Aw, Spit.

3 01 2011

It’s been a while since I have done anything that could be regarded as “legitimate” theater.  Matter of fact, when August of this year rolls around, it will be three years since I stepped onto a stage to perform previously scripted lines with inflection and objective and everything else that was imprinted onto my brain during my two-year duration in college.

I’ve kept myself busy, of course. Performing with one comedy group while leading another comedy group while working while finding time to get back to college since I’m apparently unqualified to even sell mattresses without holding a degree in anthropology. And guitar playing. Can’t forget that.

There have been times when I’ve felt the call of the “legitimate” stage. It’s a siren song, attempting to lure me back into the sweet embrace of notables like Chekhov, Shakespeare, Miller. And like the best sirens, these notables can’t wait to tear me to shreds.

What is it that has caused me to forgo the temptation, and keep on the path of improvisational comedy?

Like all good stories, this one involves a wad of saliva.

It was the end of what had been a 3-month tour.  I was in a production with three other people.  For the safety of the innocents, and the safety of myself, I’ll refrain from giving the names of the people and of the production. Aside from me, there were two males and a female.  Jake, the road manager, was on his second tour with the theater company.  Since he was the veteran out of the four of us, he had become the de facto leader.  Crystal, the female, was our ringer.  She was gorgeous, a great actress, and a terrific singing voice.  There was me, the plucky comic relief.

And then there was Matt.

Matt was the youngest of us all.  He was 19, but he had already lived a life of wonder and amazement.  He had, at different times in his life: Freestyled with some rapper that I can’t remember; Been pursued by law enforcement for 12 hours, leading up to a thrilling chase scene that culminated with a stand-off at the outlet of a sewer tunnel; Enlisted in the military and became a decorated paratrooper; And, the apex of all his accomplishments, modeled.

None of us took Matt that seriously.

Perhaps we should have.  If we did, then he may not have felt the need to lash out at inopportune times.  If only we had believed that he had descended gracefully into Iraq, he would not have felt the need to open the side door of the van while going 70 miles an hour on the interstate.  If only we had agreed that he was framed, he would not have felt the need to beat some kid up during one of our off-days, breaking his hand in the process (This was covered up by claiming he had caught his hand in a stair railing).  If only we had agreed that yes, he was the male incarnation of Heidi Klum, he would not have felt the need to make our lives much more difficult than they had to be.

Oh yes, I was looking forward to the end of this tour.

Morale was on the up-and-up.  It was the wrong kind of morale, though.  The kind of morale that manifests itself toward the end of any enterprise where people can’t wait to get out of it.  It was a sensation similar to that last month of senior year in high school, or the remaining five minutes of a sales meeting.  Our internal engines were revving, and all of us were eager to release the brake, pop the clutch, and zoom out into freedom.

I was tired.  Tired of the show, tired of the traveling, and tired of seeing these people every day.  Individually, they were lovely people.  However, put everyone into a passenger van for 9 hours, with set pieces banging into the head of anyone who was unfortunate to sit in the back, and emotions can get a little on edge.

It was with this mix of tiredness and morale that we made our way to what was our fourth-to-last show, an elementary school.  As it had been for the past three months, the show was booked toward the end of the day, a little treat for the kids and teachers.  I was on the stage, getting dressed behind the constructed set (Another fun aspect of this tour: getting dressed behind the set while loud children filed into the auditorium), when I heard Jake and Matt arguing.  Well, not arguing, per se, but vehemently debating.  What they were vehemently debating, I didn’t know.  It could’ve been anything: The show, the tour, behavior issues, whether Family Matters or Full House was the better family sitcom of the 1990s.  It really didn’t matter to me.  What mattered was after this show, there would be four more shows left, and then I would be home-free.  I was looking forward to unemployment.

Matt appeared behind the set as I was getting on the final pieces of my costume.  Matt was still dressed in his street clothes, his desire to prove himself superior to Jake taking precedent over getting ready to entertain people.  In the beginning, I attempted to be empathetic.  After all, I too noticed that Jake had taken a fascist-like approach to his position as road manager.  As the weeks wore on, however, my empathy morphed into indifference as I came to realize that there really was no way things were going to change.  Now, in this final week, I was in survival mode.  I stayed mostly silent, getting the job done and making sure the audience was going away with the faux-knowledge that gee golly, things were swell amongst the cast.

Now, this being a public forum, I’m going to replace a few choice words within the following dialogue.  The word that is replaced will be marked with an asterisk, so feel free to insert your favorite epithet.

Matt was grabbing his costume, hastily dressing while simultaneously talking to me.  “Can you believe that clown*?”

I shrugged.  With ten minutes to showtime, I was in no place to be a sense of reason.  “Dude, just let it go.  We got four days left, and then we’re done.”

Matt shook his head, pulling on his shirt. “Man, I can’t freakin’* believe you’re taking that clown’s* side.  You’re all freaking* against me.”

I spoke up a little.  Although Jake was the road manager, I was the oldest of the four of us.  “Look, I know you and him have some kind of beef, but show some professionalism, man.  I mean, there are kids coming in right now, and you keep talking like that, we’re all going to be in trouble with the theater.”

