Wordstock, Devolution & a Cow A Play in Three Acts
by Elizabeth Fujiura
ACT 1 Curtain comes up on an empty stage. There is a red vinyl armchair up-stage right. The Professor enters stage left, followed by a crowd of 13 schoolchildren. Each child wears a numbered black shirt. The children are carrying pencils, books, rulers, notepads. Number 13 just carries a skateboard. The professor wears a white dress shirt, a monocle, and a tarboosh. The Prof: Fuck you, class. Welcome to your new school. Your first fucking lesson: You’re all more or less equal. Equally bad. You all have a long fucking way to go and a lot to learn. I learned from much greater men than myself: Socrates, Kant, Hitler, just to name a few. And now you will all learn from a much greater man than yourselves. Me. Off-stage, a dog barks. The Professor: I thought I had that fucking dog poisoned. Number 10: Professor? What’s with the camera crew? The Professor: We are going to put you under constant surveillance. Anything clever you say will be attributed to me. Anything you say to denigrate me will be used against you. But mostly we’ll use the footage as background while we stream recordings of my brilliance. I’m making my own kind of Pageant of the Masters of Advertising. Starring myself. Number 12: What about us? Professor: You can be my understudies. An attractive-looking man –for his age!– wearing a bike helmet, a corduroy blazer with jeans with one leg rolled up enters stage right and walks to the Wordstock chair. He sits down in the chair. Professor: In the meantime, your first assignment is to sell something boring and flavorless – reading – by sandwiching it between slices of something exciting and delicious – sandwiches. Get it? If you say you don’t get it I’m going to think you’re a fucking idiot, but if you don’t say you don’t get it you’re stuck with this direction forever. Get it? Panicked silence. Professor: Ok. Good. Now don’t fucking screw it up! Client: Screwing up things is MY job. Professor: I hear you’re a fucking pro! Now I’m just going to sit in this glass room and make bad art. If you need anything, don’t ask. I’ll come check on you in a a month or so. Keep calm and meetings suck! The professor exits.
Number 5: So. Like, what does that even mean? Number 11: Who knows. Let’s make some food puns about books. Everyone loves food puns about books. Number 3: Like, War and Peas? Number 2: Sure. That’s a start. More like Elizabeth Barrett Brownies. Number 3: Or Pita and the Wolf ? Number 7: Uhhh… yeah. Hey, wanna go make some outdoor ads? We’re going to need outdoor ads. Number 9: Can we somehow exploit the homeless? They’re outdoors. Number 4: Let’s just kill the fucking homeless! And Ted Kennedy! Number 11: Twittering! Number 2: This is a literary festival. Shouldn’t we say something about the value of reading? Number 6: That’s not a pun. Number 12: And what does that have to do with food? A black and white dog runs across the stage, yelling: Assume it’s right and make it better! Number 4: Wait. Wait. What about “Be a literary omnivore!” Everyone: Balo! The professor returns and is carried on the back of an elephant. Professor: Put it in a sandwich and serve it to the client. And wear a fucking sandwich board while you’re at it. Client: I love it! All: Boner! Number 1: I like! Professor: I think you’ve all learned a valuable fucking lesson here. CURTAIN
*** ACT 2 Students are having a dance party. 80s pop music is playing. Everyone is dancing and wearing funny hats. Professor enters on the back of a zebra. Professor: Alright students. Well done on that food festival thing. Now it’s time for your next lesson. Let me ask you an important question. When a problem comes along… well? What do you do? Number 12: Solve it? Number 8: Fix it? Number 13: Just do it? Professor: You are merely confirming your inferiority with your fucking substandard grasp of popular culture references. The obvious answer is “Whip it.” Number 13: Yeah, that’s what I meant. Professor: Our next client is the band Devo. Devo is all about stupidity. I want you to think of the stupidest things you can, and we’ll compile a master list of stupid ideas and then show them our stupid ideas and get them to be our stupid creative partners because we have the most stupid ideas in the world. Lots of people: Oh snap! Devo! Sick! Ill! Solid! That is gonna kill! Pimp! I so absurdly care about Devo! What’s Devo? Professor: What we want to do is divide and conquer. I am going to divide you into two fucking groups for ease of conquering. Professor takes out a laser pointer to divide the students. Right then, a talking black and white dog enters upstage and grabs the Professor’s laser pointer. He jumps into the audience and runs down the aisle while barking in an absurd British accent: It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to! Professor: I’m going to kill that fucking dog. Or better yet, have it fired. Anyway, we have 7 days. Get to work. We are not the belching-your-message agency. We are the your-message-is-stupid agency. Make the client think of their product in a way they’ve never thought before: That it’s stupid! Professor walks down aisle in pursuit of the dog. Students collect in 2 groups on opposite sides of stage and engage in various activities, like Bingo, Hopscotch, and Duck Duck Goose. They end in a game of Red Rover when the Professor returns. Students hand him piles of paper. Professor: These are some of the best stupid ideas I’ve ever seen. Great job, all of you. Even though we said this was a school, you’re mostly going to have to teach each. And even though I said this was a competition, it’s not, because I will always win.
