Annekenstein V – Opening Sketch?

I have such a bad memory about things I’ve performed or haven’t performed. I came across this script I wrote for Annekenstein V, and I cannot for the life of me remember if it was staged or not. I think it was, but the document is entitled “Opening (unused)”, so that’s making me doubt myself.

I’m thinking that perhaps it was performed at least a few times but may have been replaced by another sketch?

Anyway, I like a lot of the script. It very much represents the kind of comedy I like to write and perform.

I post it here, for posterity.

Opening (unused)

Rob enters onto a stage, upon which are three chairs, set up in a row.  He takes center Stage

Rob: Good evening everyone, and welcome to Annekenstein!  Before we begin, I’d just like to point out some changes to those of you who may have seen our shows before. 

After last year, a governmental agency called the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission contacted us at Annekenstein.  This Merchandise Regulatory Commission is responsible for giving out licenses to any group or individual who wishes to make money off the intellectual property of the Lucy Maud Montgomery creation Anne of Green Gables and all the characters there involved.  This commission was developed beacause there was a worry that some of the crafts and dolls, and such, which had an Anne of Green Gables theme, were of a lesser quality, esthetically speaking, than was worthy of such an important fictional character as Anne Shirley. 

So, it was felt that a commission such as this could deny licenses to any persons or groups whom the commission deemed as unacceptable to the positive portrayal of Anne of Green Gables.

Well, to make a long story short, Annekenstein falls under this commission’s jurisdiction, and unfortunately for us, and for you the audience, the Prince Edwrd Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission found Annekenstein portrayed (gets out paper and reads) “a negative perception to the wholesomeness and good feelings which are so inherent in Anne of Green Gables” and declined to give us a license. 

Dave Moses and I, being the primary writers, talked to them, and to make a long story short, we finally did manage to get a license for this year’s Annekenstein.  However, there were a few catches. 

We were told we could still make fun of Anne, et al., but the humour had to be gentler.  In sketches where Anne isn’t present, we could be the same old satirical wits we used to be, but when Anne was involved, we had to tone down quite a bit. 

Still, we feel we are still presenting one hell of– one heck of a… a funny show.  It’s still funny.  We still make fun of Anne, and you’ll still laugh, I hope.  But, like I said, for those of you who are familiar with the  comedy of Annekenstein’s past, you’ll likely notice some subtle changes.  Some for the better, some, not so for the better. 

So, on with– Oh, and the Merchandise Regulatory Commission had final approval of any sketches involving Anne Shirley.

So, on with our show.  Here’s our first sketch of the evening, and, co-incidentally, it does involve references to Anne.  I think it’s very funny and it’s entitled  “The Importance of Being Anne”.  Enjoy!

Rob leaves and stage goes black.  Lights come up on the three chairs, with Laurie and Jan occupying two, the middle chair empty

Laurie: Hello, Jan Rudd, and welcome to Annekenstein 5. 

They get up and hug

Laurie: It must be quite exciting, being one of the two new additions to the Annekenstein cast.

Jan: Yes, Laurie, it certainly is.  Myself, and Matthew Rainnie, who is the other of two additions to the cast, we are both happy to be here, and look forward to the raucous joviality that this show is all about.

Laurie: Yes, and although we tend to poke gentle barbs at Anne of Green Gables, ourselves profiting from such tom-foolery, or should I say “Anne-foolery”, we musn’t forget just how important Tourism is to this province, and  that Anne of Green Gables represents a very large part of the Island’s Tourism dollar.

Jan: Yes.  Anne is so important to our provincial economy that we really shouldn’t make fun of her at all.  (Laurie laughs)  What, Laurie, did I say something funny?

Laurie: Yes.  You said ‘we shouldn’t make fun of her’, as if she were alive!

Jan: So I did!  The funny thing being that she’s not alive, nor ever was. She’s just a book!  (Jan laughs)

Laurie: Exactly!  (Laurie laughs as well, stopping suddenly when:) Look, here comes Matthew Rainnie now.

Matthew enters and hugs Laurie, then Jan

Laurie: Hello, Matthew, and welcome to Annekenstein, but you are not part of this sketch are you?

