(Fade in. A cool October evening in Deep Ellum, at the Dallas Comedy House's Training Center. A nervous young woman clutches her phone and a notepad, shifting in a rickety wheelie chair. Three men sit opposite her, equally nervous and shifty-eyed. Every creak of the building is exaggerated in the silence before the Jason: A Campy Musical interview.) Me: Could you guys talk a little bit so I can see where to put the mic?
Jason: Yes. Colten's man-spreading.
Colten: I have stopped man-spreading because now I'm self-conscious about it.
Daniel: Um, you're still man-spreading a bit.
Me: OK, there we go. You might just need to talk a little bit louder...
Colten: (Very quietly) I can do that.
Me: So, with me, I have Jason Hackett, Colten Winburn, and Daniel Matthews.
(David Allison could not be there, so I've inserted his responses where appropriate.)
Daniel: Just to clarify, Colten is spelled with an “E-N,” not an “O-N.” It's a common mistake.
Jason: And his middle name is “Man-Spread.” Just let the record indicate that the man lives up to the name.
Me: If possible, I'll draw a picture. (It was possible. See below. I felt bad that only Colten had a nickname so I took the liberty of giving one to everybody.)
Me: First of all, congratulations. Opening night was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would you guys like to start off talking about the show's inception, how you started getting everything together?
(Everyone looks at Daniel.)
Daniel: Uh...oh boy. Well, I got the idea last September, and it did not start out as me saying, “I want to write a musical.” It started out because there was nothing good on the radio during a drive, so I turned it off and started trying to make up lyrics to a song.
Me: Like you do.
Daniel: Haha, yeah, like you do. Colten and I work on improvising songs together from time to time, and we had been doing that, so I just started making up words. And, I got the line, “You can't make a horse drink when you lead him to water / You can't hand me a knife and expect me to slaughter.” And I really liked that line and thought, “What the hell kind of a song would that fit into?” And so, it was kind of just like, yeah, Jason Voorhees, if he didn't want to kill for some reason. And then, I talked with Colten, and we made it into a full song, got with David, learned our parts, separated the music out, and did a Block Party last October.
Jason: Which I hosted.
(Block Party, by the way, is a great little running program at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH), which is now hosted by Sallie Bowen. If you have 10 minutes worth of a show idea, submit to Block Party. It might even be picked for a longer running show. Anything goes!)
Daniel: We liked it so much that we did an encore performance of it on Halloween.
Colten: Was that after my thing?
Daniel: Yes, actually, it was part of Colten's Stage Fright sketch show last Halloween. And then, Amanda Austin said, “If you can make that into a full show, you can do it next year.” And it was just like, “Oh yeah. We're gonna do a musical...This is a very storied history. This is going on Twitter, right?
Me: Yes. I'll upload it piece by piece.
Daniel: Then David and I started working in earnest – I want to say in April or May. We started by watching the first three movies in the series, because honestly, I had never seen any one of them all the way through.
Daniel: Really. I don't have a particular affinity for the franchise or the character. It all started because of, “Yeah, he might sing that line about the horse.” I also watched Jason Takes Manhattan because it had a ridiculous title.
Me: Doesn't he go to space at some point?
Daniel: Yes. That's Jason X. It's the 10th movie in the franchise and takes place 200 years in the future when a group of scientists decide to re-animate DNA, and it turns out to be Jason Voorhees.
Me: My brain hurts. So does my heart...Once you started writing seriously, was there a process to determine who would be suited for this musical? Did you just think of people you knew around DCH?
Daniel: The casting choices didn't come until much later in the process. We had the script almost finalized, and – well. The script was in a good place.
Jason: I mean, is it finalized yet?
Daniel: No. It's a living document. We had it in a good place, though, and Colten and I diddled out a few songs.
Colten: Most of the songs were diddled out.
Daniel: It's an industry term. Rogers and Hammerstein were proficient diddlers. But anyway – we didn't really have anyone in mind other than David and myself. We were going to play the main characters because we deserved it.
Me: Haha, fair enough.
