Chris Lambert spoke with Weston Scott about writing an effective monologue, his visual impressions of American presidents, feeling awe when looking at common rodents and the room he was in during the darkest moment of his life.
This podcast, unlike many other projects, is for me. It’s a great side effect that other people get to listen to it, but when I miss an episode by a couple of days, I feel the pain of letting myself down.
Chris showed Weston these portraits of former U.S. Presidents and asked him to describe a specific person in his life each reminded him of.
This first one reminds me of Ralph, a family friend who is currently on his deathbed as I write this. I always thought of him as fiercely intellectual, but his mind has been gradually slipping away as a result of a nasty fall. The portrait shares his signature smirk.
This is instantaneously recognizable to me as my dear friend Caleb Wiseblood. We attend the latest showings at the movie theater and sit in the back row. This portrait looks like a person who would buy popcorn and then share it with me even though I didn’t pay for it, like Caleb often does.
What do you do when you see yourself in one of these? I don’t have facial hair, but the apprehension and hesitance in the eyes feels familiar. Also, we have similar cheek structure.
He reminds me of my high school principal, Mr. Molina. I was salutatorian of my high school class, but Mr. Molina and I butted heads because I often went to his superiors to find loopholes to his academic decrees. It was a little bit like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but if Spicoli wanted to take classes at the local community college.
I actually see a lot of my grandmother in him. The thinning hair, the Sunday school decor. He doesn’t want to chastise you; he wants you to learn the lesson to better yourself. I often describe my grandmother as “Winnie the Pooh incarnate” to the chagrin of my parents.
In your podcast Calliope, you’re performing a long-form monologue which you intend to release in weekly installments for a full year. Now that you’re 10 weeks into this experiment, do you think that you will complete it without any hitches? How much of the plot do you already have laid out, and how much is decided as you’re writing each new episode?
I think it will be completed, but I don’t think it will be completed without any hitches. As I write this, I’m already four days late on a new episode. I’ve never done anything as thoroughly taxing as, essentially, writing a new play every week, and then performing it, and then editing it, and then distributing it. But I truly think it will get done, and get done on time. The last episode, no matter what, has to come out on November 12, 2018, the day I turn 26.
This podcast, unlike many other projects, is for me. It’s a great side effect that other people get to listen to it, but when I miss an episode by a couple of days, I don’t feel the pain of letting other people down. I feel the pain of letting myself down. I’m glad other people are listening and engaged; I would be lying if I said it’s not a little invigorating to see how fast they want to experience the content. But as I play with the form of the story, and think of next steps for it after the podcast is complete, it’s going to be impossible to always get it out on Mondays.
Maybe that was my initial mistake. This isn’t a typical story — perhaps it shouldn’t have a typical release schedule. Nevertheless, listeners can expect a new episode every week with a release on (hopefully) Monday.
The plot is broken up into four parts — the first 17 episodes, the middle 17, the final 17 and then the final episode. I have up through episode 18 fully planned plotwise, but actually sitting down to write the piece changes everything. You suddenly realize that it makes no sense for the characters to go somewhere, or do something — you need to adjust and adjust and adjust to hit the essential story beats. I would say by the end, the episode is 90% written in the week before release. Truthfully, it’s 75% written in the day before release. But I know where it ends and I hope it pays off.
Because I’ve spent so much time with my head down, just trying to work and create and survive, I now find myself fascinated with certain elements of nature that I have neglected to think about. When I remember that owls or frogs exist, I’m exponentially more awed by them then I used to be. Tell me an animal that you recently found yourself fascinated by, and what it was about them.
This morning, I was in Lompoc choreographing a musical for my mother’s sixth grade class, and I saw them getting distracted by a gopher that had popped up right behind me. I realized that I had never seen a gopher up close before — he was about five feet away — and I was taken aback by how sleek he was. Incredibly tiny, too. He definitely could have fit in the palm of my hand with his shiny fur and barely visible ears. What I loved most about the experience, though, was that when I turned back after the students had left, the gopher had covered his hole with dirt. He wasn’t even visible anymore. I appreciate a creature that values discretion.
Can you describe, in as much detail as possible, the first thing you remember eating that made you feel euphoric?
This can’t be the first thing, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind — when I was 15, my Nana boiled red potatoes, cut them in half and then fried them with some flour and paprika and parsley. Then you kind of mash them up with a fork and eat them with butter. That’s super simple, but I could not get enough of them. It’s greasy and a little crispy, and she always served them in a large bowl with a paper towel along the bottom. To catch the grease, I guess? Not sure. I still crave them to this day. I made her cook them every chance I could. My mouth is still salivating just thinking about them.
Open your iTunes, select shuffle, and tell me the first five songs that come up and why you have them.
