Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One Show Down, Bollywood Style

I performed in the show Saturday night. For summaries of all this weekend’s shows and pictures of the towns we did, see my previous post.

Saturday night our suggestion was Fairfield, IA, which is not only a small Iowa farm town, but also the home of the Maharishi University of Management. The inventor of Transcendental Meditation himself founded the University after coming to this country from India. Huddled in front of the whiteboard backstage, as soon as we learned this little tidbit of information, I dreamed of being able to work a Bollywood number into the show.

We at Un-Scripted, spearheaded by combined interest from Mandy and Dave, have thrown around the idea of doing a Bollywood Musical for years. The idea tends to surface on our annual retreat, where we’ve spent time watching Bollywood movies and last year even practiced improvising some Bollywood numbers.

Last year, during the Impossible Film Project, I did a Bollywood film with the help of Mandy as dance director. That was so much fun. We even had dozens of people in Union Square dancing along. Then, during the Love Show last February we finally did a Bollywood number live in a show, and during one of the Maker Faire performances of the Great Puppet Musical, we did a puppet Bollywood number. All went over fabulously, but we’re still not sure if the concept could sustain itself for a whole show, let alone a whole run. We also don’t want to come off as racist, given that we’re an entire troupe of white people doing Bollywood. However, the idea of doing the Great Puppet Muscial: Bollywood Edition next year has been bandied about as a possible way to get around that issue as well as allow a bigger cast of characters.

But back to Saturday night. After singing a verse in the opening number, I came off stage not wanting to leap right back out for the first scene. This did keep me from being the protagonist, but that’s alright as I do enjoy playing around with side characters. I did, however, enter the first scene as an older local farmer who’d turned over the family farm to his daughter (Susan) and was studying meditation. It was a fun juxtaposition and made for some entertaining lines. (My character inspiration was Scruffy from Futurama.) I got a lot of compliments after the show. A couple improvisors who had been in the audience commented that I have a knack for coming in with a character that fills a whole that was somehow missing and grounding things. Awesome.

I sang a little bit, mostly in a short song where Trish, Dave, and I all sang together. I also danced. Susan and I did a romantic backup dance that seemed vaguely inappropriate given we were playing father and daughter, but we just ran with it.

Then, near the end of the show, we did a Bollywood number! Trish had never even attempted Bollywood before, but after a few quick pointers at intermission, she blended in seamlessly. It wasn’t the best improvised Bollywood number ever done on stage, but it was definitely in the top three. And the audience sure seemed to enjoy it.

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