Daniel: We just sat down and hammered out who we wanted to see. Who we knew around the club that might fit into each type of role. And David introduced the idea where – it was very important to him to include some of the performers who might not have as much experience. He didn't just want all the old dogs on stage, which I think is a wonderful choice because that's – we got Houston Hardaway, Darcy Armstrong, Emily Gee, those graduates – we wanted people who would be very excited to be in the show.
(There's a sudden jingling at the door. A face gazes in, stained with blood and wild-eyed – oh. Wait. It's just Wes Davis and the Saturday night intern crew, coming in clutch to clean the Training Center. Thanks ya'll! Don't worry, Daniel was nice and let them in.)
Jason: Around this time, they brought me into the process. Before this point, I wasn't involved at all. Hey Daniel, do you want to talk about bringing me into the process?
Daniel: I've talked enough. Let's hear your perspective.
Jason: Well – they asked me. That was my perspective. They asked if I wanted to direct it. I've never directed anything before. I was also unsure whether they knew that I very publicly dislike musicals, and of course, they were aware, and that did not seem to be an issue for them. So I was like, “I've never directed anything, I'll definitely give this a shot.” They brought me into the process. We started figuring out who to bring in for various roles. We auditioned people – that was the first time I'd ever been on that side of an audition table, so all in all it's been very interesting.
Me: Do you still dislike musicals?
Jason: Yes. I like this one. But you will not find me watching any musicals.
Me: People don't usually think of horror and comedy together, so how did you work to combine the two?
Daniel: Oh yes they do. Scary Movie?
Jason: Yeah! I'd say they have a history. For me at least, I think there's a lot of similarity in the reactions people have. Laughter and fear are pretty closely tied in that they are uncontrollable experiences. I'll laugh if I've been startled.
Colten: (gazing off into the distance) All comedy is derived from fear.
(The lights flicker. Wes Davis drops his mop.)
Jason: Not to dismiss your initial premise.
Me: Oh no, I asked that question so you would say that. I already agree -
Daniel: Is this just a game to you?
Jason: Are you the Jigsaw in this...Saw...interview? I don't know where that bit was going.
Daniel: Well yeah. If you look at being scared and laughing, they both have this element of surprise to them, where laughter comes from the unexpected, and so does being startled. Both have a build up of tension and a release, a catharsis. But then, in terms of doing comedy from horror, it works so well because horror takes itself so seriously. If you've ever tried to parody something that's already funny, you can't because [the humor] is already there. But with horror, when everything is played so dramatically -
Me: Oh it's very pompous.
Daniel: Very pompous – but there's no intentional humor in the standard horror film. If you go back and watch the Friday the 13th movies, they're pretty funny now because they're...campy, badum-ts. Joke. See title of show. But they're absurd just because they're bad.
Me: This is a very prop-heavy show. Were there any memorable workarounds, things you had to MacGyver to work right?
Colten: That's more David.
Jason: Yeah, David took charge of making all of those. When I read the script, particularly the [redacted] that gets pulled apart...well. I don't want to reveal anything. Oooh, wait, can this be redacted?
Me: The whole thing? Sure.
Daniel: Also, redact the part where I say [redacted].
Jason: I read that, and I thought, “Well, we'll have to get a whole [redacted],” but the next time we came in, “Oh...David did it.” I was very impressed.
David's response after the fact: "I just find props so fun to build. One of my favorite writing drills is, 'What can't we do on stage?' and then talking through how we can pull it off. Prop construction was really satisfying, and I'm very proud of how they turned out."
Me: Colten. You're very quiet. This next question's just for you...
Jason: I'll take this one.
Daniel: Let me just say...
Me: When Daniel and David came to you with song ideas – what was the process there?
Colten: Daniel covered the lyric side. He'd come to me with song lyrics, sometimes melodies, usually both – and a lot of times, I'd say, “What do you want that melody to be?” And he'd sing it, and I'd try to pick it out, put chords to it, flesh it out...We'd brainstorm, once over Skype. Like, “'Flee' is a good word. How can we work it in?”...So yeah, very collaboratively with Daniel.
Daniel: One of the things that – I'm gonna compliment you right now, Colten -
Colten: Um, redacted.
Daniel: One of the things that Colten is so good at...If I didn't know the melody but knew the feeling I needed, I could explain that [feeling] to him in these weird terms... "I want it to be sad in a folksy way, like if Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote a dirge.” And Colten goes, “Hm...How's this?” and played exactly what I needed. That happened so many times...three seconds. And it was perfect.
