The old Stanford Theory

This was originally a post I made on the Drowned Man Facebook spoiler group.  It comes from way back in October of 2013, or a few weeks after my 6th show - in fact, it was the very first post I ever made on there.  My understanding of a lot of things was a little rough back then, and there are parts of it that were specifically refuted by the one man who would know for sure (Sam Booth) when I talked to him about it a few months later.  Nonetheless, it was the first real attempt I made to engage with the text in this way, and even if it’s way off base, I think there is still an element of emotional truth to it - so I wanted to preserve it here.

Original post follows after the jump:

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 33

Show 33

Sunday, July 6: 5pm

Well. Here we are. After nearly 10 months and 96 hours inside of Temple Studios (plus however long I spent in Studio 3 after the show), I’ve come to the end of the road, with just three short hours remaining.

Going into this trip, I had no idea what sort of state I would be in upon walking through the red shutters for the final time. At the conclusions of my first couple of trips, I wound up with a bit of panic, thinking it was my last chance to see things and, ultimately, damaging my enjoyment of the shows a little bit. My third and four trips (March and May) had much stronger endings, but the context was different – by then, I had started to realize that I was always going to come back, so it wasn’t really the end. This time, though… no such comfort. It really was the end.

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Spinning off

After posting what turned out to be an epic quantity of recaps and reminiscences of my experiences pertaining to Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man on an old, unrelated blog that had gone unused for years prior to that, I’ve decided to spin all of my Punchdrunk-related content off into its own home.  To that end, I figured I’d give Tumblr a shot, since the community seems to be over here.  Over the next several days I intend to repost all 32 of my currently existing essays over here, covering all but one of my nights at The Drowned Man (the Finale is yet to come!).  They will be (almost) entirely unaltered and back-dated to when I first put them online.  Enjoy.

My Time at Temple Studios, Part 32

Show #32

Saturday, July 5: 9 pm

Here we are, at the final normal performance of The Drowned Man. With only the finale remaining afterward, this would be my last chance to see the show in a pure form. Having been run through the emotional wringer at the early show, I stepped through the red shutters in a state of complete uncertainty. Had the earlier experience primed me for some sort of insane emotional collapse? Or was I, for lack of a better term, all cried out? And who was I going to follow, anyway? I had already done my farewell loops with nearly all of my most important characters, with only Romola and Drugstore Girl remaining. I ruled Romola out because none of the Romolas I had initially imprinted on, the ones who meant the most to me, were still playing the role.  Lily Ockwell and Sarah Sweeney are both very good, but I had seen them both fairly recently. Drugstore Girl was a possibility, though, but I tend to run very hot and cold on them. It very much depended on the casting.

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 31

Show #31

Saturday, July 5: 5 pm

The endgame was well underway. This Saturday double marked the final night of The Drowned Man. Not technically, of course – there was still the finale itself. But with rumors of extended endings and cast swapping, not to mention the hordes of emotional fans that would be descending on the site, there was no telling what it would be like. This was the final night for the show as we had known and loved it. At the very least, that’s the way I was treating it.

As such, I was firmly in “revisiting” mode (with allowance made for a single specific exception, if the opportunity arose - more on that in my next write up). As they say, every story reaches a point where it has to stop expanding and start contracting. There were still so many loops, specific character combinations, that I had never done. Even some characters that I had never followed properly (Sorry Marshall, Barman, and Gatekeeper). But it was too late. If I kept chasing them, I was sure to regret it. It was time to start saying goodbye.

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 16

Show #16

Friday, March 7: 9 pm

One decision I made before arriving in London was that the first time I saw James Traherne’s name on the cast board next to the name “Mr. Stanford,” I would track him down straight out of the lift (unless I had a really good reason not to. Because no decision is ever truly final at Temple Studios). Of course, I do belong firmly to the camp that believes there is only one Stanford and his name is Sam Booth, but that did leave me with a perverse curiosity about what the alternate casting would be like. Plus, my admittedly limited experience with James as Tuttle suggested that he might actually be a decent fit, and I had heard some good things about him as well. Worst case scenario, I would probably be happier with him than with the previous alternate Stanford (name withheld), who just felt wrong in the role from the get-go. Either way, I needed to see for myself.