“Partyland” by Detektivbyran
When I was attending UC Berkeley, I worked in the dining commons with this guy named Josh who would get high in the dish room during every shift. One night, he told me that Detektivbyran was a magical band that made him cry every time he heard them because of their “sheer epicness.” He offered to give me an iTunes card if I used it to buy the album. I took it, and I did. The band is okay. This song isn’t a highlight.
“You, You, You” from The Visit, Original Broadway Cast Recording
Every year, I buy the Original Broadway Cast albums for all the musicals nominated for the Tony for Best Musical. Unfortunately, I did not care for this show and I don’t think I even listened to this song.
“Helpless” from Hamilton, Original Broadway Cast Recording
The musical sensation! Lin-Manuel Miranda is a fantastic lyricist and worth studying as a person who writes musicals. This song is just catchy and fun.
“The Summer of a Dormouse” by The Boy Least Likely To
I had a crush on a girl who loved this band. I bought their entire discography, and honestly, I grew to like them more than I liked the girl. We’ve gone our separate ways, but I want to thank her for bringing these sad teddy bears into my life.
“Rinzler” from TRON: Legacy Soundtrack
I got my first pair of Bose headphones and wanted an album I thought would sound really cool with them. With the headphones, this music sounded great, but honestly, all music sounded great with those headphones. I should have saved myself the twelve dollars.
The door is shut and I’m alone in the room, but I can hear weeping from down the hall. I’m in bed covered in only a blanket.
Please reflect on the darkest moment of your life, and without telling me about the event, describe your location and surroundings in as much detail as possible.
The room is painted bright blue, but it’s night. Maybe 10PM. I have two fans on — a ceiling fan and a mechanical white standing fan moving back and forth — but it’s still warm. A long chain dangles down from the ceiling fan and makes a clanging noise, but if you didn’t know any better, you would think the fan is moving so fast that it’s going to come off its screws. The door is shut and I’m alone in the room, but I can hear weeping from down the hall. I’m in bed covered in only a blanket; there are no sheets on the bed. The wall behind me is covered in footprints.
With the impact of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, several male celebrities who were once highly respected are now regarded as monsters. Do you think that there is a satisfactory way that they can ever redeem themselves for what they’ve done in the past, or is the damage to their reputations irreversible?
I don’t necessarily think there’s an acceptable way for them to redeem themselves, but I think a majority will see a comeback. So many of these men are independent creators — I know his allegations are still up in the air somewhat, but do you think there’s really a chance James Franco will never make a movie again? He has the money to finance himself, and there are certainly enough people willing to work with him. Even Kevin Spacey, objectively one of the worst, most foul offenders, is still a phenomenal actor and director. I’m sure he could assemble a team willing to look past his crimes to distribute his films.
So, no, I don’t think there’s an outright way to redeem themselves, but I think our country is more willing to forget than we want to admit. At the end of the day, people want Louis C.K.’s innovative commentary to get through the day. We’ll convince ourselves that they’ve paid the price. After all, that’s what we did with Woody Allen, right?
I think the best president must be the one everyone forgets about. Not necessarily a special or innovative spirit, but one who fully knew what he was about and did it to the best of his ability.
Please write me a very short one-act play that includes the following elements: an ice cube, a bear claw and revenge.
A man, GERALD, walks down a pitch-black hotel hallway. HE approaches his room and pulls out his key, but right before taking his final step to the door, he slips on an ice cube. GERALD falls, and groans. Something is broken. Out of the darkness, a woman, FAYE, appears.
You were never so sturdy on your feet, Gerald. I remember your tenuous relationship with ice from when we were children. Skating always terrified you. But not as much as me.
FAYE pulls out a bear claw. GERALD gasps.
You weren’t supposed to leave me with him. I had to get him with his prized possession. The stuffed polar bear in our living room. Unexpectedly toppled, and he found himself underneath. That was one down. But I wasn’t done. I needed the last part. The person who left me with him.
Faye, we were kids. I was eight. I didn’t know-
You knew. You knew, you knew, you knew.
FAYE wields the bear claw and jams it into Gerald’s throat.
Finally, tell me about a historical figure that you think you have the most in common with.
I’ve always identified with William Howard Taft. I’ve always wanted to write a musical about him. So many people think he’s notable because of his weight, but what stands out to me was how average he was as a president. I think the best presidents must be the ones everyone forgets about. Just keeps the country running, and stays out of the spotlight. Not necessarily a special or innovative spirit, but one who fully knew what he was about and did it to the best of his ability. Also, he canonically was a fantastic dancer.
Curated by: Chris Lambert
Conducted by: In-person conversation
Edited by: Morgan Enos
Published: February 8, 2018
Total questions: 8
Word count: 2006
Reading time: Seven minutes
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