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The Good, the Bad and the Horrible

The Good, the Bad and the HorribleSophomore Michael Walker brings the popular internet sensation "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" to life using Anderson Hall's VisWall.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.08.09] Of all the guest speakers and lectures to come to Tufts over the years, the university experienced a first this weekend. Thanks to sophomore Michael Walker, Tufts hosted its first guest ever to hold a Ph.D. in "horribleness."

No need to clean your glasses. You read correctly. Walker, along with members of the theater group Torn Ticket II, took the Tufts community on a journey into the inner sanctum of the Dr. Horrible and his quest to join the Evil League of Evil, in a reproduction of the cult phenomenon, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."

fo0t4k.jpg_400In the midst of the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, which placed many television shows on hiatus, writer/director Joss Whedon, best known as the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly", decided to create a small inexpensive, yet professional, production that would circumvent the writers' pay issues protested in the strike.

Enter "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," a 43-minute musical film that depicts the story of Dr. Horrible, the aspiring supervillain alter ego of Billy, Captain Hammer, his nemesis, and Penny, their mutual love interest. Initially produced for internet distribution with a later iTunes release date, the production soon became a cult phenomenon; with a fan following that spanned the globe, Walker being one among many.

"I wanted to work on something funny and make people laugh," Walker says. "It is completely and utterly ridiculous and is one of the most absurdly silly things I have ever seen or worked on."

In the film, Dr. Horrible is a want-to-be supervillian with an Internet blog that discusses his tales of trying to get into the "Evil League of Evil." Meanwhile, his alter ego, Billy, is in the process of trying to romance Penny, a girl he met at the laundry mat.

"While Dr. Horrible is working on a heist to get him into the League, he inadvertently introduces Penny to his nemesis, Captain Hammer," Walker says. "And from there, hilarity ensues."

Having been involved with musical theater for years, mostly as an improviser and a composer/lyricist, Walker says he is currently working on an internet-based performance art piece partially inspired by web-based series such as "Dr. Horrible", giving him the initial idea to direct the production at Tufts.

"We are one of the first productions to get the rights from the production company that did 'Dr. Horrible,' which I think is pretty exciting," Walker says.

Transferring to Tufts last fall, Walker was looking for a way to get involved in the Tufts theater scene and began working with Torn Ticket II, getting his first taste of directing on the production "tick, tick... BOOM!"


For "Dr. Horrible," Walker says he began playing with the idea of bringing it to the stage in a way that has yet to be done.

"I had heard of people doing stage production of it, but I thought that was a pretty silly idea, because it is not really a production that lends itself to a stage adaptation," he says. "So I had this idea to do the show as a live action comic book with comic book style projections in the background, differentiating it from the film but using special effects that make it easy to recreate parts of the film that you wouldn't be able to on stage."

To do this, Walker and the members of Torn Ticket II got permission to use Anderson Hall's VisWall, making this the first theater production to be held there.

With images created by student graphic designer Miles Donovan, Walker says they were able to give the production a "larger than life" feel.

"Joss Whedon fans are notoriously passionate and dedicated, and most Dr. Horrible aficionados have seen the show so many times that the original performances are forever ingrained in their minds," Walker says. "I feel that we have struck a good balance between paying homage to the original while creating a piece of theater that is distinctively ours."

The weekend's four shows were so popular that Walker says they needed to expand beyond the 35 seats in the VisWall room.

"We set up about twenty-five chairs in the lobby, and for all four performances both the VisWall and the lobby space were packed," Walker says. "We also had a telecast set up in another room in Anderson. Apparently we were blogged about on one of the major Joss Whedon fan sites, so we even had a handful of non-Tufts people show up who read about us on the Internet."

Walker adds, "It has been so great to see the excitement that has revolved around this production. We had three times the number of people audition for this show as we had for my last production, including some who have never auditioned for a show before. So it is exciting to get other people who are not normally involved in theater drawn in."

Story by Kaitlin Provencher, Web Communications. Photos by Dr. Horrible Producer Lily Berthold-Bond.

 

 

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