance, but when it came time to schedule the sketches that night, that bit of information was forgotten, which meant that two of the sketches were missing half or more of their cast.  The third sketch was sent back for re-writes after the first read.  This is something that should have been determined before the rehearsal started, before the actors came in for 15 minutes and were sent back home.  Our instructor should have read through the sketch and if he had doubts, he should have aired them before people were lined up to read it in the middle of the night.  We’re still paying for this class.  We’re paying to learn about this aspect of sketch – casting, rehearsals and putting on a show.

Where we stand right now is we’ve rehearsed 5 of 20 sketches, 2 of those without the full cast that are supposed to perform them, 1 that was determined mid-read wasn’t ready, which means only 3 shows have been fully rehearsed and blocked with the cast that will perform them.  We are supposed to film at least 2 of the sketches, if not more and there’s been no plan for that other than a classmate stepping up and saying, “I’ll do it” just so we can get it done.  We were told “we may need more sketches and an opening number”.  If we want that in there, it has to be written NOW, it has to be rehearsed in the next couple of weeks, otherwise that is NOT happening.

All emails to our fearless leader are met with silence – like whispering a wish into the air.

I feel like I’m screaming alone underwater.

If this were one of my project babies, I’d be shooting up so many flares and waving so many red flags, because it’s in trouble.  At best, it’s “yellow”.  And quite honestly, to bore you with a project term, only fast-tracking will get baby back on schedule at this point.

Honestly, guys.  I don’t want you at the show right now.

Sketch Highs and Lows

For a week I’ve been high on a bit of praise I received from Esther’s Follies.  For those outside of Austin, Esther’s is a bit like our very own Saturday Night Live.  Their shows have been running non-stop Thursday – Saturdays since around 1977.   Recently, they (along with The Onion) hosted a sketch writing contest and I went ahead and submitted a sketch.  My thought was, “the only way to definitely not win is to not try”.  This is the rallying cry I use when talking myself into most things – good and bad.  “The only way to definitely not know what the red ‘Do NOT Push’ button does is to not push it.”   You know the sort.  The praise I received was, “this is very funny” and had a couple of suggestions to make my sketch work on their stage (apparently, you cannot expect actors to crumble into dust before a live audience – clearly their actors aren’t truly dedicated to the craft – lazy creatures!). They then reiterated that they really liked the sketch.  I was drunk on the praise.  Here’s a group that I’ve gone to see since the late 70’s with my Dad.  The place we’d show-off whenever an out of town guest crossed our city’s limits and here they were saying I was funny. Oh you! You guys are funny!

The contest ended Sunday.  I knew I wouldn’t hear back and I’ve really tried to cheer myself up with “hey, you got some fine praise”, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed.  I was completely in love with the idea that my sketch would be performed on their stage.  How cool would that have been?  In my fantasy, my sketch writing class heroes and I then formed a sketch writing troupe. A video montage played in my head featuring photos of an assortment of performers, stages, and YouTube clips along and the occasional shot of all of us laughing hysterically and our delighted audiences. There may have even been people cheering my name and a guest spot on The Daily Show.  My Belushi-esque downfall would still be years away.  The highs and sad lows of a week.

To add to those lows, I really tanked in sketch class last night.  In class, we go around the room and there’s a group reading of your sketch.  You assign your parts and you get to hear how it plays out.  I had two sketches read – one where the assignment was based on a real life event and one where we created a musical number.  The one I wrote based on a real event went over like a big gigantic craptastic turd.  Well, the event it was based on was a big gigantic craptastic weird turd to begin with, but I had lamely tried to make it humorous by switching up a few details.  Let’s just say it played like it did in real life.  The first comment after the last line was read was a big, “WHAT?!?!”  I knew I should have gone with the story about the blind date who took me to the AA meeting.

The musical sketch I wrote was a parody of Glee using characters from Game of Thrones.  No one in the room had ever seen Game of Thrones, so I spent most of the time trying to explain who the characters were and what the gags were about.  I used the Glee theme “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the song the characters would sing at the Westeros Regionals.  After explaining that Westeros wasn’t actually a real place, I realized I should stop before even trying to explain why the Dothraki Secondary School kids would be scantily clad and whinnying.   Before we even started reading/singing the sketch, I just wanted to lay my head down on the table.

