The tale of the screaming giant.

I decided to take a step back on showing how opinionated I am, and tell a story that’s one of my favorites about the four plays I did at NECCO. I really don’t think I could forget this one if I tried, not just because of the people involved (N was along for the ride, but one of my favorite actors in the bunch that I worked with, B.A., was the powerhouse on this one), but because of the aftermath. Even though I wasn’t actually there to witness it.

Every year there was a One Act Festival, where a group of us would get together and direct our own little one act plays. It was a (nerve wracking) good time, and by this point it was my second time out. There was some criteria that had to be met (cast size had to be relatively small, not too long, low budget, etc), but it wasn’t particularly difficult. And the teachers in charge always had plenty of books with potential scripts to offer.

I’d picked a comedy the year before, and though I was leaning towards one again, I wanted to do something different. Then I came across The Field, the story of two soldiers trying to make it across a minefield.

The idea of it seemed a little scary (and considering the ferocity of the (well deserved) pride of soldiers/military families, could you blame me?) because I knew there’d be a chance of getting knocked out by someone in the service if I didn’t treat it right. And rightly so.

But as D, one of the actors who’d known me for years, so eloquently put it; “It was controversial, so she had to take it.”.

And I did.

Without giving it all away, there’s a point in the script that requires an explosion, and a scream. The boom, that’d be all too easy to find with the help of the Almighty Google. The scream probably would’ve been too, but I had an idea. And like the script itself (but for different reasons, obviously), I just couldn’t resist.

I talked to the production manager, a woman who was both a great mentor, and a dictator to flee from when people weren’t getting the job done. (You know those kind of people you always want to see smiling, no matter what? Yeah, that’s her.) She was more than happy to help out, as she and her husband (who ran the theater department together and gave me my start), so often did.

She found a guy in the library who would record a scream for me. All I had to do was set up a time, and bring the CD to burn the agonized shrieking onto.

All that was left was to find the screamer.

B.A. was someone I became good friends with early on when I arrived at NECCO (I’m only just now realizing the connection to The A Team, but believe you me, he did not pity the fool.), a helpful and eternally friendly guy who also happened to be ridiculously talented.

He was also huge.

And if his size did not arm him with the set of lungs capable of delivering the perfect death scream, nothing would.

I presented the idea to him. He loved it, and agreed to help. A few days later, me, B.A., and N were all with Audio Guy in the basement of the library.

Then I put the microphone in front of B.A., and told him to scream the scream of a man who’s lost not just a leg, but had more than half of himself blown clean off.

He did. Three times. Long, and so very loud.

You know, just so we had a few different samples to work with.

His voice rocketed out of those lungs like an explosion in and of itself, reverberating off the stone walls and cracking open the skulls of all assembled.

After we’d all had time to regain our hearing, I thanked B.A. and sent him on his merry way. Audio Guy burned us the CD, handed it over, and after I thanked him N and I went on our merry ways as well.

Looking back now, I wonder if how quiet it seemed is revisionist history or actually happened. You all know how memory works. Either way, I hardly noticed it at the time. Too much going on, I was entirely inside my own head.

The next time I saw B.A. in class, he was practically giggling.

He said when he exited the elevator after the short ride up, all eyes were on him. Students were glancing over nervously from books and computers, librarians were eyeballing him from their desks.

One librarian finally spoke up. “Excuse me… What’s going on down there?”

B.A., confused but his usual friendly self, explained.

There was a collective sigh of relief that cut clear across the floor. “Oh my God,” the librarian said, laughing a little hysterically. “We thought someone was being murdered!”

A few weeks later, we’d scared the crap out of two more audiences both days of the festival.

It was, of course, a very serious subject; the psychological toll war takes on the soldiers in it, fear of death, how we cope with it, and so on. And there’s obviously nothing funny about people getting blown up outside of Wile E. Coyote cartoons.

But if that’s not a point of pride, I just don’t know what is.


~ by Sara on December 4, 2011.

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