You’ve read the first two scenes of Sweatpants Wedding. You’ve heard its first two songs. You’ve learned of its humble origins. You’re privy to the controversy over its authorship. You’ve felt the power of the mysterious woman who fuels its continued development. But you don’t know how the project is evolving.
Well that’s about to change.
Because Stephan McCormick is writing again, and he knows he’s the subject of this documentary, and he has specific instructions to call me immediately if he’s ever out on his fire escape, chain smoking, looking out over Thai Town, and ready for his next interview.
JAKE DE GRAZIA: As a fan, I’m concerned about Scene Two. The audience might misunderstand the groom. They might not get what a big deal this engagement is for him, what an incredible transformation is happening in him. Does this worry you at all?
STEPHAN MCCORMICK: You think because he seems to be genuinely horny for his wife that viewers should see him as less despicable?
JDG: I don’t want them to see him as despicable at all. I want them to see his sensitivity, his willingness to become a new man. Given who he is, the fact that he’s about to commit to this new relationship is extraordinary, and I’m worried that his obvious narcissism, for the casual audience member, might overshadow his depth. I don’t mean to criticize here—
SM: No, no. I’m open to it.
JDG: Is this something that concerns you? Or do you feel confident that, in the next couple of scenes, you’re going to give people more reason to love the guy?
SM: [Long pause.] Do you think the groom’s is a lovable narcissism?
JDG: I don’t think the narcissism itself is lovable, but I think there are lovable elements of the man.
SM: Of course there are. We all know narcissists, and they all have friends, and not every narcissist can continually pay off his friends with jobs or booze or gifts or whatever people pay friends off with. So isn’t it natural for the groom to have lovable qualities? And, yes, a proper relationship is absolutely a new thing for him. He’s attempting to make a commitment, and, in his own mind at least, committing is the right thing to do.
JDG: And we should love him for that, right? Or should we think he’s crazy?
SM: [Long pause.] There’s some value to his attempting to make the commitment, but, at the same time, we can see that maybe this isn’t the smartest thing to do. But what are we supposed to think? That he shouldn’t commit to anybody, remain perpetually single, be a swinger? Or should we consider this a real chance for him to try to settle down and give it a go? Should we be cynical about his ability to settle down, or should we be hopeful? I think having both in mind at the same time is what I was attempting to go for.
JDG: Yeah. Wow. I gotta say I’m really excited to learn more about this guy.
SM: He needs another song, doesn’t he? I’ve only written one song for him, but he needs another. He does, man. He needs another song. [Pause. Stephan lights another cigarette.] So as it’s written right now, Sweatpants Wedding ends at the wedding. And now I’m not sure it should. It ends with this whole epic scene in which Grandpa tries to molest the flower girl as she walks down the aisle. He feels like he’s about to have a heart attack. He wants to get his jollies off one last time. He grabs at this little girl. And of course Grandpa hasn’t even made much of an entrance yet. You don’t know anything about Grandpa, do you?
JDG: Nothing. Two scenes into the story, you’ve given me a little glimpse of the bride, a little glimpse of the groom, plus a good idea of the best man’s admiration of the groom. And of course you’ve hinted at the fact that the people in the story are all interested in sweatpants in one way or another. I assume we’ll get plenty more of that.
SM: So, in listening again to the third song—
JDG: Which is forthcoming.
SM: Yes, in listening to the forthcoming third song again, I think the ladies are probably our most clear-eyed characters, and I think what has yet to be written but ought to be is a sort of confrontation between the bride and the groom about the life lessons that the bride has been learning. She needs to gauge his reaction to them. Plus I think there needs to be some sort of plot thinger that forces the groom to reiterate his commitment to her, and I just got a great idea about how that could be. Maybe the groom gets a little too drunk, and the best man starts to put moves on him, and maybe he could rebuff the best man and then say, “I keep my squirties for my honey.”
JDG: That poor best man. Part of him loves the groom so much he wants to kiss him. Part of him loves the groom so much he wants to be the best best man ever.
SM: Dude that should be a song. Yes. There needs to be a song called “The Best Best Man”. Jesus. That’s two songs I gotta write.
