Marianne, who has watched every Seinfeld show, reminded me of an episode where George Costanza used his invented code word “Tippy Toe” to signal Jerry that somebody was entering the room. It was right at the beginning of Marianne’s annual St. Patrick’s and Birthday party. I was talking about my latest big interest, James Buchanan. She told me that she would use the word “Tippy Toe,” if she thought I was talking too much about James Buchanan.
Then she said, “Tippy Toe” and went back to her other guests.
Eventually, other people at the party picked up on the signal, and I got a total of 24 “Tippy Toes” over the course of the evening. In my defense, I was wearing a James Buchanan T-Shirt (an item which can only be found here in Lancaster, his hometown). It was a conversation starter. Many of Marianne’s guests are theatre people, so I was talking about the play I’m writing to boost the poor image we have of our 15th President. “It takes place during the Civil War,” I said.
“Oh, so it’s a musical,” Liz quipped.
“No,” I said, laughing, but then after a moment in thought, I said, it might contain some songs by Stephen Foster. Why not? He’s from Pennsylvania, too – and the same era as Buchanan, and his songs are in the public domain.”
“Old Folks at Home?
“Battle Hymn of the Republic?”
I got the most “Tippy Toes” from Patrick, who gave me four of them. The last one was just for looking like I was gonna start talking about Buchanan.
It was a learning experience for me, as I searched for the episodes in Buchanan’s life that most interested a theatre-going audience. I found out what worked.
Cool, I thought. Edison spent years testing over 10,000 elements, eliminating them until he was able to find Unobtanium, or whatever was the one substance he would use for a filament for his new light bulb. In just one night, I found out 100 things that the audience doesn’t want. A very famous sculptor, maybe it was Michelangelo, once said, I take a block of marble and chisel off the parts that are not whatever it is I want that statue to be. Me, too. I just have to chisel away the parts of my Buchanan’s story that the audience doesn’t like, which is pretty much everything between, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen” and “Good night. Drive safely.”
They liked the funny stuff, but there wasn’t a lot of funny stuff.
That settles it. Buchanan, a Rock Between Two Hard Places will now be a musical comedy.
I’m just gonna need more funny stuff. Way more funny stuff.
Did you hear the one about Buchanan, a priest, and a rabbi walking into a bar…?
I know. Tippy Toe.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,