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 15

Show #15

Friday, March 7: 5 pm

After spending some time with the glorious new cast board at the front of the queue, I decided to start this show with another of the new class of 2014, Lucia Chocarro as the PA. Despite the number of shows I’ve seen, there are still several characters that I’m never quite sure about how to catch out of the first lift - I have a rough idea, but can’t quite zero in. In this case, I think that point in the show corresponds to her 1:1, so my assumption would be that she’s backstage for a few minutes – however, I’ve heard from others that she actually starts out in the basement. What to do? Well, the lift lets out in the basement anyway, so I rushed out, checked her office (no joy), and headed upstairs to the ground floor, where she… wouldn’t… actually… be… anyway. Hmm. I contented myself with watching Marshall (James Finnemore) and Dolores (Jane Leaney) have their sexytimes in the ornate bedroom, all by myself. Just me, them, and a lone black mask. Those moments are always fascinating and exciting, but also just a little bit awkward. I know they’re performing for me, but I also kind of want to look away. If only someone else was watching, I’d be fine.

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 14

Show #14

Thursday, March 6: 7 pm

I was a little nervous for my return to The Drowned Man. Although I had only been away for just over two months, things had changed dramatically inside, with the departure of so many beloved performers and the arrival of many new ones. While perusing other people’s show reports since the arrival of the new cast, I’d managed to draw up a list of more than forty character/performer combinations that I wanted to follow – and I had less than eighteen loops worth of show to do it in. There was no way I was going to pull it all off. Then, on top of that, I arrived in the queue to see an entirely new name on the cast board – another one to add to the list, just to make it more difficult.

Of all the new cast members, one name kept coming up as a must see: Sean Edwards as Badlands Jack. I considered saving him for a later show, as he plays Jack exclusively and I would have plenty of opportunities to catch him (or so I thought – see later shows for more on this), which was not the case for many of the other people on my list. But as I climbed into the lift, I realized that I was just too excited to put it off – why not start strong? So I exited the lift into town and began my search for Badlands Jack.

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 13

Show #13

Tuesday, Dec 31: 5 pm

Here we go, the final show of my December trip, New Year’s Eve, lucky #13. Or unlucky, perhaps. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Prior to getting on the plane, I had made a mental list of character/actor combinations I wanted to make a point to see over the course of my seven shows. Over the course of the first six, I managed to check off nearly all of them (or replace them with strong alternatives, like Tomislav English’s Andy at show 12). In fact, there were only two remaining: Omar Gordon’s Fool and Miranda Mac Letten’s Faye. Combine them with James Finnemore’s Doctor, which I had heard nothing about prior to my trip but whom Hannah was raving about after the show on the 27th, and Sonya Cullingford’s Romola, which would allow me to both reprise a favorite loop at my last show and also finally see the normal end of her loop (I had only done the 3rd-loop alternate ending with her), and I had more than enough to occupy my whole night. Of course, this would require that the casting for the show turn out exactly as I needed it to, and what are the odds of that?

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My Time at Temple Studios, Part 12

Show #12

Monday, December 30: 7 pm

This was always likely to be a problematic show. It was, originally, scheduled to be the very last one, and an awful lot of spoiler group people were coming – not that having everyone there was a problem; in fact, I very much enjoyed meeting people at the Sawyer’s Arms beforehand and in the queue a little bit later. But it would be a sold-out show, packed to the gills, and most of the audience would be experts – or so I thought. More on that later.

At this point, there was only one character I felt I absolutely needed to see: Andy. There were other characters that I had never done a loop with (William, Marshall), but that I had largely covered while following other characters (or, in the case of William, would have largely covered after doing Andy). There were also other character/performer combos I wanted to see, and there were pieces of loops I was missing and would someday like to catch – but Andy was the only one who remained more a mystery than not. I was hoping to see Rob McNeill in the role, as he was Andy throughout most, if not all, of my September trip, but a glance at the cast board revealed that Tomislav English would be playing the role. I thought about waiting one more day, in the hope that Rob would be playing him on New Year’s Eve, but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to have this hanging over me going into the final show – so I started the evening off with Tomislav’s Andy.

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