Matthew: No, Laurie, and Jan, I’m not.  But the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, along with the writers of Annekenstein, feel that one of the best loved aspects of the old Annekenstein shows was the unpredictbility.  You know, when something unexpected happens.

Jan: You mean like right now.  Neither Laurie, nor I, knew you were coming out here, now.

Matthew: Yes.  The writers feel impromtu bits of comedy like this are excellent ways to get the audience to laugh, and the best thing is, we can do it without making negative references to Anne of Green Gables, keeping her image meticulously wholesome and positive.

Laurie and Jan laugh, then Matt joins in.  Ed enters wearing Anne hat and braids.  The others stop laughing and stare at him, shocked

Ed: Hey, guys!  Are you improv-ing already?

Laurie: What in the blazes do you think you’re doing?

Ed: I’m getting ready for the next sketch.

Jan: Not with that thing on your head your not!!

Ed: What do you mean?

Matt: You know the new rules for the show.  Boys aren’t allowed to wear Anne of Green Gables hats and braids anymore.  Only the girls are, and only if  portraying her in a positive fashion.

Laurie: Now, come on! Take them off!! 

He does

Ed: Aw, man, this Regulatory Commission is draining the life out of this show.

Jan: It’s not.  It’s for the betterment of the community that they’ve been given the power they have.

Ed: All’s I know is, men in funny girl-hats makes people laugh.  This really sucks!

Nancy: (Off stage) Who swore!!!  (Entering)  I heard a swear!  Who swore!!  Ed?!!

Ed: I didn’t swear!  I just said this sucks.

Nancy: Blasphemer!!  The Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, in association with the writers of Annekenstein, consider the word S-U-C-K-S as an unsuitable word, when associated with Anne of Green Gables.  It’s a forbidden word.

Ed: Why?

Jan: Because S-U-C-K-S could conjure up images of fellatio.  And no one wants to think of Anne Shirley giving head. 

Ed and Matt become instantly aroused by these words

Nancy: Jan!!

Jan: Oh my God! What did I say?!?

Laurie: You said “Anne Shirley giving head”! 

Ed and Matt groan, involved in their own sexual fantasies

Nancy: Oh, no, the boys are fantasizing!  About Anne.  That’s most forbidden!!! (To Jan and Laurie) You see what happens!!!

Laurie: This is all your fault, Jan!

Jan: ‘Tis not.

Nancy: We’re in big trouble.  We could lose our merchandise license over this!

Rob enters

Rob: People! People! Calm down!  What’s all the stir? Why have we stopped the show?

Matt: I don’t know, Rob.  I came out with that bit of improv you wrote me…

Rob: I didn’t write you any improv, Matt.

Matt: But that guy from the Regulatory Commission gave it to me and said you wanted me to say it.  Seemed to go over alright, anyways.  Then Ed shows up in a hat and braids!

Rob: Red braids?

Matt: Yes, they were.

Nancy: And then Ed swore.  He said sucks!

Rob: Is this true, Ed?

Ed: Yeah, so?  What’s the big deal?!  We used to stuff like that last year.

Rob: Yeah, Ed, and a hundred a fifty years ago Dodge was a rough and tumble city,  but it had to get cleanded up!!

Nancy: And Jan said “Anne Shirley giving head”, and then Laurie said it, too!

Rob: Nancy, that’s enough tattling!

Nancy: Well, they did!

Rob: Nancy!

Laurie: I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell what Jan said.

Jan: Well, I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell Ed what image “sucks” could conjure up.

Rob: Enough! Enough with Anne Shirley giving head!  I mean, here it is, our first sketch in association with the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, and we’ve already resorted to the same stuff that we were doing last year.  It’s stuff like this that was the reason they wouldn’t give us a license in the first place.

Ed: Stuff like that makes people laugh.

Rob: I don’t care about people laughing, Ed!  I only care about the license.

Ed: Rob!  Listen to yourself!  “I don’t care about people laughing”?  That’s not the Rob MacDonald I know and love!

Rob: Drop it Ed!

