Like any good theatre town, Seattle tends to lavish plenty of hype on the inaugural production of a new company when that company is made up of talented veterans who have proven themselves on other stages around town. Pressure mounts on the new ensemble to make their kick-off show one of the best audiences have ever seen, thus assuring crucial momentum for the future. Of course, the inherent danger lies in forgetting that no matter how earth-shatteringly brilliant your first play is, the primary law of show business remains as immutable as gravity: you are only as good as your last gig. A company that can never live up to the promise of its premiere production is a company destined to be loved like a first crush: fondly, but weakly, and with an ardor that fades even as the intervening years serve to burnish or blur the memory of love-at-first-sight’s luster.
Happily, through luck, hard work and great leadership, the Sandbox Artists Collective has managed to escape that fate with its quarterly audio offering, Sandbox Radio Live. Don’t get me wrong. We had a great initial outing, back in July of last year with our first show. And lots of delicious hype to go with it. But I don’t know anyone who would argue we couldn’t do better. And better we did, with the second iteration, a horror-themed show turned out just in time for Halloween.
With this third episode, however, every member of the team— writers, actors, musicians and production crew — stretched out into strong new strides: going beyond what we had done before with a confidence that surely grew out of our prior successes and failures. Everyone seems to agree that Episode Three, “To Hell With Love” was our best show yet. And best of all, now that the podcast is ready, you can listen and decide for yourself by clicking here.
For me, the evening did not contain a single clunker. I loved every segment, from Anita Montgomery’s hilarious plumbing of the particular hell that is on-line dating in “F- You, Cupid!” to Elizabeth Heffron and Leslie Law’s stirring tribute to the great radio drama talent, Norman Corwin, in the show’s finale, “Corwin on Corwin.” And I will never forget when Elizabeth Heffron’s delightful sex romp in space “T-Minus” gloriously dissolved into an Offenbach duet sung by Law and the shimmering soprano Heather Curtis Mullin. As Heather herself will tell, you it’s no great accomplishment that this brought me to tears. I’ll cry at a cell phone commercial. But that doesn’t diminish the welling of awe I felt witnessing that unrecoverable moment of live theatre.
Wait! What did I just say? “Unrecoverable?” Bullcrap! Due to the greater glory of Sandbox Radio you can go and recover it right now, here! (Act I, 52:50).
And here’s a list of all the evening’s pieces:
Episode 3, “To Hell With Love”
recorded at West of Lenin on January 23, 2012
@1:55 "F-You, Cupid!" by Anita Montgomery
@13:28 PSA-Coal Free Washington by Vincent Delaney
@16:45 "Lost Love Blues" by Charles Leggett
@22:53 "Markheim: Episode 3" by Paul Mullin
@37:30 "T-Minus" by Elizabeth Heffron
@0:00 “Angry” by Charles Leggett
@2:48 "Charlotte Doesn't Clean Here Anymore" by Scot Augustson
@17:55 PSA-Communities in Schools of Seattle by Vincent Delaney
@21:08 "Corwin by Corwin" by Elizabeth Heffron
True to the night’s pattern, my own piece, the third installment of the noir angel series, Markheim, was the best one yet. If I can modestly say so, I am really starting to find the action of the story. And the actors, foley artists and musicians have modulated the series’ unique and tricky tone to pitch perfection. As always, I’m providing the script for Episode Three below the fold.
MARKHEIM – Episode 3
by Paul Mullin
VOICE: I went to juvie looking for the wobbler I flipped the night I got dropped back into the Show, but he wasn’t there. Not anymore. Guard found him hanging from his bunk rail, feet inches from the ground. Suicide feels doubtful, but Smiley says it happens. Any case, if the flip fit a clockwork he don’t fit it anymore. So what then? The shop-owner he was gonna kill and didn’t? The “twist.” That’s what angels call a human victim in cloud jabber. The twist. Don’t know why. Maybe ‘cuz they twist in the wind. Creak in the attic.
(Sounds of the Harbor Steps well after midnight.
Then, from a distance, and multiple directions we hear howlings and shouts.)
