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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Terrible Travesty Team

I like reading funny columns. Dave Barry... uh... Dave... Barry... Ok. So I like reading funny columns, but the only guy I can think of is Dave Barry. I've read other ones, believe you me, but I can't think of any.

Wait!

Of course! Ted Stoltz! Ok, so he's not know internationally for his columns, rather he's a video production manager, but he still writes columns. You see, he's a friend from high school, one of the few I still keep in contact with. Indeed, the only one I talk to on any regular basis. He has a blog... forgive me, it's a "Not a Blog"... which I read whenever he updates it. His style of humor is a bit different from mine, and by that I mean he's actually funny.

Lately, he's been doing a bit of reminiscing of the sketch/movie team he was a part of all throughout high school, the Terrible Travesty Team, or TTT for short. Since his last name is very close to mine in the alphabet, he sat only a few seats away in homeroom. Many mornings I would show up and he would be showing a video on the TV that floated above the teacher's desk (The apparatus that held the TV off the ground always looked precarious and flimsy to me. Still, I didn't have to sit underneath it). Over time, I realized that the people who were in those videos were the people crowded around Ted every morning. The regulars were; Dave Casey, Aaron Hendren, Kathie Hendren (Aaron's sister), Graham Woolley, Sean Sethy, and occasionally a few others such as Alexis Gates, Dale Strickler (well, he was a part of our homeroom, but he wasn't always there), Justin Nissley, and Matt Fuhrman. Listening in on their conversations was something else, they were always talking about what their next project would be. "Projects," I thought, "what for projects?"

The first time I engaged any of them was in the cafeteria. Our lunch system worked so that there were three lunch periods; A, B, and C. It so happened that I shared one of them with Ted, Sean, and Dave. Since I didn't recognize anyone else (it was my freshman year and all my old friends had other lunch periods), I sat with them. I remember that 1. Ted looked like Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, 2. Sean inexplicably talked about Zeppelins exploding, and 3. Dave would raise one eyebrow a lot. I had absolutely nothing to say. I think I mentioned Packard Bell computers for some reason, trying to start a conversation. It went over like one of Sean's Zeppelins.

Over time, I got to know them all, and realized that they were a team that made movies. They called themselves the TTT, though I initally heard it as the TTP. "TTP?" I asked, "Like Dilbert's The TTP Project?" "No," Ted said, "TTT, as in the Terrible Travesty Team." "Ah," I replied. End of conversation.

During one lunch, Graham and Aaron were talking about how their band, Kage, needed a singer. I told them that I could sing, and it was as simple as that. I went to their house, brought my guitar (just in case) and we jammed out for hours. It was fun, but later I found out that they were disappointed with my lack of singing and my penchant for wanting to play the guitar. I was fired, though I didn't know for months. I would call up on the Saturday mornings, and was constantly told that they weren't having practice that week. Huh. I was very mad at the time, but I got over it and moved on. They got another friend, Eric Boyd, who turned out to be a better fit, anyway. Eventually, Boyd was their bassist and Aaron moved to vocals. I still have their demo cd, which is enoyable. They were pretty straightforward metal, rather on the harsh side, but good. I don't think they ever released a followup.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the movies.

They would always show the movies in homeroom in the morning. Ted says he didn't like others to see them, but I couldn't tell. I always thought he was proud of his creations. I know I would have been. Everyone seemed enthusiastic and liked to contribute. I thought about asking if I could be in one of the movies, but it looked like such a well oiled machine, I didn't really feel like asking them to install another cog. It would have made life rather difficult on them, and after reading Ted's retropective on their moviemaking experiences, it seems like it was the right choice. Mutual friends were always asking the TTT if they could join, or at least be in one of their productions. It made the productions difficult because there were always too many people, or they slowed things down (monomyth, anyone?) because they didn't know the process.