Ed: No I won’t!  What have you become? “People laughing” used to be all you cared about.  You’ve devoted your whole life to it!

Rob: My hands are tied!  We need this license if we want to perform.

Holds up license

Ed: Screw the  license, man!  You did before!  Remember when the cops got you for drunk driving and you lost your license!  But you still drove!  You drove without a driver’s license and By God, you can act without an Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory License!

Rob: You’re absolutely right, Ed.  I’ve become some mewling sycophant, rubbing bellies with those snakes in governmental beauracuracy!

Nancy: That’s not your style!

Rob: No, it’s not…. This is my style! (rips up license)

Jan: But what about all the scripts you and David Moses wrote in association with the Regulatory Commission?

Rob: To Hell with them, Jan!  From now on we’re doing things with both barrels blaring!

Laurie: What obvious phallic symbolism!

Matt: Yeah, that’s all fine and dandy, Rob, but now we don’t have enough new material to put on a whole show.  What are we gonna do?  This audience is hungry for comedy.

Rob: Not to worry, Matt.  When you’ve been in this Annekenstein business as long as me, you begin to get tired and lazy.  And with that laziness comes a desire to rest on your laurels…  Ed!

Ed: Yes, sir?

Rob: Ed, do we have any of those old sketches lying around? You know, the ones from the last four years?

Ed: I think they’re all in a trunk, backstage.

Nancy: If Ed can’t find them, I have everything saved from every year but the first, ’cause I wasn’t asked to be in that one.

Rob: Well, go get ’em, kids!

Ed and Nancy exit

Rob: Everyone, run off and learn your lines!

Jan and Laurie run off, Matt begins but stays to listen

Rob: We’re gonna put on an Annekenstein!  And not some watered-down, government regulated Annekenstein, but a good, old fashioned barn-raising Annekenstein.  Like they used to do in Them Times.  We’ll take the best of all the old shows, put them together with some new stuff, and put on a show to end all shows!

Matt: What’ll we call it?

Rob: How ’bout “The Best of Annekenstein”!

Matt: Couldn’t we call it “Spirit of The Nation”?

Rob: Are you out of your fucking mind?… Let’s go!

BLACKOUT

I try not to be a dishonest person, but if I were to dive into a world of criminality I’d start by stealing this vehicle, for its contents. My next score would be a truck full of Vachon Super Jos. Louis. Anyone wanna be the Clyde to my Bonnie?

Rob Reviews: The Songs of Anne & Gilbert, the Musical

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

In an effort to salvage some sort of a season out of this Life-On-Hold-And-Oh-Yeah-A-Pandemic-Too situation in which we find ourselves immersed, the producers of perennial The Guild mainstay Anne & Gilbert the Musical stubbornly insisted on “putting on a show” this summer. This, despite pretty much the rest of the theatrical community here on The Island, and around the world, stating “That, sir, is nigh on impossible!” They came upon the idea of presenting The Songs of Anne & Gilbert, the Musical.

It is, they tell us, a pared-back theatrical experience, comprised of six performers, two musicians, and a trio of young dancers, performing select songs from the musical along with a few that never made it into the show.

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

The Guild has altered its theatre to accommodate the safety of its patrons, according to regulations and guidelines set by the Chief Public Health Office and Renew PEI. So the theatre has a maximum of 50 seats placed in small groupings throughout the audience area. It takes what was already an intimate space and makes it even more intimate.

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

The show started with a performance of The Log Driver’s Waltz by the three female performers. And, yeah, so, I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away, when I started crying. Crying at The Log Driver’s Waltz. I never considered this a song to cry at. Definitely a song to enjoy, as experienced via the NFB’s animated short, which I’m including here:

So, I was shocked and curious as to why I found myself crying. Not, like, full-on blubbering wailing or anything. More like lump in throat, welling eyes, quivering bottom lip. It was sung beautifully, wonderful harmonies, and a pure joy of performance. And it made me cry. As I’ve said, I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

So, long story short, I cried my way through the first five songs or so, before I managed to compose myself – only to find actual tears falling down my cheeks again about three-quarters of the way through the show, well after I thought the crying episode was over for me.