STANK (overlapping with Didge and Shitsock): Marky! Marky marky marky mark.
DIDGE (overlapping): Marky! Marky mark.
SHITSOCK (overlapping): Marky marky marky mark.
STANK (close now, having snuck up on Markheim): Hey Mark.
MARKHEIM: It’s Markheim, actually.
STANK: We don’t give a shit, actually. How ‘bout I call you “fuck face?” How ‘bout I have Shitsock take one of his famous dumps in that fountain over there. Liven up the place.
SHITSOCK: Yeah, man. I begged a burrito outside Bimbo’s tonight.
MARKHEIM: Be my guest. I got a lousy sense of smell.
STANK: Yeah. So you don’t smell nothing when you burn street kids? Is that what you’re saying?
MARKHEIM: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
STANK: Someone’s been burning street kids, Marky, on stairways. Three so far, unless you count in Liv, too, since she’s gone missing and — oh look! — you got her dog! And — oh look! — you hang out on the Harborsteps!
MARKHEIM: Liv went back to her family in Oregon.
STANK: Yeah? To her step-dad couldn’t keep his hands off her? You expect us to buy that?
MARKHEIM: I don’t expect you’re in a position to buy much.
DIDGE: How ‘bout we fuck you up?
MARKHEIM: Give it a whirl, but I’m not a burner. I know burners. Don’t think much of them, frankly. I’m a talker.
STANK: You ain’t gonna talk your way out of this.
MARKHEIM: Oh, I think I might. Listen and learn.
SHITSOCK: Where’d he go?
STANK: What are you talking about?
DIDGE: Where’d Mark go?
STANK: He’s right in front of your face.
SHITSOCK: All I see is Liv’s dog.
MARKHEIM: They can’t see me, Stank. Only you. And now watch—
STANK: Whoa. He disappeared.
MARKHEIM: Nope. I’m here.
MARKHEIM: I come and go as I please, got it.
STANK: What kind of bullshit is this?
MARKHEIM: Powerful bullshit.
DIDGE: Stank, who are you talking to?
STANK: I’m talking to the creepy dude, Mark. He’s right here. He’s just some sort of bullshit magician is all. (to Markheim) What’s your deal?
MARKHEIM: I’m an angel, meat. If I wanted to burn you you’d be burnt. Got it?
STANK: An angel?
DIDGE: Whoa! There he is!
SHITSOCK: This is fucked up, Stank.
STANK: Just a bullshit magician. He was right in front of your fucking face the whole time.
DIDGE: Let’s go, Stank. Dude creeps me out.
STANK: This ain’t over, Marky.
MARKHEIM: Never is, Meat. Things can always get uglier. Believe it.
INTERNAL VOICE: That was too close. Forgot how sneaky the meat can be. Need to keep my guard up. This is Sam’s town. They all are. And smoke’s a whole nuther game.
(Something rips open, and suddenly Markheim is choking.)
MARA (malicious hiss): Hello, Markheim. Remember me?
(Markheim can only barely gasp.)
Name’s Mara. Smoke choker?
Maybe we never met. You’ll remember me next time, right?
Okay, I’m gonna let you breathe in a second. And you’re gonna remember who you’re dealing with right. Ain’t no meat punk. I’m a demon got the drop on you. And things can always get uglier, right?
MARKHEIM (gulping in breath): Yeah.
MARA: I don’t need to remind you of that, do I?
MARA: Good. Sam says hi.
MARA: He’s got a job for you.
MARKHEIM: I’m sitting neutral. We talked personally.
MARA: Yeah, yeah. It’s a small job, short and sweet. Somebody’s burning teenage kids.
MARKHEIM: I heard. What’s that got to do with me?
MARA: Sam thinks it’s cloud work.
MARKHEIM: Doubtful. But so what? I’m sitting neutral.
MARA: Sam smells a Markheim. What other angel could work so wet?
MARKHEIM: I ain’t the only Markheim.
MARA: But you’re the local Markheim. Sam figures that makes it your problem. Run it down and make it stop, or your neutrality’s in question. Sam’s words not mine.
