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Sitcom-style play 'B-Side Studio' opens Sept. 13

'B-Side Studio' co-writer Evan Linder on sitcoms and song poems

September 09, 2013|By Julia Borcherts, @JuliaBorcherts | For RedEye

How song poems made it into the show: "We [The New Colony] have a huge improv contingent and in The Inconvenience as well—and a big musical contingent—so we wanted to put those two things together. The song poems were brought up by Andy [Hobgood] and we just loved the idea that the main characters were doing something that might be morally questionable and that everyone has failed at everything they have ever done. And now this is their last-ditch effort to save the place by doing this very harebrained scheme and then, surprisingly, it starts to work."

The song poems in "B-Side Studio" are original: "Ike and I wrote [the lyrics] in the scripts and that was very fun because the song poems are [pauses] terrible. And it can be harder to intentionally write a bad song than a song that's OK. [Laughs] But we've had so many great people making sure that the music is exactly right. They've got to be ridiculous, but it's got to sound like a professional recording studio is doing it."

Example of a "B-Side Studio" song poem: "From Episode Two: 'Where did you go, my pet buffalo? You left, I can tell—there's a hole in my wall. Where did you go, my pet buffalo? I miss you and I guess that's all. I miss you, so please won't you call? Good luck in that big urban sprawl.' The most ridiculous lyrics, performed by Michael [Harnichar] and Brad [Smith]—who play the music in the show—with such honesty and conviction that it's beautiful."

Some examples of actual song poem titles from the '70s: "'Jimmy Carter Says Yes' is one. 'Blind Man's Penis' is a very famous one. They're terrible."

What might surprise you about the show: "Our theme song [by John Cicora of The Inconvenience] is the biggest earworm you have ever heard in your entire life. Nobody can stop singing it. Everybody had it in their heads that this show—with goofy workplace shenanigans in the '70s with period costumes—would have this really jazzy, upbeat, up-tempo theme song. And it doesn't. But everybody keeps waking up each morning [with] the theme song in their head and then screaming about it at rehearsal each night. I can't wait till we can release it and let other people get stuck with it. [Laughs]"

What inspires The New Colony: "I don't think we have ever looked at anything in terms of time periods, actually. It's usually about the weird little subcultures, wherever they happen to fit. When we did 'Frat,' we just had so many amazing stories [laughs] from people within that world and were able to set that in the now. The idea of a bunch of ladies who found freedom in selling Tupperware on their block was where we started [with '5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche'] and then we ended up setting it in the 1950s right when Tupperware was coming up. 'Bear Suit of Happiness' was very much the same. We were most interested in a group of gay soldiers in a time when they were not able to be out to get into a room together and come to an understanding that they can actually be themselves in that room. And WWII was the best place to tell that story."

On deck for The New Colony, a new work with New York playwright David Zellnik ("Yank"): "His subculture is the world of touring children's theater. And the title of David's show that he's writing for us is called 'Orville and Wilbur Did It,' because they work for the Americans Did It Theater Company. So it's, 'George Washington Did It.' 'Rosa Parks Did It.' Take any historical figure and just say, 'They did it.' And inevitably in our show, Orville and Wilbur do end up falling in love over the course of the tour. So, Orville and Wilbur do in fact do it by the end."

Linder's own experience with that subculture: "I toured in the back of a van for three months doing 'Bunnicula' [laughs] for touring children's theater audiences. It's a very weird life on the road for actors who wish they were doing something better."

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