So, what happened? Well, the pandemic happened and it, you know, totally screwed up all of our all’s capabilities to deal with our emotions. And then this show happened. This intimate, personal, professional show happened. And I guess I wasn’t ready for it.

The simple staging of the show creates a very warm and inviting, intimate experience. The two musicians – Music Director Lisa MacDougall playing keyboards and accordion, and Laurie Forsyth playing cello and upright bass – remain onstage throughout, with the singers coming and going as their performances require.

The six singers – Jacob Hemphill, Morgan Wagner, Page Gallant, Simone Derome, Nick Whelan, & Melanie Piatocha – are exceptional. When they sing solo, they absolutely own and inhabit the songs they are singing. When they sing together, in duos or trios, or as an ensemble, their voices blend exquisitely, creating pure and beautiful harmonies. All to the point of eliciting tears and emotions – seemingly at whim – from a rather stoic and curmudgeonly middle-aged reviewer.

Each performer gets their moment to introduce themselves and explain their personal connection to the show and its history. And each takes what could be a bit of a hokey “allow me to emote myself” moment and turns it into a personal and touching evocation. Special mention must be made of Morgan Wagner who quadruple-threatened herself into the role of fiddler with the band – a truly impressively talented performer. Even music director Lisa MacDougall, gets in on the feels, and then offers up her rendition of a wonderful ballad. I did find myself wishing for cellist Laurie Forsyth to speak a bit of her experience, to have her own solitary moment. She was the only of the cast, apart from the young dancers, who didn’t have that opportunity of focus.

In trying to figure out why I enjoyed this show so much, I’ve come to the conclusion that something interesting happens when the focus is purely on the songs from a musical. Not having to worry about the story (not that it is a big worry) allows us to devote the entirety of our attentions on the quality of the songwriting. And I was thrilled and excited to realize just how terrific they are. Kudos to writers Jeff Hochhauser, Bob Johnson and Nancy White for their exemplary talents. If nothing else, you’ve created an Island anthem in “Island Through and Through” that will live on forever.

What is perhaps most remarkable, for me, is this: The performances on the night I saw this show made me feel that this night’s show was a special and unique experience. They perform this show six times a week, and I have no doubt that there must be a bit of a rote element to the proceedings for everyone involved. So to make it seem like the show I saw was somehow elevated and special is a testament to the talents of everyone involved in the production.

My only slight criticism of the show has to do with the inclusion of the young dancers who appear a few times throughout. While their participation no doubt adds an injection of energy and movement to an otherwise grounded staging, the quality of performance was rather below the exceptional we experienced throughout the rest of the evening. Just a little bit sloppy. I’ll just leave it at that.

You should go see The Songs of Anne & Gilbert the Musical. For the superb songs. For the talented performances. For the joy of experiencing theatre.

The 8th Hidden Note

I am pretty sure, hidden throughout the house, there are currently seven notes that I’ve written to myself, imploring me not to attempt plumbing repairs on my own.

Let’s consider this to be the 8th.

I’m going to say it was two years ago that I first noticed the faintest sound of trickling water emanating from the tank of our downstairs toilet. It was so faint that I questioned if I was even hearing it. Still, it persisted. Most noticeable in those hours of sitting there in quiet repose and reflection after the Sturm and Drang of necessity ran its course. It seemed so inconsequential a sound that it took a two year drip drip drip of guilt of knowledge of its existence to compel me to act on it.

And here we are.

I’m gonna fix it. Gonna stop that noise. Probably just the flapper or whatever you call it. Easy fix. Shoulda done it ages ago. A simple fix.

I take the top off the tank and peer inside. Everything looks normal but what do I know.

Might be the float. Maybe it’s not rising far enough to stop the mechanism – I don’t know what any of what I’m thinking means. I am only thinking thoughts to make me believe I know what I’m doing. I do not know what I’m doing.

I get a screwdriver and loosen and tighten the plastic screw that seems to affect the ride-height of the float. While it does affect the water level, it seems to have no bearing on the noise – which now that I am dealing with it, has begun to sound like a torrent.

