Tag: douglas

Adams to Adams: Elements of Comedy

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” –Douglas Adams

There are six elements of funny, according to cartoonist Scott Adams: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable, and for a joke to land it must have at least two of these elemensts. For example, if we take a cartoon like Garfield, then we, usually, have two animals, Garfield and Ottis (cute), and one of them can talk (bizarre). If we would like to push it a tad further, then we could say that Jon represents the recognizable, a middle-aged man going through life with a troublesome cat.

Now, if we take the theory of one successful cartoonist, how can we apply it to the humor of a novelist? Douglas Adams created one of the most absurd, and delightfully witty radio shows/”trilogy in five parts” ever written.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—running at a small Volgonian watering hole near you from January 13 through the 29, is assuming they have not destroyed your planet, yet—is a savory satire on life, existence, and banality.

Arthur Dent, is a delightfully droll young man (recognizable). He is then swept across the galaxy (bizarre) into surprisingly familiar and yet tastefully odd Universe.

Actor Mark Swift put it, “I think Arthur is a tragically dragged about individual. This is what makes him so fun to play, he’s hapless and trying to gauge just how insignificant he is with every mind boggling bit of information thrown his way. Honestly, I think that the Earth’s destruction was freeing for Arthur in many ways, as he didn’t really have many prospects there.”

So this everyman from nowhere, and even when he had a somewhere its nowhere now, becomes the center of our comedic Universe and his utter lack of any heroic skills make him the perfect foil on which to hang our towel.

“Last year when I played Arthur, there was constantly a balancing act of being amazed and horrified by every event that transpired. It was really fun to play someone desperately trying to grasp the concepts being thrown at him,” said Swift.

This childish since of wonder—although, how else would one act when faced with the reality that humans are, 1) not alone in the Universe, and 2) things are vastly more complicated and yet equally trite—puts our everyman in bizarre situations.

It is this use of the commonplace and the wondrous that sets Adams apart.

Douglas Adams – Master Jokester  

 

By Allison Bloechl

Douglas Adams is by far one of the funniest authors I have ever experienced and certainly one of my favorites.  His works are filled to the brim with wit, satire and humor.  One would think this would get boring over the course of radio plays and half-dozen books comprising his most famous work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  And it would, if it were just one style of joke.  But Adams was a master joke-teller and never let you see where the joke was going.  He was particularly adept at deadpan, satirical, and absurdist humor as well as the classic bait-and-switch.  As a towel-toting fan, here are some of my favorites of each.

Deadpan humor is just how it sounds – delivered mater-of-factly and without emotion.   The Hitchhiker’s Guide is chock-full of it. One of my favorite lines from both the radio plays and the novels – the creation of the universe.

“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

Another example would be the overzealous man who disproves God and goes on to prove that “black is white and gets killed on the next zebra crossing”.

 

Satire mocks specific humans or humanity in general.  It is meant to point out flaws and weaknesses.  More often than not it has political or social ramifications.   One of the most obvious examples is that of Lady Cynthia Fitzmilton, and obvious dig at Margaret Thatcher.   We can tell how Adams felt about the former PM by making Fitzmilton ignorant, offensive and oblivious.  In the first fit (or radio play) she commends a construction team for bulldozing a town in front of the very people whose homes are being destroyed.

“And I must say immediately what a great honour and a great privilege I think it must be, for you, the people of Cottington, to have this gleaming new motorway going through your cruddy little village. I’m Sorry, sorry, your little country village of cruddy Cottington. I know how proud you must feel at this moment to know that your obscure and unsung hamlet will now arise reborn as the very splendid and worthwhile Cottington service station. Providing welcome refreshment and sanitary relief for every weary traveller on his way.

