Theater can make you do strange things – like convincing one of your best friends to pose nude with fruit.
The Greatest Hits of a Band That Never Existed
In college and the years following, I did a fair amount of writing for the stage. At one point, a good friend approached me with a group of songs he had written. He wanted to do them as an evening of cabaret. “Would I write a few jokes for him to do between numbers?” he asked. However, I decided that we should invent a character for him to play named Fitz. Then we could and present the songs as the “greatest hits” of Fitz’s fictional career spanning albums and decades.
Fitz would relate his life story. There’d be a hard-luck childhood, a parade of lovers, a long-suffering accompanist named Walloughs. In the tradition of VH1’s Behind the Music, the script called for many “archival photos” and “album covers.” I’m not sure who I thought would oversee their creation. Naturally, it turned out to be me.
Behind the Covers
The album covers were fun to design at first. I snapped a photo during rehearsal of the show. (It was now titled “Fitz and Walloughs Get It in the End!”) With Photoshop, I pulled their heads from this photo and pasted them on different bodies for each of their 10 albums. Thus, they ended up on a crayon drawing of a lady literally beating a dead horse. Their likenesses adorned bodies of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.
For their Christmas album I even found a beautiful painting of the Madonna and Child. I placed Fitz’s head on the Virgin Mother and Walloughs’ on the helpless infant at her breast. By the time I finished designing these covers (in between constant, late-night rehearsals), I was exhausted. But an even greater challenge lay ahead.More Content from Metrosource
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Lights! Camera! Fruit!
Having been at Metrosource for a few years, I’d worked on a fair share of photo shoots. So I should have known it would be a challenge to photograph more than 30 additional “archival” images in one day. Almost all of them requiring complicated costume, makeup and location changes. But that’s what we decided to do.
In addition to organizing the shoot, I ended up playing one of Fitz’s wicked aunts (wearing some of the scariest make-up ever seen outside of a clown college. What’s more, I played all 10 of his lost lovers (with my face obscured to disguise this fact). We hurried to grab shots all over my neighborhood: outside of a church, on my roof, and even — in my bathroom — of a nude Fitz escaping from a bathtub filled with fresh fruit.
By the end of that very long day, we felt beaten down. And when it came time to choose which photos would end up in the show, I had trouble deciding which ones were actually funny because I so clearly remembered the panic of trying to get them done.
Another Opening, Another Show
However, when opening night came around, and the covers and photos flickered to life on stage, I was grateful for every minute I had put into them. I realized these were more than mere visual punch lines. We had created the illusion that these characters had a rich, bizarre history, and that allowed us to take the audience on a weird and wonderful journey.
When I look back at those images now, I marvel at how audacious we were. I notice how many of the shots are of us actually laughing — having a good time despite the enormity of our overwhelming task. I can see the thrilling energy of young people making art. I feel a sense of accomplishment about all that I learned in order to make it a reality and immense gratitude for all the talented people who helped bring it to life. It may have been a work-intensive, logistical nightmare, but it’s also something that will always make me tremendously proud.
Read about some of the other odd things Paul did in the name of art.
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Last modified: August 13, 2019