Yep. Flapper. First instinct. Is it called a flapper? Let’s get it off, cleaned and put it back. That’ll solve it. (Deep Brain: No it won’t) Shut up Deep Brain. It will. (Deep Brain: You know, you’ve got notes all throughout the house imploring you to – – ) Shut up, Deep Brain. This doesn’t count. This is an easy fix.

I turn off the water to the toilet. I remove the flapper. It’s easy to do, it just snaps out. I notice a bit of gunk on it, but it doesn’t look too bad. I note that, for a rubber stopper, it seems rather hard. Maybe that’s the issue. Hard rubber. Makes sense. I clean it up and put it back, and listen.

The sound is still there.

Yes, I expected that. Wouldn’t be as easy as that. Not a problem. Probably need a new flapper. That one is way too hard. That’s the problem. Flapper too hard. (Deep Brain: You wanna go look for one of those notes strewn about the house?) No, I wanna get a new flapper. That’ll solve it. Easy fix.

Off to Home Hardware Charlottetown. I take far too long choosing between the handful of different flapper styles they have. Finally pick one. I also, as I’m looking, notice that Home Hardware Charlottetown has a couple different kits to completely replace the inner-workings of toilets. I only bring this up here as a foreshadowing device. That is the only reason I bring that up here.

Hmm. This new flapper doesn’t snap on and off the overflow tube the way the old one does so easily. Will have to fit it on a different way. Should still work. Easy fix. Hmm. Not going on very easy. No worries. When it does go on, it’ll solve the problem.

Wait. That overflow tube seems wiggly. Wait. That overflow tube just snapped off in my hands. Wait. That overflow tube had a hairline fracture in it and that was the reason why there was a trickling water noise. Wait. My efforts to get the new flapper on the overflow tube made it worse and completely broke it off. Wait. I’m going to have to replace the overflow tube. Is that a big job, I wonder. Wait. I saw at Home Hardware Charlottetown they had complete kits that replace the inner-work – – (Deep Brain: I know where you’re going with this, and I’d just like to remind you that there are upwards of seven notes throughout the house imploring you not to do what you’re about to do.) Shut up, Deep Brain. Those kits look super easy to install. I’m going back to Home Hardware Charlottetown.

Back at Home Hardware Charlottetown, and they have two different kits, both the same price. I take forever to decide between the two, but finally make my choice.

Hmm. Looks like I now need to take the tank completely off in order to do this repair. Not a problem. The instructions on that kit make it look pretty simple. Easy fix, still. And I’ll be so proud of myself!! Let’s dive in! (Deep Brain: I’m just going to make myself appear once more, right now, to advise you against this, knowing you’ll ignore me, but still satisfied that I tried.) Thank you Deep Brain. But I got this.

Things go well. Until they don’t. That should be printed on t-shirts or something. I got the tank off the toilet and removed all the innards except one large plastic nut on the outside of the bottom of the tank. I don’t have a plumber’s wrench big enough to grasp this nut.

Oh shit, things were going so well. It was practically fixed! Stupid big nut! How am I going to get this off? This needs to come off! Oh no. I think I made a huge mistake by taking this project on. Shut up, Deep Brain, don’t even show up right now, I’m serious! How do I get this off? I need to find a wrench. Who do I know who might – – FACEBOOK! Ask on Facebook! No, it’ll never get sorted in time, I need a fix now. Take a picture of the nut and post it on Facebook, ask if anyone has a wrench to fit this nut. This is the only solution.

That was a stupid idea. It’ll take way to long to get any response. This needs to get fixed now or I quit. Quit what? I don’t know. Everything. It’s amazing how quickly I’m spiraling when things were working out so well just a few moments ago. Call a plumber. Call your plumber people. I can’t, it’s embarrassing. Yet I need it fixed, right? Call and ask if I can borrow a plumber’s wrench for a minute so I can get this nut off the bottom of my toilet. That sentence sounds insane.

This is not a call one makes every day. This is a call one needs to think about. One needs to have a firm grasp of what one is going to say on the phone. Otherwise this could go off the rails pretty quick. So, I take some time to fully prepare my script in my head. I have prepared and I am ready. I make the call.