Students: Awwwww. Professor: This client is going to be a tough sell. The biggest asshole in this office is the nicest guy in Hollywood. And the biggest asshole in this office is me. Unfortunately, I’m not coming to the client meeting with you. Have a safe flight. Keep calm and carry-on bags only. A contingency of students and extras don sunglasses and stand behind a cut out of a plane. The Hollywood sign descends from above. Everyone else waves goodbye. Curtains close. Curtains open again and students who went to LA are tanned. Number 5: How did it go? Number 4: Well. They didn’t seem to like our stupid ideas. Number 7: On the bright side, I got to be in an episode of Entourage. Number 4: And I got a boob job and now I have a chihuahua dog living in my purse. Number 1: I like! CURTAIN *** ACT 3 Curtain comes up on the schoolchildren lying on their backs on stage. Number 10: What are we doing here? Number 3: I don’t know about you guys, but I’m being Asian. Number 6: Where’s the Professor? Number 8: I heard he’s being fixed up for his new art show. He was attacked by a dog or something. The talking dog enters center stage. Spotlight on talking dog. Dog: People who sit in glass offices shouldn’t throw temper tantrums. Everyone sits up and pays attention to the dog. Dog: ‘allo 12. What’s happening? Number 8: Huh? So.. Are you a magical enchanted talking dog or what?
Dog: I’m a regular dog who is very smart and has mastered the English language. I can also ride a bicycle. You guys are pretty smart too, but you’re not working hard enough to master the art of advertising. I am going to start giving you a problem every day and you know what you are going to do? Everyone: Whip it! Dog: What?! No! You are going to solve it. You are going to generate a pile of creative solutions and you will learn from the process. Your first assignment is to create ads for The Professor’s art show tomorrow. You have 5 hours. Typewriters are to creativity what trees are to public transport. Get to it! Dog walks off stage while snapping. Number 5: That was cool. Girls: That dog is soooo cute. Students spread out into small groups and pairs. They scribble and write on paper while the Jeopardy theme song or some other such trite countdown music or ticking sound plays. Then a bell dings. Dog: Pencils down. What have you got. Number 7: “For 20 years Jim Riswold has not been buying your work. Come and not buy his” Dog: Good. Funny. Number 11: “Gay. Fuck. Hitler.” Dog: Good. Excellent. Number 2: It’s a chat box between the Professor and Hitler where Hitler wants to come to the opening. Dog: Smart. Good. Number 3: It’s a sticker in the toilet that says, “If you like this you’ll love the Professor’s new show” Number 13: I don’t like how all these ideas are making fun of the Professor Dog: Did I ever tell you about the time I made a tshirt that cleverly spelled out possibly the most offensive word in the English language? I only got away with it because I’m an adorable talking dog and people love me. And of course I don’t actually use that word in mixed company or think that it’s appropriate. But the strategy for efficacy is creativity.
Number 6: If the Professor were here, I’m sure he would say, “Keep calm and fuck yeah” Number 7: Or “Keep calm and blast a doob” Number 2: “Keep calm and turn thirty” Number 11: “Keep calm and make posters” Number 3: “Keep calm and rip off ” Number 4: “Keep calm and bad art” Number 1: “Keep calm and I like” All the Students: And now that this play has gone on for so damn long, let’s just finish up by staying here all night creating these posters. We’ll laugh and make jokes and drink beer and have a great time because for the most part we understood the objective on this project and had some say in how the work was handled. It will be really great and at the end of the all-nighter we will feel very satisfied and proud even though the posters all have objectionable language in them and will only be displayed for 8 hours or less. Talking dog: Brilliant! Now I need a shit. Who wants to go ‘round Andrew Dickson’s lawn?