Dreamland Tonight: episode one recap

n319185881921_7076The show went off better than any of us could have predicted on Friday night. We had about 50 people in the audience, and, although I was nervous, I’m proud to report that I was not racked with pant-shitting terror. There wasn’t even that minute or two of uncontrollable shaking that I generally experience whenever opening my mouth in front of strangers. It appears as though my fear of public speaking abates considerably when I can hide in the dark, curled up behind the stage, with a mic, as my puppet gets all the attention. (I wonder how much better everyday life would be if I could just manipulate a puppet of myself from home.)

By all accounts, we did a damned good job. At least that’s what people in the audience told us after we were done. Now, of course, there’s a lot of pressure on us to do something equally as good next time. And, that’s got me a little nervous. Assuming we do another one of these next month, I want to be sure that we make it even funnier and even more relevant.

Speaking of relevance, that’s my one regret with this first episode. While it was super-funny, I don’t feel as though we went as far as we could have when it came to exploring serious topical issues. I suspect that’s going to be an issue from here on out, though – trying to find the right balance between the two. During this first show, I asked the Mayor about four or five serious questions, in addition to all the silly stuff about his son’s well-documented fascination with booty. I asked about the School Board’s plan to close two more of Ypsi’s neighborhood elementary schools. I asked about our police officers and fire fighters that were being laid off. I asked about state funding. And, in every case, he responded as you would expect for him to. He gave well-crafted and thoughtful, though ultimately unsatisfying, answers. In the case of the school closing question, he responded that we should keep in mind that the School Board is composed of our neighbors, who want only the best for Ypsi kids, and that they’re being forced, due to the budget shortfall, to make difficult decisions. I could have pressed him on it, and asked if he felt that, in the long run, bigger class sizes in non-neighborhood schools were likely to attract more kids or fewer kids to Ypsi’s public schools, but I didn’t. I moved on to the next question. Maybe, subconsciously, I didn’t want to put him on the spot, as he’d been such a good sport up until then, but I think I mostly backed off because the laughter had stopped in the audience. I don’t necessarily want to go for blood when I’m interviewing someone, but it would be good if we could get beyond the talking points and have an intelligent conversation about weighty issues. But, then again, maybe the puppet-hosted talk show format isn’t conducive to that.

paulschreibertat2Speaking of Mayor Schreiber, I cannot express to you what a good sport he was… even running out on stage later in the show to give Patrick Elkins the Heimlich Maneuver during the big falafel eating contest. He was an incredible first guest, and he really set the tone for the rest of the show. He was funny, personable, and totally cool with our silliness. I heard someone from Ann Arbor say after the show that they’d love to live in a town where the Mayor would do something like this. And it’s true. I don’t always agree with Paul politically, but he cares about the City and he’s got a great sense of humor. And I think he made a whole lot of fans on Friday. (By the way, I should probably point out that I really, genuinely like his son Tim’s music. And the Mayor has talked to me proudly of his son’s work in the past. So, we weren’t looking to embarrass him by bringing up Tim’s “booty” work. We just thought that it would be funny to bring out our Mayor as our first guest and then only talk with him about his son’s work.)

I don’t want to run through the show step by step, and tell you everything that happened. I’ve probably said too much already. I did, however, want to thank Keelan, the volunteer who came forward for the free tattoo at the end of the show. She, like the Mayor, was an incredibly good sport.

Basically, this was the setup. I asked who in the audience wanted a free tattoo, and she raised her hand. I asked her up, and we chatted for a few minutes about tattoos. And then I dropped the bomb – I showed her the free tattoo that she’d be getting, which was a line drawing I’d done of our Mayor, Paul Schreiber. She was understandably speechless, as I told her that the folks across the street at Liquid Swords were ready, at that very moment, needles-in-hand, to put it on her. (I’m told the Mayor looked horrified at the prospect of one of his constituents marking herself forever with his poorly-drawn image.) So, after giving her a second to think of ways to get out of it, I told her that, if she wasn’t comfortable with it, there was a second option. The second option was a drawing I’d done of Patrick Elkins, with two victory falafels raised over his head. (He’d earlier in the night defended his “Falafel King” title successfully.) She jumped at the opportunity, and happily accompanied a good portion of the audience, Puppet Mark, and our film crew across the street to be tattooed.

patelkinstat2Lastly, there are a few other people that I’d like to thank. I’d like to thank local filmmakers Mike Ambs and Ted Kennedy for coming out to document the event. Thanks to them, we might actually get a video up online shortly. And, of course, I’d like to thank all the Dreamland regulars. I’d been to see lots of things at the Dreamland over the years, and I knew that they were good, creative people, but I never had any idea just how brilliant and dedicated they were. Working with Naia, Chris, Patrick, Andy, Logan, Misha, Mike, Shao and the Dreamland gang was an absolute pleasure, and I sincerely hope that we’ll have a chance to work together again.