Absurdist (or surreal) humor is the deliberate violations of causal reasoning, producing events and behaviors that are obviously illogical.  Throughout the story, our heroes travel by the infinite improbability generator which makes the extremely improbable into reality.  Arms melt off, people become couches, and, perhaps most famously, missiles turn into sperm whales and bowls of petunias, keeping readers always guessing as to what the hell will happen next

And finally, we come to the bait-and-switch, my favorite type of humor employed by Adams.  The bait-and-switch requires the author to set up and the audience to invest in one particular narrative, where, at the end, the author reveals not what the audience expected.  Adams uses this technique frequently and to great effect.  In my favorite joke in the entirety of The Guide, our heroes travel across the universe to “the far side of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet of Preliumtarn, which orbits the star Zarss, which is located in the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine” to see the last words of God inscribed on the mountain for all to see in thirty foot tall fire.  And they are “WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE”.  Adams sets up the narrative of an impossible quest for truth, knowledge and glory, and then pulls the rug out from under us and gives us a sign found frequently on out-of-order toilets.

Thers are, of course, just a few of my favorite examples of the wit and humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide.  For more examples, come see Hedgerow’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy: Part Two this January!

Blog: Growing Up at Hedgerow

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowCaptandHSMFinalHigh-175Growing up can be a scary thing. One of the most revered ages is eighteen. Turning eighteen marks a whole new chapter in someone’s life; suddenly, you’re thrust into the world of college, living on your own, and adulthood. It can be a very nerve-wracking process. At Hedgerow Theatre School, turning 18 is a feat within itself. You’re the oldest age you can be to take children’s theatre classes, but adult classes are also available to you as well. You’re even more of a mentor to the little ones, who, now that you’re a legal adult, are relying on you even more. You’ve delved into the world of being a young adult, a strong, powerful group around Hedgerow. It’s exciting, but it can be very daunting as well. This week, I (Gabby) have interviewed the first three Hedgerow Theatre School teens to turn eighteen: long-time Hedgerow veteran Talen Draper and twins Moira and Caitlyn McKniff. In my interview, I asked them what it’s like to be eighteen, and what it means to them to be eighteen around Hedgerow.

How does it feel to finally be 18? I feel like 18 is such a defining age in one’s life (you’re finally an adult), does it feel like you’re starting a whole new chapter?

 

Caitlyn: I’ve only been 18 for about a month now and it’s great that I can finally tell people that I’m no longer a child. But it’s weird to think that I can sign my own permission slips or vote in the next election.

Moira: 18 feels great!! I feel like I’m definitely turning a new page in my life and I’m so excited to see what it has in store.

Talen: I do feel like I’m starting a new chapter in my life, when I turned 18 I felt like I had a clean slate waiting for me to write a new book.

Favorite part of being 18?

Caitlyn: I don’t really have one, I’ve only been 18 for like a month.

Talen: Hmm this is hard.. I would have to say being able to vote.

Least favorite?

Caitlyn: I’m not 21 yet, so in some people’s eyes I’m not actually an adult, which is very frustrating.

Talen: My least favorite part is having to do certain things on my own that I was used to my mom doing for me.

What does being 18 entail as a Hedgerow Theatre work study student? Is there anything new you’re looking forward to being able to do around the theater? 

 Caitlyn: It’s great that I can finally be left alone or walk somewhere without having to wait for someone to be with me. I think it’ll make summer camps a lot easier.

Moira:  Being 18 now means we have more of a responsibility with looking after the younger students, but I find it’s really rewarding being able to teach kids things like choreography and see them grow from it.

Talen: Well, now that I’ve turned 18, I’m an adult, so if a teacher needs to leave the room, I can watch the students.

Where do you fall in your family? Are you the first to turn 18? The last? 

Caitlyn: Well, I turned 18 two minutes before my twin sister did and we’re the only two in our family besides our parents. But, if you ask my mom, she only turned eighteen a few years ago.

Moira: Out of all of our cousins we are right in the middle! My youngest cousin is about 2 and my oldest is like 30, so we’re not the first but definitely not the last!

