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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

Can we keep the comedy current?

Published on September 22, 2008

Happy autumnal equinox, blog readers!

Now, after Labor Day, the opening of school, the start of college semesters, the political conventions, the annual collapse of the Yankees and Mets, and the arrival in the mail of your Symphony Space season brochure—that handsome 48-page volume of cultural treats that will last you into NEXT summer—we can finally say with certainty that the endless summer is over, and fall is falling.

A lot of my mind’s time these weeks is taken up with creating the first of this season’s productions of The Thalia Follies: A Political Cabaret.  As you can see in the brochure, the old one-Monday-night-only Follies have been replaced by three Follies productions that will each enjoy a four-performance run, Thursday through Saturday, with one show on Thursday and Friday and two shows on Saturday.  The first of these, running Thursday-Saturday, October 23-25, is entitled “At Last—An Election!!” and will deal with the fact that after all those primaries and all those controversies and flaps and ploys and gaffes and polls and pundits and more pundits, the people of the USA are finally going to VOTE!

Most of the regular Follies gang has reassembled from their summer theatre and concert wanderings for our upcoming shows, and we have some new cast members this season as well, including the wonderful SNL alum Jane Curtin, who will be guest-starring for the October Follies. Lately, Martin Sage, our Musical Director Lanny Meyers, and I have been holding lunch conferences in the back booth at the Key West Diner across the street from Symphony Space developing material for the new show, and we all feel strongly that our first show has to be the strongest, funniest, and most pointed political Follies yet, given the historic importance of this Presidential election.

It won’t be enough, we have said to ourselves and each other, merely to spoof the candidates and their mannerisms and foibles in predictable ways.  We have to go deeper.  We have to be funny, but we have to be serious, deep, substantial, and even trenchant.  We have to write songs and sketches about issues and deep feelings and the threats that face this nation.

And of course we have to be current. It’s amazing how fast topics change, images fade, and controversies seem like last week or last month’s news.  So if we are a month away from opening night, we should have a lot of stuff ready for rehearsal by now, but we also have to wait and see what happens in the debates, in the stock market, in the polls, and in the world.  We came up with a wonderful lyric to the tune of the Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” but does anybody remember John Edwards’ paternity testing questions? Does anybody remember John Edwards?  Shall we add a stanza to make the song relate to the Republican Vice Presidential nominee’s forthcoming grandchild, or will that pregnancy be forgotten by show time?  If John McCain hasn’t even come up with some of his main economic plans or his hardest attacks on Barak Obama, how can we turn them into grist for our rehearsal mill?

For example, this morning’s New York Times carries a report that Sarah Palin will be meeting with Henry Kissinger so that the former Secretary of State can give her a general overview on foreign policy matters.  A Palin/Kissinger meeting?  A gift from God to political satirists! Who can resist imagining the dialogue between the war criminal, mass murdering illegal bomber of Cambodia and the Commander of the Alaska National Guard who can practically see Russia from her driveway?  But will such a sketch have any currency or freshness four weeks from now?  This is what we’re grappling with.  Stay tuned.  And reserve your tickets now.  Thanks.

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