Matt looked over at me.  It was clear he now thought I was a traitor to his cause.  “Shoot* you’re all freaking* against me.”

I shook my head.  By this time, Crystal had joined us.  “Look, man, nobody’s against you.  We got a job to do, and we’re going to do it.  Then we’re going home.  Just let it go.”

“Forget* that.” Matt said.  That’s when he spotted Jake’s costume.  It was a costume for a king character, complete with crown.  Matt looked at us, then at the crown.  “He’s gonna see what happens when you mess* with me,” Matt said.  He picked up the crown, and spat a wad of saliva straight into the netting on the inside, right where Jake’s head would be.  He looked over at us, smirked, and moved over to the other side of the stage.

Crystal and I looked at each other.  It was a mix of emotions that could be found going between us.  We were stunned, certainly, but there was also the feeling that we had been here before.  It’s an odd feeling when a person who does something as base as spitting into another person’s clothing can be viewed as just a part of their natural state.  That’s not a person I like to know.

Jake came to get his costume.  He got dressed and was about to put on his crown when he looked inside and noticed the that there was something wet amongst the netting.  He turned to me.  “What happened to my crown?”

I was a defeated man.  I just shrugged.  “Matt spit in it.”

Jake’s eyes went wide.  I shrugged again.  “There’s a pair of scissors in the sewing bag.  Cut it out, and let’s get this over with.”

Jake cut the netting out.  We did the show, packed everything up, and returned home.

The next day, Matt had been fired from the tour.  Jake took the time to talk to Crystal and I, see if there were any other personal conflicts that needed to be sorted out.  There weren’t, fortunately.

We got a new person for the remaining four shows, and at the end of the week I celebrated my newly-found unemployment by going to an improv comedy show.

So why have I not done “legitimate” theater for a little over two years?

I don’t have to worry about someone spitting into my hat in improv.



A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Four

29 12 2010

Read Part One

Read Part Two

Read Part Three

Zachariah stirred. His eyes slowly opened, greeted to a blue-hued television screen. “The movie’s over? Shame,” Scrooge yawned as he shifted into a sitting position, palms rubbing over his eyes, attempting to massage the blurriness away. As he rubbed, he felt a cold breeze move in front of him. His heart pounded steadily as he realized that this was it; the final Spirit. Slowly, slowly, he removed his hands from his eyes to confront his last visitor of the night.

The spirit that stood before him was unlike the other two who had made their presence known throughout the night. An aura of dread clung to this figure. His outfit was plain: a simple pair of black pants; a long-sleeve white shirt with red horizontal stripes going across the entire fabric; a pair of black suspenders; and finally a simple black beret that was held atop a head with a face painted all in white. This spirit greeted Scrooge not with kindness, but with a silent stare, as if he was seeing straight into Scrooge’s soul.

Zachariah sat in awe of this spirit. Cautiously, he moved to his feet, his hands pressing together, moving toward his chest, as if he was about to go into prayer. “I know you to be the last Spirit. The Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come.”

The silent spectre did not respond. He continued his dead-eye stare, body not moving. Scrooge threw his hands down in surrender. He opened his mouth to yell, but the eerie visage of the Spirit rendered him meek.

“Please, Spirit, if you be a kind one, show me what you must.”

The black-panted figure moved toward Scrooge. His limbs contorted as he walked, as if he was attempting to walk into an oncoming windstorm. Zachariah found this odd, until he began to feel a strong wind whipping against his back. He turned around, his eyes instantly becoming filled with tears as the icy gale dug into skin. Scrooge shut his eyes on instinct, in an act of preservation.

The wind ceased the second his eyes shut. Scrooge opened his left eye apprehensively, then his right. Like the previous spirits, this Spirit had whisked him to a familiar location. He found himself standing in the middle of the office he shared with Grant. He looked around, confused.

“Spirit?” Zachariah said, “Why have you brought me to the office?”

The beret-wearing Spirit raised his left hand, his fingers curling down until his bony index digit pointed behind the miser. Scrooge turned around, following the Spirit’s guidance. He came face to face with his work area. It was not the work area he had left a mere four hours before. No, this work area was cleared completely, the only item on the desk a fine covering of dust. Scrooge spun back around to face the Spirit. “What is this?” He demanded. “Are you informing me that if I don’t shape up, my office will be burgled? Is that what this entire night of eerie visitors and traveling through space and time has brought me to?”

The Spirit replied only by turning his hand toward the entrance. Once again Scrooge followed the direction, and saw Grant entering the office, with Stacey following shortly after, her arms filled with a bundle of blue blankets. Scrooge could hear the soft yawn of a newborn coming from the swaddle. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Spirit, they…they had a son?” He turned to face his guide. “Is it healthy? What is his name?” The Spirit gazed at Scrooge with a look lacking in judgment. Growing angry, Scrooge raised his voice. “Damn it, Spirit, answer me!”

“Ready to say goodbye?”

Stacey’s voice brought Zachariah attention away from his mute guide. She was standing next to Aaron, who had moved over to his work area. Aaron smiled at her, sliding an arm around her waist, pulling her close.

