In this, Part 1 of “Sweatpants The Interview,” Jake de Grazia talks to Tom Dibblee about Sweatpants Wedding, the musical that’s nowhere close to done but that Tom insists on running in The Weather anyway, in part to goad Stephan McCormick, his writing partner in this affair, to get some work done. Click away to read earlier installments of Sweatpants, or just keep on going to read this one.
JAKE DE GRAZIA: Let’s talk about Sweatpants Wedding. You tell me it’s the most celebrated partially completed musical of all time.
TOM DIBBLEE: Sweatpants Wedding, more so than a play designed to be performed, is, in fact, a play designed to be talked about. So yes, let’s talk; fire away.
JDG: I’ve known about SW since you first told me about it in 2004. I’ve been reading about it here in The Weather for a couple of weeks now. And last week I read Act I and heard the song that’s the centerpiece of that act. From what I can tell, though, the play has no plot. Stephan, who says he’s the one who actually wrote the thing, tells me it’s about “relatively hip young people who want things, especially comfort.” And you, the guy who came up with the idea for it, tell me it’s about “the pros and cons of indecent exposure.” Those descriptions aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they don’t exactly convince me that the play has much of a story. And while Stephan’s rendition of the opening number is extremely impressive, it doesn’t seem to be about anything either, aside, of course, from sweatpants and weddings.
TD: I’m not sure where you’re headed with all this.
JDG: I guess what I’m wondering is: What inspired Sweatpants Wedding? You’ve been discussing it for years. I loved the idea when I first heard it. And it’s starting to take up a lot of space on Trop. So I feel like it must be about something. And I think I might be able to figure that out if you tell me where the idea came from.
TD: I see.
JDG: There was a question in there.
(Long pause; Jake’s cat DovR crawls onto Tom’s belly. Tom is lying down on Jake’s aunt’s lawn while Jake is sitting cross-legged; Jake’s cat DovR lives at Jake’s aunt’s house, which is a salient point because otherwise you, the reader, might think that Jake travels with his cat, or brought his cat with him from his own house to his aunt’s house—this is not so.)
TD: Well, I suppose SW came from a very special mood.
JDG: You’ve mentioned before a mood you were in while eating snack food and looking for jobs on Craigslist when you were a recent college graduate. That mood?
TD: Exactly, Jake. That’s exactly the mood this came from. Sweatpants Wedding came out of a special sort of mood, and that’s the mid-afternoon snack food mood, when you’ve been applying for jobs as best you can, which is something you can do for maybe a couple hours. You’ve taken a walk to the grocery store and gotten candy. You’ve walked back. You were hoping that your errand would kill an hour and a half, but really it’s only killed forty-five minutes. So you’re like, What? I’m back to my computer again? Nothing has changed? Why am I here? Why am I doing this? I started writing Sweatpants Wedding out of that mid-afternoon, I-had-hoped-I-had-killed-time-more-effectively-than-I-had; I’d-found-that-I’d-failed-at-killing-time-and-I-needed-a-new-strategy kind of mood. I’d say the writing of Sweatpants Wedding came out of unemployment anxiety and also living-at-home-with-parents anxiety and also just the general sense of degeneracy that accompanies not having a job and therefore not having any money but still finding a way to get drunk every night, leaving you with a hangover that’s not only physically draining but also existentially draining insofar as you’re aware that you’ve got some sort of guile for getting drunk on no funds, but that said guile refuses to translate into professional success, even though you think it probably should.
JDG: Did you wear a lot of sweatpants that summer?
TD: I don’t even think I owned sweatpants at the time.
(Tom pauses, eyes brightening.)
TD: THIS is what it is, Jake. Now we’re getting somewhere. When you’re drinking every night and spending as much time as possible looking for jobs and finding that “as much time as possible” adds up to only two to three hours per day, and when you’re eating—when you are CRUSHING—all the snack food your parents manage to buy for your twenty-two-year-old self, like they cannot replenish the cabinets fast enough, you start thinking, You know what kind of life I’m cut out for? I’m cut out for life in sweatpants. That’s what it is. You’re like, Why do I bother putting on regular pants to go walk down to the grocery store to buy candy when this is my life? What do I have to hide? Why am I pretending it would be easier if I were just honest with myself? I was in a permanent sweatpants kind of mood. Actually, I could summarize my unemployment anxiety and fear of living with parents for the rest of my life as a state of being called Permanent Sweatpants. Or Fear of Permanent Sweatpants. And I suppose that the peak of Permanent Sweatpants or the worst of the Fear of Permanent Sweatpants is the sweatpants wedding. Imagine sitting there saying, Ok, I’m running dangerously close to a lifestyle called Permanent Sweatpants. Where does this lead me? What’s gonna happen? And then what flashes before you is your bride at the altar with her sweats on, gazing into your blessed eyes, yes, but also showing a deep and profound remorse that, if it weren’t for the pants she were wearing, you wouldn’t have much of an explanation for.
JDG: How did you translate that feeling into the characters in the play?
(Tom pauses, furrows his brow.)
TD: I mean there are no characters. There are only names, Jake. Bride, Groom, Best Man, Maid of Honor. That’s all we’ve got. Fear of Permanent Sweatpants is an impersonal phenomenon. It can strike anyone. To give names to our assailants would be to discount the fear’s sweeping and powerful scope.
JDG: Would Stephan McCormick corroborate this?
TD: Probably not.
Words and insight from McCormick himself are coming soon in The Weather…
Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.