By Dr. Terrible Hogwash, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology
Lather, Rinse, Repeat, a playwright tribe found on the Isle of Manhattan spends much of its days lathering, rinsing and repeating, sunning itself on the warm rocks of imagination. This fall as they embarked on another shorts program, I followed along, hoping to examine the unique characteristics of the Lather, Rinse, Repeat actor selection process an unusual and seemingly random strategy deployed to wrangle the very necessary parties to develop new theatrical work. A beautiful and truly crucial process, as over a rather short gestation period, a matter of just four weeks, ten healthy new plays will be brought into the world for the entire kingdom to see.
The evolution of the LRR actor selection process has in itself been a sight to see. Researchers have spent many minutes, even hours, discussing the seemingly large jump from the simple thought processes associated with early tribes of dramaticus scribicus to what can only be described as elaborate and even ritualistic practices. Typically restricted to the Lather Rinse Repeat priestess chosen to perform the ceremony this was a rare opportunity for an outsider to document this sacred rite.
In the beginning, after communications of an electronic variety are sent out to various past actor participants and responses gathered a sacred list is drawn up and given by one member of the group to another in a symbolic forwarding ritual. The names are then written in black ink, presumably milked from a squid, a dying practice among many writing groups but still maintained here in LRR circles. The paper used is recycled, made from the ashes of all the drafts that came before, a beautiful tradition that honors and pays tribute to those scripts that have come and gone. Once the names are received and prepared the next stage of this two hour long ritual begins with the employment of a tiny glass chicken, a plastic horse, and a formerly magnetic lobster with tentacles that wiggle.
The use of totems or spirit animals is strong within the community. These three totems in particular are anointed with numbers according to their strength and power in the ceremonial hierarchy of LRR society. The chicken, though much beloved, is the equivalent of only a two, the horse, despite having four legs and a tail, a three and the lobster, or in the playwrights native language, dylbreshak oscbront sakastotle, or crustacean colossus, champion of sea beds. The lobster, seemingly the most sacred of these animals, is a four.
Aside from the animal totems there are many spirit gods and goddesses that are eternal and blessed among the Lather, Rinse, Repeat people. With totems in hand a LRR priestess enters into a spiritual den of communication with the spirit god known as Ronan. It is said that the god speaks through the priestess selecting an animal for each LRR member. Once an animal totem is selected the priestess then consults the spotted bowl.
The spotted bowl, or the Mother’s Gift, is surrounded in myth and lore and came into the possession of the LRR people a very long time ago (approx. 5 mnths). It is said that the mother goddess Tina appeared in a vision with her babe to a favorite LRR priestess on her 30th name day and made a gift of the bowl. The spotted bowl while beautiful also proved to hold great power and is used in many sacred ceremonies among the tribe and was on this recent occasion the harbor and stage for one of the greater pageants among a people who spend much of their lives devoted to pageantry.
With the all-seeing power of the God Ronan and the blessing hidden deep within the Mother’s Gift, the names are revealed. The number corresponding to the animal selected by Ronan indicates the number of names that will surface in the Mother’s bowl. If a lobster was selected then four names will appear. If a horse, three names and if the chicken was chosen, two names will emerge from the bounty of the bowl. What name, is part of the mystery and the challenge of the short program festival.
The ceremony is at once fast paced and meditative. Finally the priestess, her work complete, exits out of the den of communication to reveal, the final list. It is here where everything comes full circle with a final mass forwarding ceremony; the list is shared with the other members of the group and a joyful chorus of laptops click, clack, clicks out from the surrounding forest signifying the end of the ritual.
Chicken, Horse, Lobster, totems used in actor selection ceremony
Mythological and sacred bowl used to divine actor names.
Dr. Terrible Hogwash began his studies at Oxford and has lived among the playwrights of Lather, Rinse Repeat on many occasions documenting the unique characteristics of this ever evolving community. He is currently a professor of Anthropology and Archeology at NYU specializing in the ancient tribes of dramaticus scribicus and their modern contemporaries.