Memory is Such a Fickle Beast

I’ve been delving deep into a memory that I’d kind of forgotten about until a conversation recently with a friend. He asked me what was the weirdest thing I’d ever written.

I have written obituaries, but I didn’t talk about that. What I did talk about was that in university, I wrote a 3-act musical comedy that was performed six times over four days.

By Richard Bain –, Copyrighted free use,

Back in the day, the late 1980s, I was an undergrad at the University of Guelph. For those who have never heard of it, UofG is a Canadian university that offers a world-renowned agricultural program, along with a veterinary school, a hospitality school and the usual mix of arts and sciences. I studied Politics.

There was a troupe, called Curtain Call, that commissioned and performed a play each year. Their approach was to take an existing play or movie as a template, and mock both it and the latest year at the university.

A friend of mine had written it the past three years, using South Pacific, The Fiddler on the Roof, and The Sound of Music as his starting points. He didn’t want to do it a fourth time and recommended me to the group.

After a quick meeting with them, I was on board.

I chose The Rocky Horror Picture Show as my source. Roughly the plot of my Aggie Horror Show was that a Vet student wanted to win his roommate’s girlfriend (they were both Aggies), so he made a sentient bull to impress her. It got weird from there because the bull also fell in love with the girl.

Other plots involved a benefit concert for the ‘displaced guy’ (with everybody staying with their girlfriend/boyfriend in residence dorm rooms, there was always one guy who had nowhere to sleep. Let’s do a benefit for him!). There was the girl who’s secret power was that any elevator she entered would break down (there were so many elevator breakdowns that year, it was topical). And there was a rivalry with another university (The very business-oriented University of Western Ontario. When we beat them at football on national TV that year, they chanted, “It’s alright. It’s Ok. We’re gonna own your farm someday!”)

I didn’t use a lot of songs from Rocky Horror, from what I remember, but I did rewrite Time Warp to be about midterms (“Let’s write midterms again!”*). That was the centerpiece of the play. Also, there was a rewrite of Kate Bush’s Heathcliff about an environmental group’s reusable coffee mugs (this was a controversial topic at the time)… and … and … and … I don’t remember!

There were six or seven songs. I think I rewrote Summer Lovers from Grease to highlight the university rivalry… aaah, memory fails. I no longer have the script, and the only copy of the performance is on a VHS tape stored thousands of miles from me, slowly deteriorating, I’m sure.

Sadly, Curtain Call as a truly amateur production, only existed from 1957 to 1992. The club was taken over in 1993 by drama students who wanted to do professional productions and the group, now (retroactively) named Curtain Call Productions, no longer creates original satirical content for the enjoyment of the community, but stages professional productions for profit.

This may benefit the resumes of the students cast in roles, but it was done at the expense of a unique tradition. They could’ve just started their own drama club and left the amateurs to have our fun, instead of taking over our branding and reputation (satire since 1957!) and squeezing us out.

Of course, we’re talking about university; within every four years there’s a complete change of students. If something stays the same for five years, it’s “always been that way.” And that’s what Curtain Call would be now.

*Lyrics as I think I remember them(?):
Put your name at the top
(Put it on the riiiiiiight)
Keep your eyes to yourself
(and your chair in tiiiiiiiight)
Don’t watch the clo-ock
it’ll drive you insay-ay-ay-ane
Let’s write midterms again!