Play it again, Sam

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The Playback Theatre troupe

The Playback Theatre troupe

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Erin Zysett is on the floor wrapping a pink scarf into the shape of the No. 9 on top of another green scarf which represents “Muffins,” the turtle that never was.

Even at this early point in Salem Playback’s interpretation of the story I’ve told them, I realize I should have been more courageous. Playback Theatre is theater based on stories told by audience members. Life stories are shared, cast, and then enacted on the spot by a team of actors, dancers and a musician.

Zysett is me, or one of my co-conspirators, in a memorable week spent in Los Angeles in June 2012. Muffins is getting “bedazzled” with pink jewels and the No. 9 in preparation for the turtle races at Brennan’s Pub off Lincoln Boulevard in Marina Del Rey, Calif. She’s just about finished with the adornment when someone unseen tells her the plan isn’t moving ahead.

“What do you mean we aren’t doing it?” Zysett says, and then puts on her best forlorn look.

Here is the story I told the players: While working on my master’s degree in LA, my housemates and I would drive past Brennan’s Pub daily, which advertised turtle racing every Thursday night on the side of its building. We became enamored with the idea of going to watch, but it rapidly escalated into wanting to enter our own turtle into the race. It happened that we attended classes across from Holy Cross Cemetery, which had a huge, beautiful pond stuffed to the gills with turtles of all sizes. Our plan was to turtle-nap one of the pond’s residents, bedazzle it, name it Muffins and enter it into the races. It was as much talk as anything; we just wanted to see the races. The night before everything was supposed to go down, one of my housemates decided to look up the races on YouTube and see what they were like. As soon as we saw a bale of turtles being unceremoniously dumped out of a plastic trashcan, all bets were off. We never went, but the story wasn’t over. When we returned to campus six months later, one of the faculty members recounted the story to one of the housemates as though the turtlenapping had actually happened. We had created an urban legend on our campus.


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