Alright stop. Collaborate and listen. Danny’s back with a brand new edition.
Right. No. Sorry. That was the wrong way to apologize for a lengthy absence from blogging. One writing project sort of eclipsed all others, even though everything else I’m working on has a far better chance of ever seeing the light of day. Still… write what’s in your head, you know?
On that note, time for the first entry in a series I promised back in spring, before the Europe trip, before the rivers rose and the city briefly drowned: a look back at my various plays. To begin, we travel back to the before times, the longago, a time some of you may have read about in school called “the mid-90s.”
The Amazing (and Almost Accurate) Adventures of Trigger Dandy
It began in the room that would, more than any other, shape my entire life to come: my high school drama room, the classroom/theatre where my best friend Sean and I spent most of our time, especially by grade 12. Sean was doing his math homework there over lunch, and muttered something about trig identities. Our teacher, Mr. Stromsmoe, misheard it as “Trigger Dandy,” feeling it was a great name for a character.
Time passes. Our fall production of Waiting For Godot becomes my stage debut, playing opposite drama regular Rusty Bennett. One night, Rusty cut his foot on a bottle that had broken onstage. He didn’t let it hold his performance back, despite the bleeding. In the show’s post-mortem, Mr. Stromsmoe referred to it as the “blood, glass and Rusty” incident. He then turned to Sean and said “Hey, there’s a play for that Trigger Dandy guy.”
“Yes,” I thought. “Yes it is.”
Blood, Glass and Rusty
Before long, I had enlisted Sean and our good friend Jason Garred into the creation of a short film noir detective parody to take to that year’s high school drama festival. We had fifteen minutes to tell the story of private eye Trigger Dandy, trying to solve the abduction of his sidekick, Rusty Buster, and the theft of the Macguffin Diamond. We crammed as many jokes, sight gags and one-liners as we could into it, not wanting to waste a moment of our fifteen minutes. The result? Hilarity. Audiences cracked up at our debut performance at our school and at the festival. At the festival, our cast got a second wave of applause when they came back onstage to clear our set. And it wasn’t just a hit with audiences: our adjudicator also loved us, and gave us an award for writing.
Buoyed by this, we thought the only logical response was to keep going, write a sequel. Well. It’s not like you never made questionable decisions at 17.
Potatoes in the Mist
Sean began to pull back from the process, but Jason and I plugged on and, by the end of our first year of University, wrote our Trigger Dandy sequel, Potatoes in the Mist.
Wacky titles seemed the way to go. Shut up.
An older Trigger Dandy reunites with his old sidekick, Rusty, to investigate a potato cult, planning to summon their Evil Potato Goddess with what turns out to be a piece of an alien starship engine, oddly British aliens working with Trigger’s estranged girlfriend from BGR (as its fans had come to call it).
We attempted to get the band back together, as it were, and stage our follow-up back at the old high school. This ultimately had less to do with rational thought and more to do with anxiety over University, and my failure to research what I might actually have to do for my preferred major. I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond again, and that meant going back to the only place I’d ever felt like a big shot: my old drama room.
Sadly, putting on a show at a school you no longer attend is trickier than it seems. I had yet to master the art of self-producing (the secret is get someone else to be the producer), and it became clear that we weren’t going to get the show up and running by the end of the school year, and attempts to pick up where we left off quickly collapsed the following September. We thought no more of good old Trigger Dandy.
For, like, a whole year.
Cube Root of Death
Jason and I eventually felt the need to be creative and theatrical again. At his suggestion, we answered an ad in Fast Forward, a local weekly newspaper, calling for people to be part of a group doing radio plays. We joined up, went to meetings, wrote a few sketches… and nothing really happened. One of the other members, also frustrated with the general lack of action in the group, suggested the three of us split off and form a sketch comedy troupe, grabbing what actors we wanted on our way out (particularly one Mr. Tebbutt, whose acquaintance was the single greatest thing we gained from the radio drama group). We had some meetings, wrote some sketches… and nothing happened. Jason and I decided enough was enough: we were setting a concrete goal. We were going to dust off and stage our Trigger Dandy plays, and by god we were going to take them to the Edmonton Fringe.
But first, we needed a third entry. Something to make it into a full trilogy. A prequel: an origin story for Trigger Dandy. A spy parody called The Cube Root of Death, in which a young Trigger Dandy gets wrapped up in an adventure with British secret agent Max Forky, out to foil the Australian mad scientist Tarkin Drubik, who is planning the rule the world with hypnotic cube puzzles.
In June of 1997, The Amazing and Almost Accurate Adventures of Trigger Dandy played for one night only. The laughs were big and frequent, but the triogy had its flaws. Potatoes in the Mist was twice as long and half as fast-paced as the other two, which is not what you look for in a concluding chapter. It would also be the first and greatest warning of my coming struggles with pop culture references: several of our “jokes” boiled down to simply quoting Star Wars while doing something silly. At the time we thought it clever. I would later see it for the hackery it was.
Years later we’d replace it with a new third chapter: Doom’s Pointy Talon, in which an aging Trigger Dandy, retired from the PI game, is drawn back into the field by FBI agent Rusty Buster. We kept the strangely British aliens we’d introduced in Potatoes, devised wacky encounters, slipped in a Matrix fight scene (still had a few pop culture issues in 2002, it seems), and made a far more satisfying trilogy.
It’s still not perfect: it’s tricky to do a three-act play when the acts are twenty minutes tops, and some of the jokes are a touch corny. Some of the others are highly corny. But for something I wrote at 17, or co-wrote in any event, it holds up okay. And it holds a definite appeal for most people who work on it. Maybe one day it’ll be back, but I’m not holding my breath.
When I next return to this series, we’ll look at how Jason and I tried to keep our Trigger Trilogy cast together.