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Bantam Street

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  • SKETCH-O-RAMA

    In the 1980s I wrote some comedy sketches that became part of a Boston late night comedy revue called the Gramm-Rudman Act, among whose members were my current colleagues Alison Martin and Brian Howe. Around 1990 Brian suggested I submit several for an HBO Writers Search and they were selected. I flew out to LA and we performed two evenings of them at the Stella Adler Theatre, directed by me, with Brian (by then living in LA) among the cast. We had a blast and the pieces were very well received.

    Shortly after I became part of a new company called Theatre 9, started by my good friend (and wonderful actress) Dossy Peabody. For this company, I quickly developed an entire show of my sketches (which by now included quite a few) called LARRY BLAMIRE’S SKETCH-O-RAMA. This was bare bones—6 actors, chairs, a few props—in keeping with the simplicity of the setups. Essentially, my sketches are built around the most mundane of situations in the most everyday places. They start out seemingly normal and spiral to heights of absurdity, often—like much of my material—based on wordplay. So minimalism is key. It’s also cheap; not a bad thing. Examples:

    BUS FACE: a commuter dares to speak, breaking the zombie-like silence of public transit, throwing bus passengers into utter chaos.

    COPY GUYS: Various coincidental neuroses at a copy place collide, creating an endless cycle of dysfunction.

    TOAST AND JAM: A diner absolutely delighted by minutiae attempts to interact with a jaded diner who cares about nothing.

    One interesting aspect is that some of the sketches, like “That Chicken Is Fresh”—based on actual conversation overheard in a supermarket—depend on a New England accent to get them across properly; something about the rhythm and lilt of the speech that is vital.

    SKETCH-O-RAMA was much fun and not long after I molded the scenes into a strange but coherent (I hoped) whole entitled URBAN LOOP. I tried relating them, linking the characters, as though the same hapless 6 or 8 people were caught in an endless cycle of comic nightmare. In theory, one would flow into the next as in a cohesive stream of urban life. While I didn’t attempt to get URBAN LOOP performed I’m frankly not sure it works. I believe there is something about the very randomness of the characters and situations that is vital to their success. Each one must commence as though its world has just begun.

    In the late 90s two of the sketches were picked for the first two annual Boston Theatre Marathons. The chosen pieces, “My Name Is Leslie” (a restaurant scene that turns into a war movie) and “Dost Pity Me Withpett?” (a supermarket scene that goes all Shakespeare, about which the Boston Phoenix say “Hard to say what drug playwright Larry Blamire was on when he made this one up”), were then published in the subsequent marathon collections by Bakers Plays (now handled by Samuel French). This has resulted in various performances around the country of the two, like most recently:

    http://mill6collaborative.blogspot.com/

    http://www.blowingrockstage.com/shows02.php?rid=182

    Having been engulfed in recent years by that ravenous amoeba called film, I haven’t given much thought to my sketches. Until now. Obviously possessed by the spirits of insane comedy, Charlie Peabody (actor son of Dossy) and Dossy have formed a company of talented folks and are reviving SKETCH-O-RAMA at two different venues in Boston next year. The group is totally revved, and I’m absolutely delight-o-mized that these wacky things will get a life again. I’ll continue to post details as we get closer to the time.

    —Larry Blamire

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