“I am. It wouldn’t feel right to stay here. Not after…” Aaron trailed off, his eyes moving to Scrooge. Zachariah stood in the spot, frozen. Could Grant see him? Was he somehow able to transcend the restrictions placed by the previous two spirits? Scrooge’s heart leapt as Aaron approached him. Never in his life had he been so happy to be seen!

This apex of joy was brought crashing to its nadir as Aaron moved past Scrooge himself, instead moving to Scrooge’s desk. He placed a hand gently against the surface, dispersing some of the dust. Stacey moved behind him, an empathetic gaze toward him.

“Yeah, I miss him too,” She said softly.

Scrooge turned to face his guide. “What does she mean, Spirit?”

Aaron laughed gently, shaking his head in a combination of sympathy and disappointment. “In attempting to bring comedy to people, he never allowed a joyful moment for himself.”

Zachariah’s body began to shake with emotion, things becoming clear. “No, Spirit, no…”

“I think he would’ve liked our kid, Stacey.”

“Oh, totally. How can you not like the little man?”

“Spirit, tell me this is not actuality!”

“All right, let’s get out of here.” Aaron removed his hand from Scrooge’s desk, walking toward the door with Stacey. Zachariah pursued them, even though he knew it was useless.

“Come back! Please, get back here, Grant! I promise I’ll change. I’ll find the joy in myself which will in turn bring joy to others! Grant!”

Scrooge’s pleas were met by the shutting of the office door for the final time. He turned around, rushing toward the Spirit.

“Spirit, tell me this is not actuality! I realize that if I continue on my current path, this is the consequence I’ll deserve but I don’t WANT to deserve it, Spirit! Tell me that it’s not too late for me to change! Tell me!”

“…Tell me!”

“……..TELL ME!”

Scrooge shot up out of bed. His sheets drenched with sweat, his brow glistening. He ran out into the living room, throwing back his curtains. The morning sun was just creeping over the horizon.

“Morning! A brand new morning!” He shouted earnestly to no one in particular. His eyes went even wider as he turned away, seeing his cell phone sitting on the kitchen counter. With a bounce in his step that defied his size, he bounded across the room in two steps, hurriedly dialing Grant’s number.

“Hello?” Grant answered sleepily.

“Aaron! Zachariah! What day is it?”


“What day is it?!”

“December 29th.”

Scrooge moved the phone away from his ear in shock. “December 29th?” He yelled into the receiver.

“Dude, not so loud, Stacey’s sleeping. Yeah. I figured that you came to your senses, decided to take a vacation.”

Zachariah couldn’t help but laugh. “You are correct, my friend. I have come to my senses, but it wasn’t a vacation, so much as a journey.”

“Well hey man, that’s great!” Aaron said brightly.

“Indeed! Listen, what are you doing for breakfast?” Scrooge moved into his bedroom, hastily picking out clothes for the day.

“Breakfast? Don’t know, cereal I guess.”

“Nonsense!” Zachariah exclaimed. “I’m taking you and Stacey out to breakfast! How about Bob Evans? Or maybe Cracker Barrel? Any place you want!”

“…Okay, how about Bob Evans, around 8?”

“8 it is!”

“Okay, great!” Aaron shook his head in amazement.

“Fantastic!” Zachariah concurred excitedly. He reached into his closet to pull out a pair of jeans, sneezing when some dust from the shelf fell onto his face.

“Gesundheit, man.” Aaron said.

Zachariah laughed as he walked toward the shower.

“Gesundheit, everyone!”

A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Three

22 12 2010

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here


Zachariah Scrooge’s eyes sprang open, immediately focusing on the clock on the mantle. The time read 1 a.m.. Not moving his body, his eyes darted around the room. No sign of the second Spirit. Scrooge settled back into his bed, turning his head to face the ceiling.  “Hello?” He called out with uncertainty.  No response came.  “Hello!” He called out again, louder.  Still no response.  Scrooge pressed the back of his head against the pillow, drawing the sheets under his chin.  “Just another horrible dream.” He muttered.

The TV in the living room sprang to life.  Loud music spilled from the speakers.  Scrooge sat up, wasting no time in springing out of bed.  He slowed down as he approached the living room.  Moving at a snail’s pace, Scrooge peeked into the room.

The movie “The Blues Brothers” was playing on the television.  Curious, Scrooge moved further into the room, eyes staying on the screen.  “Yes, I remember this movie.  It’s quite good, quite good!” His lips moved into a genuine smile as he watched Jon Belushi cartwheel down the aisle of the church presided over by none other than James Brown.

“Like that movie, eh?” A booming voice spoke from the couch.  “It’s a good one.  And just like Jake and Elwood, I’m on a mission from God, myself.”

Scrooge spun around and came face to face with a mountain of a man.  At a height of six-foot-two, broad-shouldered, with dark blond hair.  Scrooge stepped back slightly and shook his head in disbelief. “You…you’re John…”

The Spirit raised a large hand to stop Scrooge.  “I was, but not anymore.” The Spirit stood up, smoothing out his trench-coat as he moved into the kitchen.  “Now, who wants an orange whip?”

Scrooge couldn’t do anything but collapse back onto his couch. He leaned forward, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. “All right, Spirit. I will take an orange whip.  And while we’re at it, perhaps you can verify for me that you are indeed the Spirit of Comedy Present.”