MARKHEIM: So to keep neutral I gotta pick a side. That it?
MARA: I’m just the messenger. Don’t forget who runs this town. He’s asking you to be a polite guest.
(Sounds of the city, the Harborsteps, etc.)
INTERNAL VOICE: Burnings on stairways. Sam smells a Markheim. His instincts ain’t often wrong. Angels are drawn to stairways in the Show. Especially Markheims. Stairways, steps and ladders.
SMILEY: Yeah, Markheim.
MARKHEIM: You got a lotta stairways in this city? Like here, the Harborsteps?
SMILEY: You kidding?
MARKHEIM: How many?
SMILEY: Outdoors you mean?
MARKHEIM: Sure. Let’s start there.
SMILEY: Hundreds, maybe thousands.
INTERNAL VOICE: Hundreds. And I’ll have to walk them all. Well, me and Black Francis.
(Black Francis barks with enthusiasm.)
We’ll start with the ones where the burnings happened. First up: Union and Terry.
(Sounds of Markheim’s footsteps up there stairs and Black Francis’s chain collar jingling, him sniffing and panting.)
There is where it happened.
(Black Francis emits a low growl that grows in intensity.)
What is it? You smell something. The Choker says Sam smelled the Markheim too.
(The dog’s growl erupts into a barking fit, an outrage of terror.)
We checked the other stairs where burnings happened. The Market Steps that run past the Zig Zag bar.
(Another barking fit.)
And then the stairs of the Helix bridge over the train tracks near the grain elevator.
(Another barking fit.)
Each time same reaction from Liv’s dog.
Okay fellah. This is good. You can help me.
(Black Francis yelps a single bark of agreement.)
So we walked stairs. Stairs up hills. Across highways. Through tunnels of sopping green. Wooden steps ricketing up bluffs from beaches on the Sound. Concrete steps winding down alleys reeking of meat piss... but no whiff of a Markheim. Except me.
(Sounds of heavy Aurora traffic in the rain.)
LADY (elderly and sweet): Excuse me, young man, have you seen a 358 go by.
DIDGE: You just missed it.
LADY: Oh no.
DIDGE: Spare some change?
LADY: What? Oh. I don’t have any spare change. But... but you know? I’d happily give you five dollars if you helped me carry my groceries up the hill.
DIDGE: What hill?
LADY: Why that hill? Queen Anne? I live just near the top of Galer. I took the 17 instead of the 13. I’ve already climbed up from down by Lake Union thinking I could catch a 358 back down town and try all over again, but if you could just help me up the steps then I wouldn’t need to.
LADY: Oh please. You said you needed money. I’ll give you five dollars.
DIDGE: Ain’t worth it to climb that hill.
LADY: How ‘bout ten?
DIDGE: How ‘bout twenty?
LADY: I could take a cab for that.
DIDGE: Then do it. Good luck catching one on Aurora in the rain.
LADY: Fine. I’ll give you twenty. But you have to carry two of these.
(sounds of the bag transfer.)
Christ these are heavy.
LADY: Oh, come now. Strong young man like you?
(sounds of them climbing the Galer Steps.)
DIDGE: Jesus, these steps are steep.
(Both Didge and the old Lady are starting to breath heavily from the climb.)
I should charge you extra. I’m supposed to stay away from steps.
LADY: Medical condition?
DIDGE: Someone’s been lighting homeless kids on fire on stairways.
LADY: That’s horrible.
DIDGE: So you should be paying me extra.
LADY: I’m paying you twenty dollars.
DIDGE: So pay it.
LADY: But we’re not at the top of the steps.
DIDGE: Give me the money, lady.
LADY: But I—
DIDGE: Give me the money. Matter of fact, give me all your money. And take your stupid bags.
LADY: But I—
DIDGE: Bitch, NOW!
LADY: All right. Please don’t hurt me. Here’s twenty.
DIDGE: I said all your money.
LADY: Fine. Just don’t hurt me. Here. Take it.