And thanks to all the folks who came out and contributed to making it such a beautiful, magical Ypsi moment. Seriously, for that hour, it felt like we were one big, happy family.

Leslie from Ann Arbor, said it better, though, in a comment that she just left:

Wow! That was so much fun. I might have not gotten all the local jokes (like why does the previous mayor have a crush on Mark?) but I was smiling ear to ear the whole time. The thing that was the sweetest wasn’t even, for me, the great show (I snorted during the ad lib parts) but the crowd of people who stood (standing room only, ya’ll) to see it and laugh outloud together. It was great the mayor came and was such a good sport about his son’s booty call. Can’t imagine many other places that happening. It seemed like half performance art and half a family Thanksgiving party (in the kind of family we all wished we had with cute kids, grandparent types, cool and crazy cousins and cuddly pets to boot). You’ve got a strange, lovable little community there. May the puppet police protect you all!

P.S. Did she really get the tattoo?

Here’s to our strange, lovable little community! (You can’t see it, but I’m raising a beer.)

I don’t want to get all sappy, but it’s nice to be reminded every so often that we live in a really wonderful, quirky, beautiful little town.

I’m sure, when we get the tape online, you’ll see the show and think that it was hilarious, but I don’t know that you’ll feel the love in the room. I don’t know that that can come across. You’ll have to take my word for it, though, when I tell you that it was like the Shadow Art Fair vibe times 10.

And, yeah, she really got the tattoo. Here’s proof:


[note: Sorry I haven’t been around much these past few days, but, thanks to an AT&T problem, we’ve been without the internet. Not that I don’t love you all, but I’ve actually kind of been enjoying it.]

Posted in Art and Culture, Mark's Life, OCD, Special Projects, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Today’s “bipartisan” healthcare summit

I don’t have a lot of time to read up on today’s televised 6-hour healthcare summit in DC, but I did want to start a thread, in case anyone out there watched it and wanted to comment… The accompanying video is of a quick exchange between President Obama and Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who happens to be a medical doctor.

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Sitting alone at the Ugly Mug, polishing my bon mots

The show’s about 24 hours away now, and we’re all busy tying down loose ends. I shot this short video last night before we rehearsed. I’m not sure why it’s so shaky at the beginning. I don’t remember being terrified, or jittery. Maybe the new Flip camera has a Parkinson’s setting that I’m not aware of… At any rate, the practice went well, and I’m pretty confident that tomorrow night’s show, at the very least, won’t suck… Doors at Dreamland open at 7:00, and the show begins at 8:00. I hope to see you there.

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Harry Houdini: The Man from Beyond

Continuing our exploration of silent films, a few days ago, Clementine and I went to the library and checked out Harry Houdini’s 1922 film The Man From Beyond. As someone who has always been fascinated by Houdini’s preoccupation with the after-world, I found it particularly interesting. In the film, which Houdini is credited with having written, he plays Howard Hillary, a man who, after being frozen in a block of arctic ice for 100 years, is discovered, thawed back to the living, and reintroduced to civilization. It’s a lovely little story about the strength of love and its ability to transcend time. (Hillary, when he comes back into the world, meets a woman identical in every way to his long lost love, Felice, whom he died trying to rescue.) At any rate, I found it interesting to catch a glimpse into Houdini’s mind, as his thoughts on life after death and the paranormal were crystalizing. It was the first of only two films that he made for the Houdini Motion Picture Corporation, and, I believe, the only one that he himself wrote. Here, for those of you who are interested, is a quick clip from the film. It wasn’t one of my favorite scenes, but it’s probably the most famous. In it, Houdini risks his life battling Niagra Falls in order to save the life of his reincarnated love.

If I’d chosen the life of an academic, I think this is something that I could have written about at length. As I chose to be a blogger, though, I’m off to read about Phil Collins and his love of the Alamo.

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Taking the night off to work on Dreamland Tonight


If Dreamland Tonight isn’t on your schedule yet, you’d better add it. It’s shaping up to be one hell of a show… Or, at least it looks good on paper. I have no idea how things will go on Friday night, though… Anyway, I’m going to hang up my tattered blogging leotard for the evening, and focus on the script. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done… Speaking of which, if anyone has a portable close-circuit television system that they’d be willing to lend us for an evening, it would be a huge help. (As it is, I’ve got no way, from where I’ll be sequestered at show time, to see what’s transpiring on the stage, and I think that could be a huge problem.)

Posted in Special Projects, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments


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