“Right-a-mundo, Scroogey.” The Spirit said, walking back into the living room and handing the citrus beverage to Scrooge. “You wanna drink that here, or take it for the ride?”

Scrooge sighed and stood up, holding the drink in his right hand.  ” I suppose take it with me.”

The Spirit clapped his hands together, grinning.  “Great!  Let’s go!”  Scrooge watched as the Spirit snapped his fingers.  Instantaneously, they were transported into a kitchen.  It became obvious that whoever was the owner of this kitchen was absolutely infatuated with Christmastime.  Numerous versions of Santa figurines lined the windowsill above the sink.  Gingerbread men sat cooling on a rack next to the oven.  The voice of Nat King Cole filled the air.  “Man,” The Spirit said, looking around, “These guys love Christmas, huh?”

Scrooge looked around, eyes dancing furtively across the linoleum floor.  “I feel like I know this place.”  As soon as he spoke, Scrooge’s suspicion became fact, as he and the Spirit watched Aaron Grant enter the kitchen.

“Be back in a second, babe.” He called out.  Scrooge watched as Aaron went to the cooling rack, expertly moving the gingerbread men down onto a plain white plate.

“Oh, hey, look at that! This is where Aaron lives,” the Spirit said, taking a drink of his own orange whip.  Scrooge looked back at the Spirit, a look of slight shock on his face.

“What do you mean, ‘look at that!’?  You’re the Spirit, you should know where we are going!”

The Spirit shrugged and smiled.  “I’m just doing a job.  Let’s follow him, shall we?” He nodded toward Aaron, who was leaving the kitchen, plate of cookies in hand.  Before Scrooge could offer an objection, he found himself being pushed forward by the Spirit, moving silently behind Aaron.  Scrooge and the Spirit watched as he placed the plate of cookies down on the coffee table and resumed his seat next to a red-haired young woman, colorful tattoos adorning her arms.

The Spirit let out a long, low whistle.  “Well now, who’s that fine piece of work?” Scrooge looked up at the Spirit and couldn’t help but laugh.

“That, Spirit, is Stacey, Aaron’s love.  So no, she’s not single.”

“Ah.” The Spirit shrugged again. “Bummer.  But I digress.  Let’s listen in on their conversation.”

Scrooge turned his attention back to Aaron and Stacey.  Aaron was already working on a gingerbread man, nibbling at the head, while Stacey knitted a blanket.  The pearls of the thread were determined, showing off the handiwork of someone adept at crafting goods just out of thread.

“What I don’t understand, Aaron,” Stacey started, keeping her eyes on the knitting. “Is what happened to Zachariah.  He used to have a joy about him.”

Aaron shrugged, a shrug born more out of disappointment than indifference.  “I wish I knew.  It’s never been this bad, really.  I mean, yeah, he’s had some rough spots, but we all have.  I just wish he would open up a little, you know, talk to me about it.”

Stacey laughed softly.  “You know he’s not going to do that, babe.  The man does not like to talk about himself.”

Aaron nodded and sighed.  “Yeah, I know.  You know I invited him out here tonight, and just flat-out refused.  And…” He crushed the remainder of his cookie into his palm, “He expects me to come into work tomorrow to work on some material.”

Stacey tossed down the knitting and glared at Aaron.  “You’re not going anywhere tomorrow, mister!” She smiled and gave him a quick, playful punch in the arm, laughing softly.

Aaron grinned.  “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere tomorrow.” He leaned forward, he and Stacey sharing a small embrace.  He leaned back, picking up the TV remote.  “And hey, if he decides that maybe it’s time to end the partnership because I refuse to show up for work on Christmas Day, then maybe it’ll be for the best.”  With a quick hit of the On button, Aaron and Stacey became awash in the glow of Netflix.

Zachariah stepped back in slight shock.  “End the partnership?  No, I never wanted anything like that.  I just need to work, to find that one thing that I’ve been missing for God knows how long!”

The Spirit laid a massive hand onto Scrooge’s shoulder, squeezing gently.  “But it seems that your drive has alienated those you once called friends.  In short, you’ve become a jerk.”

Scrooge moved the Spirit’s hand off his shoulder with a quick shake.  “I never meant to be like that.  I just…There’s no excuse, Spirit.  In my drive for comedic perfection, I’ve lost sight of the more important things in life.  Things like friends; like a favorite song playing on the radio; like whip.” He sniffed and laughed, holding up his now-empty cup.

The Spirit nodded, knowingly.  “Come on, Zachariah, time to get home.”

Immediately, Scrooge was back in his bedroom.  He looked around the barren room.  Save for his bed and a dresser, there was nothing that would make someone feel welcome.  No pictures.  No music.  Even the pillows weren’t decent.  “I can’t sleep in here,” Scrooge said aloud.  He grabbed a blanket and moved into the living room.  Turning on the TV, his eyes lit up when the image of Jake and Elwood filled the screen.  They were singing, dancing, entertaining five-thousand of their closest friends.  Zachariah’s eyes grew heavy as he heard this last bit of dialogue before falling asleep.

