Tag: galaxy

Painting the Colors of the Universe

When given the opportunity to return to an absurd, gleefully dark galaxy, artist Phoebe Titus jumped at the chance. After drawing last year’s first instalment of Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Titus again puts her pencils and brushes to use to create images from Adam’s words.  

“Drawing, painting, and creating are funny things.  They take a lot of time and a lot of work.  Actors probably have a similar experience when they’re in a role; you inhabit your work while you’re doing it, so it invades your whole life.  It’s fun to have a project where all the images are imaginative and fun…There are also some unique challenges to making images that get projected live behind people.  Brush strokes, movements, and colors look very different in that context and it’s fun to see it all come together,” said Titus.

Though all rules are bent in Adams’ Galaxy, it is the limitations of the medium that make the story powerful, and also give Titus the inspiration to paint.

“One of the best things about doing this project is trying to come up with what everything and everyone is going to look like.  How do I really get the character of Majikthise across?  What’s so magical about his thighs? What about the couch that comes alive?  What sort of couch comes alive? Is it cushy? Ratty? Modern? These are fun questions to ask!”

With these questions in mind, and many more, Titus creates the art of Adams’ Universe. It is a time and place reminiscent of the Twilight Zone if it were written by Monty Python. Hitchiker’s is an absurd look at reality through the guise of satire. By allowing the listener, or the reader depending on your favorite version of the story, to laugh at the banality of the Galaxy we are better able to laugh at ourselves.

To Titus, the genius of Douglas Adams’ writing is that he’s able to turn everything on its head:  Eternity is a joke, people are people, aliens are fundamentally flawed in the same way people are, and time plods on no matter where you are in it.

“Nothing and everything matters.  It’s comforting, almost cozy.  Then there’s the wonderful way he drags everything to its absurd logical conclusion, like the creatures who evolve several times a day because they’re so impatient, and how inconvenient that is for them.  The common theme is that everyone’s lives are annoying, full of idiots who don’t know what they’re doing, and destined to end at any moment.  Yet somehow he makes that all seem hilarious and endearing.”

Titus was first attracted to the “gleefully” dark humor of the material. “They get flung all over time and space while this planet or that gets exploded yet they’re all hung up on bickering with each other and trying to get a drink.”

Philosophy, stupidity, and the mundane mix as Adams’ worlds collide, reconfigure, and expire. With odd characters at every turn and clever turn of phrases lurking in every narration, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is bound to entertain young and old.

“My kids saw Part 1 last year and have been familiar with the stories for years, so that cat’s out of the bag; however, if I was to try to pinpoint what I’d like them to take away from this I’d want them to know that they shouldn’t bother trying to figure out the meaning of life and just focus on living.  Then I’d remind them to make sure they keep their phones clean and sanitary.  It’s the little things, you know?”

In part two, the characters visit the legendary planet Magrathea, home to the now-collapsed planet-building industry, and meet Slartibartfast. Through archival recordings, he relates the story of a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Ford and Arthur find themselves trapped on primitive Earth as Zaphod makes a run for it.

 

Wisdom Through Madness

Wisdom through Madness

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Douglas Adams is one of the most recognizable authors of our time. Next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and perhaps John Grisham or Stephen King, Adams brand is easily one of most memorable and enjoyable series to ever be produced.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a radio play that was adapted into a book that became trilogy in five parts that then became a television show which was adapted into a movie that did not quite live up to the hype that then returned to television. Somehow or another this story has ended up here at Hedgerow Theatre, and that is exactly what this fascinating ride is: a story.

No matter the form, no matter the method, the arc stays the same. Adams wrote in a witty, sardonic tone that equalled that of Charles Dickens. Each character seems to posses a quick whip or a beautiful simplicity, but either way it is Adams way with words that draw us in.

It is as if the Trickster god has stepped behind the keyboard, and is offering up sage wisdom through irony and puns.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened,” writes Adams.  

If Adams is a bit of Loki or Anansi, his desire is to transgress. He breaks social taboos by placing them in far off vessels and allowing us to see the ridiculousness of a belief, crosses between worlds and time as a passenger unnoticed, and presents multiple contradictory truths.

It is as if Harlequinno or Truffaldino has taken hold of the pen and become the scribe. The Fool stands the test of time, whether he is in commedia or cartoon, because he places for us, a context of madness.

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans…” writes Adams.

If we look at another dramatic example from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear’s Fool functions as the same role. Loyal and honest, he comments upon the king’s actions as well as functions as the king’s conscience. The Fool is able to point at the faults of the king, and through irony, sarcasm, and humor he eases the truth to protect and educate his friend.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be,” writes Adams.

In this example, we are Lear: mad, betrayed, heart-broken, confused, and lost. It is the Fool who writes to us and allows us the opportunity to see truth through comedy, to swallow the sugar-pill of knowledge with a smile. Adams zanny Universe offers us a chance to laugh at our own stupidity, at our own futility, and our own fragility.

Whether it is Loki or Harley, Adams or Mel Brooks, the clown speaks the truth that no one else can say. He plays the trick that forces us to see reality. He bends the laws in order to show us what things could be.
As we prepare to open The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part 2, we prepare to imagine how the Universe might be, what aliens might be like, and how we would act if faced with utterly ridiculous circumstances.

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!

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.