Well, here it is, the moment at least some of you have been waiting for: Mark Trail Theater on YouTube. I hope it doesn’t disappoint! We weren’t able to pull off the production values of those now-famous Mary Worth videos, so we went for campy. It’s going to be dark at first; stay with it.
(If you have a hard time seeing the projections, you might want to go directly to the video’s page on YouTube and watch it in full-screen mode.)
And now, some probably indulgent notes on the cast and production:
The play was part of a larger variety/talent show called Glitterama, which is put on by the zany Baltimore performance group Fluid Movement. We were one of the few acts that didn’t involve burlesque and/or semi-nudity (though on the first night after we left the stage there were calls for Mark Trail to “take it off”). It was very gratifying to hear everyone laughing in the audience, but we were fortunate to be the third act, and so they were all good and warmed up.
That’s my lovely wife Amber as poor neglected Cherry Trail in the first and last scenes, gamely wearing a curly wig, Keds, and (the ultimate sacrifice) mom jeans. She’s actually on the board of Fluid Movement, and at the last minute was roped into saying a few words about the group at the beginning of the show — in costume, of course. She’s a pro. She also was the driving force behind actually moving this thing from big talk on my part to reality (as she was for this very blog), and helped keep us organized as it progressed.
Our friend Sam only had a single line as Buck Jones at the very end, but he was a very crucial part of the production. He’s been reading soap opera strips for much longer than I have, and once we had settled on a plotline that we would use, he meticulously pieced together the panels to create the story and then wrote the script. And yes, other than the Sunday strip-style bear slander in the middle, virtually every line in this play is taken directly from the strip. He also wrote and performed that theme song, all by himself (the lyrics for which, if you have trouble hearing them, are “It’s the land of the beaver and bear/ And home of their friend Mark Trail/ Cherry and Andy and Rusty are there/ And all of the bad guys have facial hair/ In Lost Forest”). He also had valuable theater experience that kept us on track, and ran the slide projector during the performances.
Our friend Dave was for obvious reasons the only choice to play Mark Trail. I love the way he makes Mark so incredibly straight that he’s hilarious. He sunk so deep into his character that his wife (who is behind the camera here) forbade him to talk in the Mark Trail voice at home anymore. (Actual quote as we were helping clean up the backstage area, in Mark Trail voice: “If there’s one thing I hate more than bears, it’s litter.”) He was also great with props — for instance, he built that pup tent in a night when the Glitterama head honcho informed us that our previous effort (a tarp draped over some chairs) was sub-par.
Our friend Kaycee, who glams it up as Kelly Welly, was already a reader of my blog when she met my wife, and later realized who she was when some friends posted pictures of our wedding in the forum. Her camptastic Marilyn-Monroe-meets-Miss-Piggy version of Kelly’s voice (amplified by the hand mike so she could go for maximum breathiness) kept us on the verge of breaking up at all times, and some of the funniest little flourishes originated with her ad libs during rehearsal. She also provided costumes and props from her seemingly limitless supply, including the all-important bear suit.
Speaking of which … our friend Rupert did triple duty as Rusty, the arrow-ass bear (for whose ass we never got around to fashioning an arrow) and, in the final scene, Molly, all of which roles he embraced with total and deranged commitment, stealing everyone’s heart and mastering the quick change in the wings. My only regret about this video is that many of his awesome antics ended up just beyond the left side of the frame.
Our friend Kevin did a great job with the narration, making the whole bizarre thing sound official and halfway normal. The fake Sunday strip in particular got some of the biggest laughs of the night, not least because of his awesomely deadpan delivery.
And finally, that’s me dorking it up as both Bill Ellis and Ranger Rick Rogers. I find Kelly and the bear’s second entrance, during which I flail about desperately trying to figure out where I’m supposed to be standing on stage, particularly cringeworthy. At least at one point I got to walk off stage with a girl in one hand and a gun in the other — truly the dream of every American man.
Anyway, I’ll stop nattering on about this, but I really enjoyed putting this on with all these people. This video will obviously make you devastated that you missed it, but we’re already trying to figure out a venue for the next chapter of Mark Trail Theater: Molly Doesn’t Understand The Hostility! It will call for a higher special effects budget, obviously.