Here at Josephmooon HQ/Thailand Div., we’ve spent the last six weeks preparing for a pair of performances of an obscure 1970s musical comedy titled, Marg Szkaluba (Pissy’s Wife).
Written by Canadian Ron Chambers, with songs by Paul Morgan Donald, Marg Szkaluba (Pissy’s Wife) was presented by Australian radio vet and actress Wendy Herbert (with guitar accompaniment by ur ‘umble) in the title role of Marg, a hard woman in a hard marriage – to a brutish lout named Pissy.
She finds her redemption through song, and is compelled to tell her story. At the end of the play she says, “If we don’t tell each other stories about what’s happened to us, we ain’t gonna learn anything or go anywhere.”
Anyway, my friend Wendy had performed the show in Hong Kong a decade ago – it ran in various venues for a year – and recruited me to play the character Mad Dog for a two-show revival here in Hua Hin. Her friend, Teri Fitsell, produced the show and assembled a small but professional team that allowed us to perform the show to two sold-out shows, and donate the proceeds to two deserving NGOs, Jungle Aid and Thai Hill Community Learning Center.
There is a script, which included the lyrics to 10 original songs, and a recording Wendy made when she originally presented the show, but nobody could come up with the sheet music or chords. That became my job, which wasn’t too difficult once I figured out the guitar in the recording was not in standard tuning, but rather tuned down a semitone, for some reason.
The songs are a mixed bag of styles that help Marg “sing” various aspects of her story. “Was It Love” is a faux doo-wop ditty about Marg losing her virginity at age 16; “Hints,” a funny, blues-tinged take on the advice promoted by womens’ magazines; “Get On Your Horse And Ride,” a galloping Western tune about her escape from the farm. Other titles include “Stupid Tree,” “Laughing Girl,” and “If You Have A Son.”
We rehearsed a lot – Wendy on her own with Teri sometimes, and sometimes with me to learn and get the songs down solid. We did a couple of appearances on Surf Radio 102.5, and a video interview with Heaven Hua Hin. The shows were well-received, despite some challenging ambient noise from the neighborhood. What are you going to do? People will have birthday parties with loud karaoke.
Just as rehearsals were starting, I was thinking about getting a haircut. “Don’t do that,” said Teri. “Mad Dog should have a bit of a rough feel.” True enough. My character is introduced as a “scruffy bugger (who) was pickin’ soft after having his head rattled by a cowgirl.”
This brought to mind the time I worked as an extra on The Road To Perdition. The two scenes we filmed go by at the start of the movie in about one second, so there is no picking anyone out of the crowd of 300 people they’d hired and costumed for the day. But I do recall making an extra $15 – “facial hair differential” – for being willing to not shave for several days before filming.
So, I’d been walking around like a shaggy mutt with a few weeks’ worth of beard scruff that I couldn’t wait to lose once the shows were over. Two days after the final performance of Marg Szkaluba (Pissy’s Wife), I bicycled over to my regular Thai barber for a shave and haircut. This guy doesn’t speak a word of English, but we manage to communicate. After numerous times in his chair, he knows what to do.
Ahhhh, that feels better. Now, back to the Josephmooon music. Will update on that soon.