“Who wants an orange whip?  Orange whip?  Orange whip?  Three orange whips.”

To Be Concluded…

A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Two

8 12 2010

Read Part One Here.


The clanging bells of Scrooge’s clock awoke him with a start. “What?! What’s this?” He cried, glancing over to the timepiece, its first and second hands currently resting at 12. “Blasted alarm. Once again something else that needs to be fixed in my life!”

“And it’s not even the most important thing that needs to be fixed, Zachariah.” A voice from the ether said. It was a woman’s voice. Delicate. Lilting. Scrooge would have found it relaxing, if there had been a body to place with such a heavenly sound. Instead, he clutched the worn sheets of his bed to his body, hiding the lower half of his face.

“W-who’s there? Show yourself!” He cried, with more terror than anger in his voice.

“Calm yourself, Scrooge,” The soothing voice said. Out of the darkness, a woman appeared. She was petite, with brown hair that draped over her shoulders. Her face was one of kindness, with a genuine smile for the miser. “I am the first spirit of Comedy your dear friend Thomas mentioned to you.”

Scrooge slowly let the sheet down from his face, his body still tense as he rested against the large headboard. “Oh, yes. Of course.” His eyes narrowed as he studied the spirit before him. “You look…familiar.”

The spirit smiled, her arms lifting from her lithe body slowly, then brushing her hands downward. “We spirits take on a form that can be found comforting. I believe the woman you are seeing was from a television show, with new episodes still being played to this day. A show that is found late at night on Saturdays.”

“Yes, well,” Scrooge muttered, sitting further up in bed. “Let’s get on with it then. Are you here to show me slides or give some speech about how comedy was simpler when you were around?”

“Nothing like that, Zachariah.” The spirit whispered softly, gliding to the side of his bed. She reached out with her right arm toward Scrooge, who shrunk back, his hands clutching his sheet tighter. The spirit laughed. “Zachariah, I am here to take you back to when you first started comedy. To a more innocent time, when laughter was all you needed.”

Scrooge’s eyes darted down to the spirit’s hand, then back to her face. Though he had spent the past few years of his life with the inability to trust anyone, he found the spirit calming, genuine. Tentatively, he held his right hand out. The spirit grasped it gently, whispering thanks.

Suddenly, Scrooge found himself no longer in his bedroom, but on a black stage. He peered out into the darkness, instantly recognizing the faded blue upholstery on the seats in the audience section. “But, it can’t be…” He muttered, stepping forward onto the stage.

“Yes, Zachariah,” The spirit clasped her hands in front of her, floating serenely in the upper left portion of the stage. “This is your old high school.”

“My God!” Scrooge cried, his bare feet padding along the stage. “It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen this place!” He turned around, his eyes wide as he took in the architecture. “I spent so much time in here. It was like a second home.”

“And you can’t have a home without a family.” The spirit said just as the doors from the hallway opened. Scrooge’s mouth went agape as he saw himself from 11 years ago. Hair curled high, a hawaiian shirt, and ill-fitting jeans. His hand ran over his head, kept clean by a #1.5 razor. “Good lord, look at me. Not a care in the world.”

The door swung open again, three more people entering. The first was a tall young man, with straight red hair in a bowl-cut that extended to just above his ears.  “Nathan!” Scrooge exclaimed. The second, another young man, around Scrooge’s 5’5″ height, with dark blond curls piled on his head. “West!” He exclaimed again, a hint of joy beginning to stir within his soul.  And the third was a young woman. Straight black hair pulled into a ponytail. At the sight of this girl, Scrooge stumbled back slightly. “…Laura.” He whispered.  Scrooge shook his head, the back of his hand reaching up to his eyes, wiping them quickly before spinning to face the spirit. “We must hide, spirit! I’ve seen enough of those time-travel movies that I know if my past-self sees me, then my future-self could no longer exist!”

The spirit laughed kindly, raising a hand up. “Relax, Zachariah. We are merely spirits, the same ghosts that haunt all theaters. We will not be noticed.” Scrooge’s body relaxed slightly as he joined the spirit at her side, growing silent. The four young people in front of Scrooge all moved to the stage. Nathan was the first to speak, stepping into the middle of the circle, the clap of his hands echoing throughout the auditorium.

“All right, guys, we got a competition to get ready for this Friday! It’s time we showed those fools over at Wayville that Lee High is as talented as they are!” The four of them nodded vigorously. Scrooge couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his younger self, balancing on the balls of his feet, bouncing his body slightly side to side. “Look, spirit! Look at that! I remember this! It was the practice before my first improv competition.” He couldn’t help but smile slightly at the memory. “It was an exciting time. A new time.” The sound of the group warming up brought his focus back to them.

The four young people were in a circle, tossing an imaginary ball around. “Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! West, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

“Laura…” Scrooge chuckled under his breath, turning to the spirit. “Behold, spirit, the girl who got me into comedy in the first place.”

The spirit laughed, tilting her head. “Is that so, Zachariah?” Scrooge smiled and nodded, turning his attention back to the group.

“Indeed, spirit. I always had an interest in comedy. But, it was when I found out that she…” He gestured toward Laura. “…Was joining this improvisation group…You couldn’t sign me up fast enough.” He grinned at the thought, shaking his head ahead. “I was a young man in foolish puppy love.”

“Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

The spirit turned toward Scrooge. “What happened to these people, Zachariah?”

The joy in Scrooge’s eyes faded slightly, the smile from his face eroding slowly. “…I don’t know. After graduation, we all went our separate ways. Nathan went north. West stayed within the area. Laura went south, then north. And I…” Scrooge shrugged. “…I went my own way. I thought I had to get as far away from this place as possible. Become my own man and all that. And I did. I did become my own man.” He laughed bitterly. “My own man who isn’t able to keep in contact with people in his life.”

The spirit said nothing, her eyes softening as she reached her hand out, placing it gently on Scrooge’s shoulder. “Come, Zachariah. I believe you’ve seen enough.”

Scrooge looked at the spirit’s hand, then into her eyes. “Please, spirit. Let’s stay a while longer?” He could feel the spirit’s hand squeeze his shoulder, and knew her response before she even spoke.

“I am sorry, Zachariah. But what’s in the past is in the past. And, if all you think about is the past, then you won’t see the opportunities you have in the future.”

Scrooge nodded sadly. “Yes, spirit. Of course.” He stood up straight, hands smoothing out the front of his wrinkled nightgown before once again wiping his eyes. “Take me away, spirit. There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.”

The spirit smiled softly, and within an instant Scrooge was back in his bed, under the covers. He sat up with a start, looking over to the clock. It only read five minutes past the midnight hour. “A dream,” he said, laying slowly back into bed. “Nothing but a…wonderful dream.”

He rolled onto his side, staring at the wall. His own words echoed through his mind. “There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.” He whispered, before sleep finally overtook him.

To Be Continued…

A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part One

1 12 2010

Zachariah Scrooge sat alone in the office, before his writing desk, his worn overcoat wrapped around his large body.  His hazel eyes narrowed at the laptop screen in front of him, the flashing vertical line taunting him, daring him to type words.  Fingers tapped along the keyboard, only to be followed by an angry mashing of the Backspace button.  Staring at the faint glow of his laptop’s monitor, he finally slammed it shut, his hands raising up in frustration.

“Bah, humbug!” He cried, standing and moving over to the minifridge adjacent the glass panel windows. Pulling the door open, he bent down, peering long and hard before finally grabbing a Diet Dr. Pepper. The sound of carbonation filled the air as he popped the tab and took a sip, staring out onto the nigh-deserted street known as West Broad.

“Are you all right, Zach?” Came a voice from the hallway.  Scrooge turned to see Aaron Grant, his comedy partner, emerging from the shadows, arms filled with wrapped boxes.  “I heard you all the way from the mailroom.”

Grant was, by all accounts, a good looking man.  Tall, toned body, a perfect smile that was roofed by a perfect head of brown hair. His winter beard was supple.

Scrooge peered into his reflection of the window.  He was short, rotund, a fair smile, with his  dark blond hair receding into a widow’s peak.  His winter beard was but a patch on his chin and sideburns that grew unruly far too fast.

“I’m fine, Grant,” Scrooge muttered, his eyes remaining forward.  “Just another mental block, is all.”

“Oh, all right then, nothing too terrible, then.” Grant said, unloading the packages onto an empty desk. “I was wondering if you wanted to come by my place tonight. Stacey and I are doing a little gift exchange.”

“Gift exchange?” Scrooge turned to face Grant.  “What for? Her birthday’s already past, and yours is in June.”

“July, actually.”


Grant laughed, shaking his head.  “No, for Christmas.  It’s Christmas Eve.”

Scrooge rolled his eyes, putting the cold can to his lips.  “Christmas Eve. Harumph, just another day where I sit, attempting to think of clever things to say to the peons.” He waved his can toward West Broad, his eyes narrowing as he watched a man and woman walk, fingers intertwined with each others’.  Turning away from the window, his eyes focused on the pile of gifts.  “For a little gift exchange, that’s quite a few presents.”

“Well,” Grant said, smiling. “There are only a couple in here for Stacey.  I have a few for my parents, and a couple for my son.”

“That’s right, I forgot.” Scrooge muttered again, his eyes scanning the packages. “You and Stacey are having a child soon.”

Grant nodded, grinning wider. “April.  I know it’s a little early, but I just couldn’t help it.” He laughed, shrugging his broad shoulders.  Scrooge peered at him, then smiled.  It wasn’t a kind smile, however.  Far from it.

“Well then, if you are exchanging presents tonight, you should have no problem with coming in tomorrow morning.” Zachariah moved back to his desk, sitting down and reopening the laptop.  Grant stepped back slightly in surprise.

“But tomorrow’s Christmas Day!  That means food!  More gifts!  Sleeping in!” He moved his arms outward, palms toward Scrooge, attempting to appeal to the generous spirit of the large man in front of him.  Scrooge looked up briefly, then moved his attention back to the computer.

“That’s not possible.  There is work to be done.  Humor to be published.  You will be here at 8 a.m., or I replace you with a joke book sponsored by Garfield.” Scrooge’s fingers began clacking against the keyboard. “Be glad I’m letting you go home early tonight.”