(Black Francis barks from far away, at the bottom of the steps. Then we hear Markheim yelling.)
MARKHEIM (shouting from far below): Hey! You!
DIDGE: What the hell?
LADY: Here. Take the money.
DIDGE: Who is that?
LADY: Take the money. In your hand.
DIDGE: What are you doing? Let go.
LADY (different tone of voice—younger, more sensual and menacing: she’s the Burner): Why? Don’t you like it?
DIDGE: It burns. Let go of me. You’re burning my hand. What the fuck?
MARKHEIM (shouting from far closer): Hey!
(The barking is very close now. Then suddenly Black Francis attacks, snarling.)
BURNER: Be gone, cur!
DIDGE: My hand!
BURNER: What? Markheim? Call off your dog. I’m on cloud business. Be gone!
(There’s the sound of a kick and Black Francis runs off squealing.)
MARKHEIM: Get out of here, kid.
DIDGE: She... burned my hand.
MARKHEIM: Then you got off fucking lucky. GO!
DIDGE (scream fading as he runs down the stairs): IT’S BURNING!
MARKHEIM: Cloud business?
BURNER: What else?
MARKHEIM: Sam’s looking for you. He wants you gone.
BURNER: I s’pose he would.
MARKHEIM: I want you gone.
BURNER: Really? Markheim-to-Markheim? You saying the town’s not big enough for two of us.
MARKHEIM: That’s the gist. I’m walking neutral. You’re killing kids.
BURNER: A job’s a job.
MARKHEIM: Who ordered it?
BURNER: You know that ain’t our question to ask. Fits in a clockwork somehow.
BURNER: That ain’t our question either.
MARKHEIM: You’re not curious?
BURNER: Not remotely. I’m a Murderer Markheim. Subset Burner. That’s what I do. And that’s all I do.
MARKHEIM: I’m a Talker.
BURNER: I don’t like Talkers. Give me the creeps.
MARKHEIM: I don’t like Murderers.
BURNER: So here we are. You gonna try and talk me outta the Show?
MARKHEIM: I got a better idea. Kill me.
MARKHEIM: Murder me. Burn me.
BURNER: That’s bananas.
MARKHEIM: Maybe. Who knows? Who’s ever tried? We know Chubs and Sephs can off the Fallen. And we know the Fallen can do even worse to Angels, but Markheim on Markhem? Who knows?
BURNER: Who wants to know?
MARKHEIM: I do. Give it a whirl. If it works, well, it’s a whole new ballgame, ain’t it? Angels that can off angels that ain’t fallen? That are walking neutral? That’s uncharted. Changes the game.
BURNER: And starts a war. I got no interest in that. Certainly not one between Mike and Sam.
MARKHEIM: There’d be no cause for war. I’m walking neutral.
BURNER: I see your game, Markheim.
MARKHEIM: You do?
BURNER: Look at your bright eyes. You’re trying to get me to back down and check out of the Show.
MARKHEIM: Not even close. I want you to kill me. To at least try.
BURNER: Your bright eyes are glowing. I could go for that, different circumstances.
MARKHEIM: I don’t glow.
BURNER: Sure you don’t. All right. I’ll check out. Ain’t nothing new in the Show since I was last here anyhow.
BURNER: Forget it. You win.
MARKHEIM: Where you gonna go?
BURNER: You’re a comedian. Where else? They’re holding my ticket up to the Fix. And I won’t be welcome leaving that meat unburnt like I did.
MARKHEIM: He seemed burned to me.
BURNER: Part way. Job’s unfinished.
MARKHEIM: They’ll understand.
BURNER: You’re a comedian.
MARKHEIM: So the Crisp?
BURNER: Think Sam’ll be happy to see me down there?
MARKHEIM: Hard to say what makes Sam happy.
BURNER: Yeah. So long, Markheim.
MARKHEIM: So long, Markheim.
BURNER: Don’t get comfortable.
MARKHEIM: I rarely do.
BURNER: I doubt I’m the last of us you’ll see. So watch your back, Markheim.
(End of episode.)
© 2012 Paul Mullin