My Adventures in Wigfield

June 8, 2003
by Tony Lagarto
(The first six photographs are courtesy of John Jones)

Wednesday - May 14, 2003 (New York, NY)

Tentative plans had been in the works at my yahoogroup for a Strangers With Candy gathering for quite some time, but nothing ever came to fruition. So, when it was announced in the winter of 2002/03 that tickets were on sale for the Wigfield tour performance at New York's Symphony Space, my group members and I figured that a stage show starring Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Amy Sedaris was a perfect occasion for us to get together. So we arranged a mini-StrangersCon '03, as we called it, to coincide with the event. Hell, if Trekkies can have conventions, why can't we?

So after much discussion, via emails and posts at the group, we all converged upon New York City in the middle of May 2003. Some members flew in from as far as Dallas, Los Angeles, and even London — the one in England! Suddenly, driving up from Washington, DC didn't seem like such a big deal.

David, John Jones, TonyI had been visiting my family in Connecticut that week, so on the day of the show, May 14th, I took the train into NYC and met up with FlatpointHigh group member, John Jones, who had flown in from Dallas with his partner, David. We spent the afternoon in Greenwich Village, drinking and playing pool. Before heading uptown I figured we should check in with Amy, since we were in the neighborhood, to see what the plan was for after the show. The man who worked at the front desk in her building called up to her apartment and she said that normally she would have invited us up, but she was working on a "surprise" for me and I'd just have to wait until after the show to find out what it was.

It had previously been decided that at around 6:00pm a bunch of group members would gather at an Upper West Side Mexican restaurant called Mary Ann's for pre-show margaritas. The show wouldn't start until 8:00pm, so that gave us a little time to get to know each other and throw a few drinkies back before heading a few blocks up the street to the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre.  New York group member, Dan Boland, presented me with a gift from the group as a "thank you" for the Strangers-related work that I've done on the internet. It was a silver flask with a picture of Bette Davis, from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? on the front!

The show itself was a hilarious affair. Stephen, Paul, and Amy read their lines in character(s), but not in costume. They each play so many different Wigfield denizens that the logistics of costume changes and makeup application would be overwhelming. There were also no visuals for the Symphony Space performance because it was being recorded for later broadcast on public radio. (At other performances, Todd Oldham's photographs were projected on a screen overhead, and at the end of the performance the narrator, Russell Hokes, shows a movie recreation of the town's destruction. All other performances were also accompanied by music that was provided by Strangers composer, Mark Levenson.)

Tony, Megan Murphy, Amie, Erin Murphy, and David McDonald

David McDonald, Dan Boland, Solomon, and Norn Cutson

Stephen, Paul, and Amy on stage.

Paul, Stephen, and Amy signing books.After the show, I waited in the line to get my book signed and soon discovered what the surprise was that Amy had for me. She had made a batch of her cupcakes and a cheeseball the size of my head. And Paul gave me the boy scout uniform that he wore at the roller rink in "Ask Jerri"!  (Amy can be seen wearing this same shirt in the June/July 2003 issue of PAPER. See pictures here.)

I had made arrangements to have a little "meet-and-greet" with our stars after the show. Paul Dinello suggested a bar/restaurant around the corner called Cafe Con Leche. We practically took over the entire restaurant with all of us sitting at a long row of tables pushed together. Amy and Paul joined us there as soon as they wrapped things up at the theatre, and Stephen stopped by quickly to say hello to everyone. Unfortunately, he couldn't stay because he and his wife had a babysitter on the clock and they had to get home.  SWC extras, Liz Fagan and her boyfriend, Neal Ajamian, joined us too. When it came time for Amy and Paul to leave, after I'd asked them for a few news items for my site, a few members had their pictures taken with them and got a few more autographs signed.

The FlatpointHigh gang at Cafe Con Leche. Tony and Erin at Cafe Con Leche. Tony and Dan. The gracious and gorgeous Natalie Burkley. Paul, Tony, and Amy

Everyone seemed to have a really good time, and it was so great for Amy and Paul to take the time to be with us.  I certainly enjoyed meeting so many FlatpointHigh members that night. Good times!

But that was not my only Wigfield experience.

Friday - June 6, 2003 (Washington, DC)

I didn't get tickets for the show beforehand, but fortunately a FlatpointHigh member, Dave (aka davebo), had an extra ticket to sell me. I saw Amy in the Marvin Center lobby before the show and gave her a copy of Florrie Fisher's book, "The Lonely Trip Back". She was thrilled to finally have a copy of the book and said that it will probably inspire them during the scriptwriting process for the SWC movie. Before heading backstage, she told me that Paul brought an advance copy of the Strangers With Candy DVD for me, but he left it at the hotel, so he'd be bringing it to the afternoon book-signing at Politics & Prose the next day. She also said that there were tentative plans to release the Season Two DVD in November, if the first one sells well. I mentioned that Season One has been a hot seller on amazon and she said that they'd heard the same thing, so let's keep our fingers crossed!

The theater had general seating, and we were at the end of the line to enter the theater, so I was a bit concerned for Dave and Mike because I thought we'd end up in the back of the theater. Since I'd already seen the show front row center in NY, I didn't really care where I sat, as long as I could see the screen to see the visuals that we didn't have at Symphony Space. We ended up in the front row anyway. For some reason nobody would sit in those seats. Did they think that Gallagher was going to come out and smash watermelons? Or maybe the Blue Man Group was going to appear and get blue paint all over them? We just sauntered right down and sat in front.

Seeing the show with the set decoration, as simple as it is, and the projected visuals really added a different dimension. It's also fun to notice where the three author/stars improvise throughout the reading.