Grant moved his arms down, shaking his head slightly as he scooped up the gifts.  “I really hope you understand what you’re asking is a very mean-spirited thing.  Christmas is supposed to be spent with family, not with a sly wit and a cynical point of view.”  He moved over to the door exiting out onto West Broad, pausing and turning back once more. “At least promise me you’ll go home tonight, and not spend the night here like you did last Christmas.”

Scrooge’s eyes never wavered from the screen. “I make no promise I have no intention of keeping. Now go.”

Grant’s eyes filled with pity as he turned away, leaving Zachariah Scrooge alone in the office.

One hour passed.  Then another.  Then another.  West Broad progressed from a steady stream of people crossing the window to a trickle, until finally it was barren.  Zachariah Scrooge leaned back in his chair, taking one more look his blog post.  He glanced down at his watch.  11 p.m..  Surely the roads would be clear.  With a stifled yawn and a shrug, Scrooge saved the post and stood up.  “I’ll finish it tomorrow.” He grumbled, ambling to the exit.  Placing his wool cap on his head, he stepped out into the cold.  “Harumph, blasted weather.” Scrooge said to himself as he slid into the driver’s seat of his Camry.

The engine came to life, and Scrooge’s face twisted into a mask of pain as he heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” come blaring through his car’s speakers.  “Blasted Christmas music!” He yelled, twisting the volume knob to the left so violently, it threatened to snap off.  Scrooge took a moment to enjoy the silence and solitude, and let out a long exhalation before pulling out onto the empty street.

As he drove, his thoughts drifted to Grant.  He could just see Aaron and Stacey, sitting together in their living room, exchanging gifts and looks of love between each other, both eager for the future.  “Children, hmph.” Is all Scrooge could say as he shook his head to clear out the vision.

Finally arriving to his home, Scrooge shrugged off his overcoat.  Locking the front door, he moved over to his couch, sitting down and picking up the TV remote.  “Christmas.” He growled as he clicked through the channels, his heart growing darker with each commercial or sitcom that espoused a holiday cheer which he did not feel. “Blasted holidays!”

Scrooge turned the TV off, tossing the remote down onto the couch and standing up. “Best get to bed and get the day over with.”

He moved to the bedroom, getting into his nightgown and sliding into bed.  His eyelids grew heavy, and he was just about to fall asleep when he heard a voice.

“Zachariah…” It was ghostly, faint.  Scrooge sat up in bed, his body tensing with fear.

“What, who’s there?!” He whispered.

“Zachariah…” The voice said again.  From the living room, Scrooge could see the glow of the TV.  His body relaxed, laughing at himself.

“Fool I am, I must have left the TV on.  I’m more tired than I thought.” He padded back into the living room, grabbing the remote and pressing the Off button.  But the screen stayed on, playing a cliche-filled commercial with holiday sentiment.  Scrooge slapped the remote against his hand, pressing the Off button again.  “Damn batteries.”

Suddenly, the channel changed! No longer was it a commercial or a sitcom, but rather a man dressed in a black bowling shirt with white down the front, cargo pants, and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap turned backward.  Scrooge peered closer, his eyes narrowing.

“…Thomas?  Thomas George?”

The man in the TV nodded.  “Yes, Zachariah, it is me, your old improv partner.”

Scrooge sat on the couch, slack-jawed.  “But, it’s not possible…you’re dead!”

Thomas nodded again.  “I am dead, Zachariah, and now I must roam the airwaves, amidst all the pop culture that I exploited within my improv scenes.  Reality shows, game shows, terrible sitcoms…They are my residence.”

Zachariah leaned forward. “But why are you here now, Thomas? It’s been ages since we performed together.”

Thomas raised an accusatory finger.  His dark eyes blazed with passion. “You have grown complacent, Zachariah!  Your humor once brought joy to hundreds, but now you have allowed your cynical views of life to overpower that humor!  I come with a warning: You shall be visited by three spirits tonight…the Spirit of Comedy Past; the Spirit of Comedy Present; and the Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come.  Heed their lessons well, Zachariah!  And also check out ‘Modern Family’, Wednesday nights on ABC!”

The television screen blinked off.  Scrooge sat on his couch for a long moment, keeping his eyes focused on the screen.  It blinked on again, Thomas filling the viewspace.

“Seriously, you need to get to bed so the spirits can come.” The screen turned off for the final time.

Scrooge stood up quickly. “Hmph, spirits.” He spat out as he moved back to his bedroom, crawling under the covers.  “Spirits…” he grumbled one more time before his eyes closed, drifting off into sleep.

To Be Continued…

Tilting at windmills. Or in this case, the Bat-Signal.

13 11 2010

Howdy everybody.  Zach here.  I have embarked on a quest.  A quest that is irrationally optimistic, completely fantastical, and a high percentage chance of failing completely.

But if you’ll give me a chance, allow me to explain.

As you may or may not know, casting is currently going underway for the third film in the rebooted Batman franchise, titled The Dark Knight Rises.  Directed by Christopher Nolan, the gentleman who also helmed the previous two films, it’s set to be released in July of 2012.