Talen: I am not the first to turn 18. I’m sort of in the middle, I have 2 older siblings so I’m the 3rd to turn 18.

Where do you plan on going to college next year? What do you want to major in? 

Caitlyn: Hopefully I’ll be at Temple and I hope to study Marketing and Sales.

Moira: If everything works out, Cait and I both plan on going to Temple University, but if not, we are both going to go to the University of Scranton. I want to study Criminal Psychology!

What is your favorite thing about being one of the older work studies at Hedgerow? How do you feel you contribute to the theater and the school?

Caitlyn: Being a Hedgerow Theatre Work Study has allowed me to meet so many talented people that I’ll hopefully keep in contact with for a long time. Theatre is something that I’m very passionate about and as a work study I’ve been able to grow as an actress while helping a younger generation of actors and actresses grow as well.

Moira: I love being able to give the little ones advice and see them all grow as actors and actresses. I feel like I have gained a lot of valuable skills throughout my years at Hedgerow. I hope my skills help add to the Hedgerow Experience.

Talen: I’m actually the oldest out of all the work studies. I love having fun with the students. When I’m in a bad mood, I try to be super energetic and just make sure the students are happy and having a great time.

Lastly, now that you’re 18, what advice would you give to younger kids? What would you say to the younger work studies? 

Caitlyn: I would say stop wishing you were 18 so that you can do things. There really aren’t a lot of cool things you can do at 18 that you can’t do at 16 or 17. To be honest, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m an adult now. To younger work studies I would say learn everything you can and take every piece of advice that is given to you. You can never grow if you don’t think there’s anything more to learn.

Moira: I think the one word of advice that I have learned is to always work hard. Be the first person at a rehearsal and the last to leave. It might seem stupid, but directors will notice that. So I guess my advice to the younger work studies is to pay now so you can play later.

Talen: Enjoy every moment of every age. You don’t have a lot of worries. You don’t have to worry about college applications, SAT/ACT scores, or even deciding on which college you want to attend. You have plenty of time to worry about that. Enjoy life. Life goes by so fast, so make sure you live it as happily as you can, laugh a lot, have no regrets, and spend it with the ones you love the most.

We hope this is able to give some insights into what it’s like to be one of our oldest work studies at Hedgerow, and ease some qualms about turning the big eighteen!

~ Gabby Harrison, Talen Draper, Moira McKniff, and Caitlyn McKniff

Extra-Podcast: David Titus and Poetry

HG2G-11x17-IllustratednothumbDavid Titus, narrator and head which wayer of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, willingly sits down at the Esherick table, surrounded by the smiles of actors long gone, to talk about, sort of, the inner workings of Adams’ insanely clever and complex, Universe. So sit back, if you dare, and listen to the ramblings and ravings of David and Brock.

Blog: Hitchhiker’s Final Weekend

HG2G 11x17 Illustrated2Space and time are relative, and on January 8, 2016, Hedgerow Theatre Company will set out to prove this point with Douglas Adams’ beloved sci-fi comedy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With director Jared Reed at the helm of this production and the cast of the Hedgerow Theatre Company at his disposal, the Hedgerow stage will stretch to the ends of existence and back again with the help of artist Phoebe Titus.

“The great thing about this project is that there are such wonderful characters and descriptions of visual gags in it,” Titus said. “Working from the radio script is especially fun because it’s a blank slate and visuals can be reimagined from the ground up.”    

Originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has since been adapted to other formats, including six novels, a film, and a television series. With numerous additions and re-writes over the years, it gradually became an international multimedia phenomenon. Hedgerow will bring Adams’ original radio play to the historic grist-mill stage, and use Titus’ artwork in storyboard fashion to prove that scale is everything.

“When it comes to creating visuals to go along with Adams’ world, there’s also an aspect of the specific time and place they’re coming from,” Titus explained. “I’ve been working to pull them all together in a way that is fun, relatable, and relevant. Visuals give context for stories.  They bring color and inflection to the stories. Stories have to be told, and that takes time.  Pictures help fix that time into one, clear thought. In this project, the goal is to have the pictures highlight, punctuate, and augment the narrative.”