Colten: Aw. Thanks!
Me: Dang! That was beautiful. Do y'all have a favorite memory from practicing?
Colten: I don't know...first time seeing Houston do his hosting song was really memorable.
Jason: Oh yeah! From the moment he came in, it was amazing.
Daniel: He did a great job of understanding that character and putting his on spin on it.
Jason: Mine would be my only contribution to the script, which would be Darcy's guitar solos. When I actually saw it in action, I was like, “Yeah. I made the right choice. I'm glad I added that.” That was the only thing I added out of whole cloth.
Me: I especially liked it because it gave a whole corniness to the whole thing...like a 90s sitcom.
Jason: Now that you say that, I want to add [redacted]...oh. Um, redact that.
Me: The whole thing?
Daniel: Yes. Let's just start over.
Colten: Second to that would be me playing "Ghostbusters" before the show. And then they asked me to play it again and again...
David's response after the fact: "Damn it, I was gonna say the first time Houston did the song! Um, maybe the time that the water pole fell out during a really emotional scene. The loud "THUD" juxtaposed against a tender moment in the middle of a stressed rehearsal was just so funny."
Me: Awesome. If there is a train going from Kansas City to Dallas at 60 miles per hour, who really killed Jason Voorhees?
Daniel: I want to hear what Colten says.
Colten: Hm...that throws everything off that I knew about Jason.
Daniel: Yeah, it only works if you're leaving from Dallas to Kansas.
Me: OK, then let's say that. What's your theory?
Jason: Is it a train or the band train?
Daniel: Oooh! How fast is it and/or they traveling?
All: Sixty miles an hour.
Colten: That's pretty slow for a train.
Daniel: I don't know... I mean, technically, the lake killed him.
Colten: But he's not dead.
Daniel: Yeah, so...nothing's killed him, though the lake did it temporarily...water.
Colten: The lake.
Me: Water or the lake?
Colten: The train.
Jason: Train water.
Me: That works. I'll accept that.
Daniel: That bit didn't go well. Redact it.
Colten: Just include my part about the band Train.
Me: Will do. Also, I think that's it...
Daniel: That's it?
Me: Unless you'd like to answer my other standard sketch question.
Jason: What is it?
Me: If this group was a vegetable, what would it be?
Colten: A pumpkin.
Daniel: 'Cause it's spooky.
Me: OooOOoohh! SpOOooky!
Colten: It's well carved.
Me: Is that a machete joke?
Colten: Um...yeah. Halloween, machete, it's anything you want it to be.
Daniel: It's a really gourd cast.
Me: Oh, [redacted] you.
Daniel: That can stay in.
Jason: Uh...pumpkins. They're not vegetables, are they?
Me: Oh, no. They're fruit. They have seeds.
Daniel: What's the most pumpkin-y fruit?
Colten: An eggplant!
(Why does everyone always want to be an eggplant? I'll never understand.)
Me: Oh, the FCC was already an eggplant. I apologize.
Colten: A carved eggplant?
Me: Doesn't count.
Jason: Um...Spaghetti squash.
Daniel: 'Cause it looks like brains?
Jason: Yeah, yeah!
Daniel: We're confident in our answer.
All: Spaghetti squash.
David's response after the fact: "That works for me because I love spaghetti squash and I love this show!"
(Fade out. A machete speared through a rubber chicken fades in. The credits roll:
Jason: A Campy Musical involves the talents of David Allison, Darcy Armstrong, Joseph Delgado, Emily Gee, Jason Hackett, Houston Hardaway, Daniel Matthews, Tyler Simpson, and the musical talents of Colten Winburn. The show is teched by Doug Caravella. If you'd like to see the show, it's running every Friday for the rest of October at the world famous Dallas Comedy House. Get your tickets while they're hot!)
A final comment from David: "[The cast and crew] were all a dream to work with. Seriously. Educated performers that have a detailed eye and are willing to speak up. And their work ethics!"
(I'm sure they were, David. I'm sure they were.)
Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner. Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.
(Poster: Houston Hardaway. Drawings: Emily Baudot. Photo: Jason Hensel)