The gist of my plea is this: Good afternoon, Miss. I am in a bit of a bind with a plumbing project I now realize I should never have attempted. In order to rectify my current dilemma, I am requesting the following. Can I take my toilet tank to your place of business and either momentarily, while on site, borrow a plumber’s wrench to remove a large nut, or perhaps someone there would be able to assist me in its removal?

It doesn’t go as planned. My well-thought-out and precise script was nowhere to be found once I heard the “hello” on the other end. I could only spurt out words, not sentences. “Toilet tank”… “Nut on the bottom”… “take my toilet to you” things like that. I am so full of panic and distress and anxiety that I can only laugh. So I quickly include giggles and reams of laughter to my monologue of toilet-related word-salad. I can only imagine the lady on the other end thinking “It’s far too late on a Wednesday for this phone prank shit”. But she was polite and able to decipher my needs.

“Yeah, as long as one of the boys is here, it shouldn’t be a problem,” she says.

“Is a boy there now?” I cannot express how ashamed of myself for saying this like this.

I take the toilet tank to the plumbers. They are, like, two minutes away from where I live. In the time it takes me to get there, it seems the news of the phone conversation traveled to every boy in the company, because upon my arrival – toilet tank in trunk – plumbers appeared from every corner of the business. To see, I assume, what a madman looks like.

Guy takes a power saw to the nut and removes it. I won’t mention here how, when I took the tank out of the trunk to place it on the ground for nut-removal, it slipped out of my hands and fell to the pavement. Only a drop of a few inches, but in the time it took the tank to fall, I heard the power-saw guy, and those who were amassed around us watching the spectacle – I heard them all gasp as if they were fully expecting the tank to smash to bits and pieces. To me, each gasp was like a devil-of-sorts taking a nibble out of whatever sense of respectability I had left.

The toilet tank did not smash into bits and pieces. He got the nut off, and I returned home a shaken man. Those gasps still haunt me. My head, at this time, was not in a good space. I was beaten, once again, by a plumbing project, and I knew it. The only thing left was to finish the job. Begrudgingly and with no room for good humour. I am thankful that Deep Brain didn’t show up to rub it in my face.

To my credit, the rest of the repair went quite well. I replaced the innards, got the tank back on the toilet – all without issue. My good humour was even returning.

Everything is done! Tank back in place, new innards implanted and set up correctly. Just to reconnect the water supply, fill her up and enjoy the lack of noise.

Just reconnect the water supply.

Couldn’t do it. Try and try as I might, I couldn’t thread the water line to the toilet tank. The final task. The final, simple task to complete this whole project. Couldn’t do it. Try as I might. Swearing and yelling in frustration didn’t help. Getting soaked, laying on the bathroom floor, again and again as I see if this time maybe it threaded correctly, only to be sprayed, time and again by the mocking, fissing spray – that didn’t help. Vowing to never again tackle a plumbing project did not help.

“I’ll help you draft another note” said Deep Brain. I nodded.

I couldn’t do it. So close to the end. A simple threading of a nut onto a pipe, and I couldn’t do it. I tried so hard in so many ways to get it to thread. And I couldn’t do it. The simplest of all plumbing tasks, and I couldn’t accomplish it. I hung my head in shame.

I exited that bathroom, in the end, a broken, defeated man. Plumbing had won again. I walked into the living room, to my wife, and in a voice so quiet that it’s only rival for lack of volume was the barely-audible noise that started this whole affair, I said “You’ll need to call a plumber in the morning.”

“I don’t know what to say to them. Can’t you?”

“I can’t.” That’s all I could reply. “I can’t”.

Mercifully, I wasn’t at home the next morning when the plumber showed up. I couldn’t have faced him. I couldn’t have faced another human witnessing the state of how I left the project, so close to completion. I am told he said I did a good job in the replacing of the parts and putting the tank back on. I am told it took him only a minute to hook up the water supply to the tank. It is empty praise.

The water is hooked up, the toilet works great. And there is no more trickling noise.

So. Rob. Before you ever consider tackling another plumbing project, please, please, please, read this, the eighth note advising you not to do it.