The title of the show is the name of a fictional, eccentric, electronic hitchhiking guidebook to the Milky Way galaxy, originally published by Megadodo Publications, one of the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor Beta. The narrative of the stage play is frequently punctuated with excerpts from The Guide commenting on life, existence, and the frailty of human knowledge.

Throughout all versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman.  The story also follows the adventures of other major characters: Ford Prefect (who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles), an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin, notorious awful dresser and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.

“One great thing about science fiction worlds is that they can hold a mirror to the good and bad things about our world,” Titus related. “The great thing about Douglas Adams’ world is that it holds a mirror to the humorously mundane, contradictory, and marginally annoying aspects of our world. I read the script several times, talked with my husband, David Titus (the technical director,) and we just had fun together thinking about the characters and visuals.The fabulous thing about coming to this project is that it’s funny; it’s fun to talk about, and fun to think about.”

The first radio series comes from a proposal called “The Ends of the Earth”: six self-contained episodes or “fits”, all destroying the Earth in a different way. While writing the first episode, Adams realized that he needed an alien to provide some context, and that this alien needed a reason to be there. Adams decided to make the alien a researcher for a “wholly remarkable book” named The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As Adams writing progressed, the Guide became the center of his story, and thus the series was born, with the destruction of Earth being the only holdover.

“Adams also makes excellent use of logical fallacies; bringing them to their most ludicrous conclusions with insightful little gags.” Titus commented. “It’s really funny to think about a tiresome, depressed robot, a bureaucratic, green alien, and just a regular guy whose house, then entire world, gets destroyed on a one particularly annoying day.”

Get ready for the Universe to be at your fingertips, as a comedic journey through time and space will land in Rose Valley in time for the near year; but be warned, this production ends as quickly as Dent’s time on Earth as it closes on January 17. 

Video: Mark Swift aka Arthur Dent

Hedgerow Theatre fellow Mark Swift sits down before Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and tells us his favorite part of the story. Ever wanted to hear the original script? Ever wanted to be a hitchhiker yourself? Come to Hedgerow and be a part of the Universe.

Blog: 42

Theatergoers are advised to stay calm and bring a towel as they are  taken on a tour of the universe at Hedgerow Theatre’s production of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from January 8 to 17.

Hedgerow will be using the British playwright’s original radio play, which first aired on the BBC in 1978, and launched a popular science-fiction comedy series of books that were later adapted into a TV series, a computer game and a movie. The story begins shortly before Earth is set to be demolished to make room for a galactic highway. Hapless Englishman Arthur Dent is rescued by his friend Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet near Betelgeuse who’s a researcher for the title publication. They set off together on a journey through space, where they encounter a number of unusual characters.

It will be done as a multimedia spoken-word performance directed by Artistic Director Jared Reed. Hedgerow Fellows Josh Portera, Allison Bloechl and Mark Swift will read from the script, each playing several roles, with illustrations projected on the walls behind them and special sound effects to enhance the storytelling. The storyboard art was created by Phoebe Titus and animated by her husband, technical director David Titus. The Lansdowne-based couple own OrganicInOrganic Visuals, a production company.

“The great thing about this project,” Phoebe Titus explained, “is that there are such wonderful characters and descriptions of visual gags. I read the script several times, talked with David and we just had fun together thinking about the characters and visuals.” Adams’ words offered plenty of inspiration for her. “Douglas Adams’ world holds a mirror to the humorously mundane, contradictory and marginally annoying aspects of our world,” she added. “When it comes to creating visuals to go along with his vision, there’s also an aspect of the specific time and place they’re coming from.  I worked to pull them all together in a way that is fun, relatable and relevant.”

There are eight performances scheduled, on Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

All tickets for this special engagement are $20. To reserve seats or for more information, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media.)