Over time, I did get to do one thing with a couple of the TTT folks: Unknown Physics Matinee 4000. In case you don't know, that's a slight variation on the name of the cult TV show, St. Elmo's Fire. I mean, Mystery Science Theater 3000. Dave, Ted, and I had access to the TV room and the school, where they shot the morning news, only because Ted had a car and we could stay as long as we wanted. We had stayed after school before because Ted and Dave needed a camera man as they shot some footage for one of their movies. I think it was From Beyond, but I'm not sure. I remember Ted getting irritated as I popped on camera occasionally. I found it hilarious. He didn't.

Anyhow, Ted and I had somehow ended up in the school play, Fahrenheit 451. It was a blast to do, and it gave lots of us an excuse to put off homework. I got to be one of the fireman, which meant I was one of three people that were allowed to use the firepole. Ted and I also had lots of fun mocking the fellow who got to play Guy Montag. His name was Eric, I believe, and was a nice enough guy, but he had some strange acting habits. For one, he made odd choices concerning which words to enunciate. "Why AM I standing HERE?" And then he would bug out his eyes, thrust his head forward, gape his mouth, and adjust his shirt. Ted and I mocked him mercilessly for this, which, in retrospect was probably a bit hypocritical given my limited acting ability at the time. Ted, on the other hand, had landed the role of the main baddy, Beatty. He was fantastic.

Now, lest you think that Fahrenheit 451 has nothing to do with UPM4K, it does. Mark my words. You see, some of the cast decided to pull a Mystery Science theater on one of the tapes of the play. They weren't very good. Ted suggested we could do better. I suggested we make fun of the Francois Truffaut movie version. Ted and I wrote comments at my house, Dave came on board, and we shot it at school. Our silhouettes appeared at the bottom of the screen, and the illusion was complete. I remember that our heads looked bizarre; I looked like a pumpkin with ears (I had a caucasian afro at the time), Ted's head looked like pole, and I think Dave's was perfectly spherical. UPM4K was terrible fun, so we decided to keep doing it. All in all, we spoofed most of Fahrenheit 451 (we ran out of time, cutting off my favorite comment), and The Thing From Another World. Dave decided he didn't want to do it anymore, so Ted and I spoofed Them!, and then Matt Fuhrman came in and we did Battlefield Earth. I gave the tapes to a friend, Julius Von Brunk. We never saw Battlefield Earth again. A real shame, because that was probably my favorite one. I stupidly lost it, and I think Julius still has the others. We never made any more, though I really wanted to. Ted and I tried another one about a year ago, where we made fun of the the first episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Ted didn't have the appropriate cables to get the video synced, and then he lost the tape. Oh, well. It was fun to make it, anyway.

By the time UPM4K wrapped up, it was the end of senior year, and everybody went their separate ways. Dave moved to California, Graham went to college in the midwest, Kathie got married, Aaron... uh... Alexis... um... Sean... let's see... Ted stayed in town and went to the Pennsylvania Acedemy of Fine arts and got a real job (Unlike myself. I haven't even showered yet and it's noon.). The TTT was over, too, though Dave and Ted kept trying to make things. They occasionally made shorts, but the team as an entity, a collective dedicated to making ever funnier and longer productions, was done. Though I wasn't a part of it, I was sad that there would never be a From Beyond 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Now I sit and write a blog that about 10 people read, thinking of characters for a voice over demo, hoping that I won't have to teach guitar forever (No, put your fingers there. No, there. Fret 5. FRET 5. The silver things on the neck. The neck. The thing sticking out of the guitar. The guitar. The gui... PUT YOUR FINGERS ON FRET 5! DO IT NOW!). The TTT shows me that no matter how silly my voice stuff is, home projects can lead to real jobs. And remember guys, if you ever need an Elroy Jetson or Homer Simspon voice for Fatal Killings 2: Jaw's Revenge, I've got a mic, a computer, a toasty voice, and more free time than any human has a right to.

1 Comments:

Blogger Graham said...

Useful information:

1. This is Graham.

2. You can email me at zarvoc@gmail dot com.

3. I have a blog now, just started, at zarvoc.wordpress.com.

4. Treachery did actually release a second album; I'll have to post it online. More later.

11:27 AM  

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