There have been multiple rumors on who the villain of DKR is going to be.  The Riddler has been eliminated, but that still leaves Nolan with a rich collection of rogues to pick from the Batman mythology.  Tom Hardy has been cast in an unknown role, but people are saying it’s likely he will be the main antagonist.

But I’m not here to talk about Tom Hardy.  I’m here to talk about me.

I want a screen test.  More specifically, I want a screen test to play one of Batman’s less-antagonistic antagonists, the Penguin.

Now why in the world do I want to do this?  A couple of reasons:

1) It’s Batman.

2) I honestly think I fit the physical characteristics of the Penguin pretty damn closely.  In the comics, animated series, and the Burton-directed Batman Returns, the Penguin is a short, fat man with a slight waddle to his gait. I too am a short, fat man witih a slight waddle to my gait.  Slap a prosthetic nose on me, and BAM! You got the spitting image of a young Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin’s actual name, for you non-Batman readers).

Keeping up with my Don Quixote-esque quest, I’ve started a Facebook page which you can find here.  Like the page, and let’s see if I can pull off a Betty White and get noticed through social media.

If you’ve read this far, thank you.  And if you read the previous two reasons as to why I should do this screen test, and are needing some more persuasion, I understand.

So, why?  Why am I pretty much setting myself up for failure?

Honestly, I don’t have that much to lose.

I’m 26, working in an ice cream store, and attending college.  While those latter two statements work fine together, it’s the former that stands out.  Working in an ice cream while being in college is great if you’re 18, 19.  Not so much great when you’re old enough that your car insurance has gone down in price.

Don’t think I’m being pretentious.  I enjoy my job, and I’m happy to be going back to school.  But why not have this dream?  Why not try to make something of it?

I’m not demanding a part in the movie.  I’m asking for a screen test.  And being over here on the east coast with no representation, the onus on getting Warner Bros. and Nolan’s attention falls on me.

So I’m asking for your help, Click the link.  Like the page.  If you want to email me directly to offer support or to tell me I’m a fool, you can find my email address on the info tab.

Oh, and yes, I have acting experience.

Thanks for reading this, and thank you for the support.


And one more link for the page: Get Zach Arnold a Screen Test for The Dark Knight Rises.

Improv. Why?

9 05 2010

That question is one I’ve found myself asking a lot the past couple of days.

Before we go any further, just so you know: I’m not retiring from improv.  I’m not even close to thinking about quitting this art that I’ve loved for the past 11 years of my life.  So if you’re hoping that this is going to be a big Lou Gehrig moment, I suggest you stop reading and do something else, like building a birdhouse.  Seriously, I don’t see enough of those small architectural wonders.

Back to the question at hand; Why in the world, for the past decade, have I spent my time studying, watching, performing, and loving this art form?

This question formed after reading Molly Buckley’s blog entry on her improv experience (Found here, on her brilliant website).  She posits that to her, the stage is her church, improv her religion.  Some may call it an extreme statement, but after seeing her perform for the past couple of years, I’d say it’s right on the money.  Molly rocks it out every time she performs.  So does everyone who’s a part of Made of BEES.

But why?  Why do I feel the compulsion to get up on the stage, perform for the masses, and bring smiles to faces?  Why am I not content to sit back, relax, and let the thousands of other performers through this great world do the entertaining for me?

Life would be so much simpler if I just threw in the towel, proclaimed “I’m done.”, and never worried about setting foot on the stage again.  There would be time to do normal things, like watch TV and go to bars and debate the merits of my favorite NFL team’s draft picks.  I could even try to breach the dating scene.  It’d be jarring at first to keep my focus on the beautiful girl in front of me than the dozens of potential characters that always frequent the restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.  But eventually that temptation would fade, and I’d be a simpler person.  A normal person.  A saner person.

So the question remains.  Why?  Why have I devoted 11 years of my life to studying, seeing, and performing improv?  After some soul-searching, I think I’ve found some answers:

  • Improv accepts.
  • It encourages.
  • It emboldens.
  • It always says “Yes”.
  • Improv never calls in the middle of the week, telling me that things just aren’t working out.
  • It never sends me an email, saying that I’m not qualified enough to be a part of it.
  • Improv shows me where I shine brightest.
  • It shows me my weaknesses, and then strengthens them.
  • Improv doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make.  All it cares about is you perform to the best of your ability.
  • It teaches me how to trust.
  • It proves it’s all right to be vulnerable.
  • Improv brings people together.
  • Improv helps me become the person I want to be.

There are more answers.  I just haven’t found them yet.

To Molly, improv is her church.  To me, it’s a mentor.  It develops me.  It pulls me out of my shell, telling me it’s all right to be who I am.  I can succeed, or I can fail.  Whatever happens, improv will be there for me the next day, and the day after that.  It doesn’t discard me.  It needs me as much as I need it.

There’s no telling how long this mutual need will last.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find myself lacking the desire to get on stage.  Maybe the time will come when I have a career and a wife and a mortgage and I’ll have to put it aside.  Maybe I’ll finally take the advice of some of my more practical friends, and “grow up”.

But until then, I’m here.  In the present.  And presently, I’m about improv, and all the hope and joy and love that comes with it.

Yes and.