JDG: As you know better than anyone, Sweatpants Wedding isn’t in a hurry. I certainly don’t see any reason not to go ahead and expand things. You can always pull it back in later, you know, tighten the old drawstring. And if you want to make these characters as compelling as possible, maybe you need to add more songs. Patrick will hate it, but I don’t think we need to get into that. In fact, we should save all the Patrick Benjamin bullshit for later. I want to ask you about—
SM: I wonder what Patrick thought about our interview about the dark lady.
JDG: I’m trying to figure that out. Patrick’s a hard guy to find sometimes. I think he lives in the hills on the other side of the hills, the hills of La Cañada.
SM: The hills of the hills?
JDG: The hills beyond the hills. In some kind of estate out there, with animals, a lot of animals.
SM: I see.
JDG: It’s not totally clear, but I think there’s a grandmother involved. What I’m saying is that I need to go there. I need to take it all in. I need to understand this guy.
SM: Maybe do the interview while Patrick’s shoveling slop and milking cows?
JDG: I don’t think Patrick milks the cows and shovels the slop. I think he tells the people who shovel the slop and milk the cows not to fuck up, and then he tells someone else to bring him the tiger cub to cuddle. But let’s not think about him right now. Let’s get back to Sweatpants Wedding. I want to know how much those first two stage-setting scenes were influenced by Tom’s original idea? Or are they something you spun off in your own mind?
SM: To be quite honest, once Tom told me about the idea—the idea of a sort of Gordian Knot of love complications at a wedding in sweatpants—I just kind of ran with it. When I first sent Tom my breakdown of the first couple acts, he had these really great ideas for me, but, at that point, I was already too close to what I’d started writing, so I didn’t take any of his advice. He was talking about maybe starting the whole thing with the bride waking up in the gutter and drunk, and, now, I hear an idea like that, and I’m like, Great! Let’s add it! Let’s do it! But back then I was like, No I can’t do that. This is the way it is. So, yeah, in my recollection, the first couple of scenes came entirely from me.
JDG: And that includes the whole best man crush dynamic?
SM: We talked about there being some kind of imbalance in that relationship, but as far as the best man maybe liking the groom so much he wants to kiss him, that’s from me.
JDG: And the groom’s narcissism?
SM: That’s from me as well.
JDG: What of Tom’s original character or story ideas still exist in those first two scenes?
SM: [Long pause.] The best man liking the groom, the groom liking himself, the bride not knowing what she likes, and the maid of honor wanting to like somebody. I think those nuggets came from conversations with Tom. If not explicitly, then implicitly.
JDG: So you’re saying the original seed of the thing is very much alive?
SM: I believe so. Tom’s kernel was that all the main characters should like the wrong people. I took it from there.
JDG: Got it. And how do the sweatpants relate to that kernel?
SM: [Longest pause yet. Two big drags on Stephan’s cigarette, easy.] Let’s think about what sweatpants are. They’re not constricting. They’re loose. For certain social environments or weather situations, they’re the wrong wardrobe choice. But they can be worn in multiple social environments if you don’t mind the way you look. In fact, you could live your life wearing nothing but sweatpants. And I think what all the primaries have in common is that they don’t lose sleep about the social roles they’re supposed to play. Times are a-changin’, you know what I mean, and these folks don’t want to be seen as pretentious. They’re not going out of their way to wear sweatpants, but I think sweatpants are the perfect pants for them while they’re kind of working out what they’re trying to do with their lives. So if you were making a sort of pun on words, they’re trying to work out their relationships. And I don’t know about you, but I wear sweatpants when I work out. But I also want to emphasize that Sweatpants Wedding wasn’t created out of a pun. That just sort of happened naturally. And you know I think people our age—Generation Y and the Millennials—we sort of take it as a matter of course that the social roles that even our parents had to deal with aren’t the social roles that we ourselves can play. Our work situation now is so different. There are so many temporary jobs. I myself, as a quote unquote Hollywood Man, get nothing but temporary jobs, and these Sweatpants Wedding girls, like for instance in the next song, they say, I’d rather die than work your nine to five. And the men don’t necessarily want to be hewed into I’m a straight man, and that’s my identity or I’m a gay man because those just don’t fit with the way the groom and the best man are attracted to things. I think our characters all prefer looser definitions of life, and there are few articles of clothing as loose as sweatpants. So maybe you could say sweatpants are the pants of our generation.
(To read everything anyone has ever written pertaining in any way to Sweatpants Wedding, click here.)
Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.
Stephan McCormick lives in Los Angeles.