After the show I waited in line, even though I had already gotten my book signed in New York, to say hello to the trio. My timing was good because right when I was standing up at the book-signing table there were these two girls who'd just gotten their books signed and as they were walking away they stopped dead in their tracks because they heard me mention that I wanted some pictures "for the website." They asked if I was talking about and they went on about how they go there all the time. Earned me a few points with the crew, eh?

Paul said that he'd get me a couple comp tickets for the next night's 10:00pm show, so I'd have yet another opportunity to experience the wackiness of Wigfield.

Tony, sitting in Russell Hokes's chair. Tony and Dave, honorary Wigfieldians. Tony and the real Wigfieldians.

Saturday - June 7, 2003 (WDC — that's Wigfield, DC)

It seemed like it had been raining for the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights, and so it was on the afternoon that I made my way up Connecticut Avenue to Politics & Prose. I arrived after the reading, just as the book-signing process had begun. The line snaked throughout the store, so I thought that it would take more than the hour that they had scheduled, but it actually went pretty quickly. I picked up my DVD, snapped a few shots of Stephen reading "The Lonely Trip Back" to Paul and Amy, and told them that I'd be seeing them again in a few hours.

Stephen reading Florrie Fisher's ''The Lonely Trip Back'' to Paul and Amy Paul and Amy listen to Stephen reading from Florrie Fisher's ''The Lonely Trip Back'' Paul, Stephen, and Amy

That afternoon I had sent out a message to the FlatpointHigh group saying that I had an extra comp ticket from Paul. I heard back from group member Adam. Thing is, though, he wanted to bring a friend. I told him that since I'd seen the show already his friend could have my ticket. I figured that I could check with Paul before the show to see if he could get me one more ticket, if not, oh well... I had done my good deed for the year.

I planned on meeting Adam in front of the Marvin Center between 9:30 and 9:45, but I ended up getting there by a little after 9:00. It turned out that they had arrived early, too.

We went inside and I saw that Paul and Amy were still hanging out in the lobby area where they had just signed books for the 7:00pm show audience. When I told them my situation, and that it was perfectly OK if the show was sold out and they couldn't get me in, a woman that they know told them that so-and-so couldn't make it and that I could have his ticket. It all worked out for the best. I went over to the box office to get my tickets that were being held for me, plus the new one, and lo-and-behold, who did I see in the front of the line waiting to get in? FlatpointHigh member Erin Murphy (aka stargrrl70)! I went to give Adam his two tickets and got in line with Erin and her posse of four.

We were let into the auditorium between 9:30 and 9:45 and our crew went directly to the front row center seats (general admission isn't so bad, is it?)

Erin quickly spotted Todd Oldham sitting three or four rows behind us. I decided to go up to him and introduce myself. Not long ago I would never have considered introducing myself to a complete stranger, but I just couldn't resist because I've gotten such a good impression of him from the articles and interviews that I've read. I told him that I saw the interview with him and Amy in the new BUST magazine and thought that it was great. He asked me who I was and when I mentioned he told me that he loves the site and visits it frequently. Then I just went back to my seat next to Erin and waited for the show to begin.

The show that night was so much fun, even more so than the other times. It was the best performance that I'd seen so far and possibly the best Wigfield show overall. They just seemed wired, like they wanted to liven things up for themselves because they had just performed the same material and they just threw all of this improvised stuff in. They were riffing off of each other and the audience, tossing ad-libs into just about every monologue. My favorite, of course, was when Stephen, in the midst of his Donnie Larson intro, gave a shout out to me between sentences. He just paused in the middle of his monologue, looked at me, gave a little wave, and said, "Hi, Tony," then went back to what he was saying without missing a beat. That was cool.

There were a few other audience interaction improvs, like when Donnie Larson asked this guy if he likes nude women. The guy didn't know what to say with his lady sitting right next to him. Paul stopped during his first Lenare DeGroat speech, but remained in character, to give some inconsiderate person permission to answer his/her ringing cell phone. Amy's character Cinnamon kept putting on so much gloppy lip gloss that whenever she'd say a word that had a "b" or a "p" in it you'd see the goo fly off of her lips. Later she did a hilarious spit take during one of her Hoyt Gien scenes (I noticed that the name is spelled Gein in the book, but Gien on screen during the show). I wish that I could remember every one of the little "extras", but there were too many to count.

Erin's posse and I all hooted and cheered when Dillard Rankin (Paul) mentioned his favorite band, Autopsy Turvy. Then he asked if we'd heard their latest album, Abra-Cadaver.

Whenever one of them would forget a line they'd work it into what they were saying, like when Stephen, as High Priestess Thea, garbled what (s)he was trying to say, (s)he explained it by saying that (s)he was speaking in tongues.

After the show we waited in the book-signing line, yet again. I just wanted to thank them for the DVD and the tickets to the show. When they saw me they called for crowd control and joked that I was holding up the line (but actually I had positioned myself near the end of the line so as not to hold it up).

I asked Amy if she'd be in town two weekends hence because I'd be in NYC from the 20th to the 22nd (to see Tony nominee Daniel Sunjata and Tony winner Denis O'Hare in the Tony Award winning Best Play, "Take Me Out" again). I told her that I could drop off two more copies of "The Lonely Trip Back" for Stephen and Paul, so they could all get inspiration for writing the SWC movie. She said that she might be in L.A. because Disney might want her to do some voiceover work, so I asked her if she'd be doing an animated character named Camel Toe and she said, "I wish!"  Moose Knuckle would be a good character name, too.

On the way out of the theater we saw Todd Oldham again, complimented him on his photographs, and said goodnight. He had come down to DC just for the show. What a nice guy.

And so ended my brief sojourn in the ramshackle town of Wigfield.