For your amusement, I’m including the first draft.  A couple of notes:  It won’t make sense if you’ve never seen Game of Thrones. It’s also a first draft; I haven’t re-written it, yet.  I’m actually not sure what I’m going to do for a re-write – maybe the character The Hound will sing a version of “Get Happy”.  As a first draft, I decided I was completely cool with it not following a rhyming scheme necessarily and having it stray a bit from the original song.  I’ll stop there since I’m about to kill an angel.  As you recall, we’re forbidden from doing this in class (or outside).  It happens when you apologize for your writing.

First, let’s start with the Glee version of the song to get you in the right mindset.

Now, the first draft.  Did I mention it’s a first draft? It’s not polished?  Be kind. (Oh, and about the HTML code – well, it wins today.  I’m too lazy to figure out the spacing problem at the moment.)



A brightly colored banner bearing a stag on each end declares this is the “Westeros Seven Kingdoms Regional Competitions”. Several groups of teens cluster around in their school’s groups, each with a kid holding a standard representing their respective high schools. “Winterfell High” – the kids are dressed in white with fur lining theirnecklines and cuffs. “King’s Landing High” – blonde, beautiful and tanned students who all look eerily similar wearing the finest couture – the glint of rings, necklaces and pearly whites reflect in the spotlights . “Dothraki Secondary School” – the teen boys strut around without tops and wearing only shorts – the girls are also scantily clad. The Dothraki sporadically whinny. Finally, “Nightwatch High” – reform school kids that appear to be hard on their luck without a budget for matching outfits. They stand around and sulk.

The crowd favorites, Winterfell High, assume center stage. Their stars NED and CATELYN STARK step away from the group as the orchestra begins to play the opening refrains of “Don’t Stop Believin’”. They smile as they look at each other, and then face the audience to begin their duet.


Just a small town girl,

Living in a frozen world

She took a late night ride goin’ anywhere.


Just a man, they call The Hand;

They tried to kill our Bran

He took a late night walk to uncover the truth.


A eunuch in a sun-filled room.

The smell of lies and stench of doom.

In a whisper he will point the way

To my destiny.

 The rest of the Winterfell choir moves forward and takes center stage.


Houses scheming, for a throne of swords.

No need for cushions, hemorrhoids.

The kids don’t look like you, what’s a king do?

They’re all blonde, yay inbreeding!

The chorus line throws their thumbs in unison over their shoulders to point out the choir from King’s Landing. The kids from King’s Landing High scowl and quickly cover the ears of the younger choir members. Ned and Caitlyn come together and then dance away. JON SNOW steps away from the Nightwatch High kids and takes over the mic.


Working hard to guard the wall.

Don’t want to take a fall.

Trying to fill my time.

And not worry about Bran.

(singing defiantly to Catelyn)

My step-mom, she’s a shrew

I can see why he strayed from you.

I took the black, now the White Walkers come.


Don’t stop with treason.

Grabbing the throne is still in season.

Whispers in the night.


Don’t get attached.

Ned Stark’s head becomes detached.

Everyone in the story ends up dead.


Don’t start moping

There’s more to come; the plot line’s open

I get a girlfriend in the end.

Jon Snow shoots a smile at the kids from King’s Landing, then adds.


… and Tyrion is my friend.

Jon walks away from the mic, high-fives a young dwarf standing among the King’s Landing kids.


Don’t Stop!

The crowd goes crazy with applause and gives the group a  standing ovation. At the judges table a heavy-set balding man covers his mic while whispering conspiratorially with a small squirrely, well-dressed man as they score the performance. Their nameplates read: VARYS and LITLEFINGER.


And that’s how I went from an incredible montage-filled high to a “I think I’m quitting sketch” low (and how I worked the word “eunuch” into a musical number).  I’m really trying to listen to Jay, although he’s filled with crazy ideas like, “Beth, you’ve only been doing this for how long? Three months?” This whole “it takes time” “you get better by continuing to write” thing is annoying.