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Future Hit Musical Sweatpants Wedding: The Circle of Life

Sweatpants Wedding is an unfinished musical about comfort and commitment. Stephan McCormick is its author. Tom Dibblee is “a friend of the project who happened to have the original idea and won’t go away.” Tom also had the original idea for the series you’re reading right now, retroactively titled Future Hit Musical Sweatpants Wedding, which has been sifting through the project’s history and documenting its progress over the past five months.

The original purpose of the series was to nudge Stephan into borrowing an acoustic guitar. Tom wanted Stephan to sit down with Jake de Grazia (another friend of the project who happens also to work with audio), play the six Sweatpants Wedding songs he has already written, tell the story of Sweatpants Wedding as it exists at the moment, and thus provide Jake with material with which he could build a six-part audio series called Sweatpants Wedding Unplugged.

This series—the meta-musical documentary series—ends today. It did not achieve its original purpose. Nor did it attract the pageviews and sponsorship to financially justify its continued existence here on Trop. By some measures, however—Tom’s, Jake’s, Stephan’s—it was a roaring success. Thank you for reading. As you’ll find out below, we’ll see you again soon.

JAKE DE GRAZIA: I’m going to start by making a note that the second we turned FaceTime on, Stephan used it as a mirror and adjusted his hair.

STEPHAN MCCORMICK: [Focused on his laptop] Oops. [Clicking, typing, more clicking] There we go. [Ringing, silence, sigh] It says “Tom Dibblee is busy at this time.”

JDG: Damn. We made an appointment. This guy is—


[Tom’s head is bobbing in and out of his screen, which is also flashing images of moving ceilings and furniture.]

JDG: What’s going on over there?

TD: I was walking into the bathroom to drop something in the wastebasket.

[Tom’s head stops moving as it settles in on a huge white pillow. He appears to be lounging on a soft surface. Stephan and Jake expect him to start eating fat red grapes presented to him on a sparkling plate by a scantily clad serving woman.]

JDG: Ok with you if we just get right to it?

TD: Sure. Yeah.

JDG: Do you know the purpose of this call, Stephan?

SM: I don’t know the purpose of this call.

JDG: Tom, you want to tell him the purpose of this call?

TD: To end Sweatpants Wedding.

JDG: That’s right. The purpose of this call is to let you know, Stephan, that Tom, the Editor in Chief of Trop, has chosen to cancel Sweatpants Wedding.

[Tom starts laughing, flashing shiny white teeth. Jake remembers that one of them is fake. And valuable.]

JDG: I think it’s only fair, Tom, that you explain.

TD: You want the real reason we’re canceling it?

JDG: I want whatever reason you want to give, real or not.

TD: Stephan sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal about sweatpants going mainstream. If that’s true, it puts us out of business. The whole play is gutted if sweatpants are now regular pants. We’d have to switch to Suit Pants Wedding or something.

JDG: You’re convinced that they’re going mainstream because of one article?

TD: The Wall Street Journal is one of the top authorities in America. I read it every day.

SM: Actually the article is about fame and disguises. It’s about celebrities wearing sweatpants to hide. But I guess you’re right, Tom, if celebrities do something, it’s gonna become mainstream. So, yeah, soon everybody’ll be wearing sweatpants.

JDG: But why does that mean the end of Sweatpants Wedding? It’s only just getting started as a column, and we have great stuff in the works. Stephan’s unpublished scenes and songs. Advice for Stephan from Peter Nichols. More original music from Brian Whaley. A discussion of a possible opening scene in a totally pitch black theater where the audience hears a phone call between the bride and her first choice for maid of honor, who rejects the bride’s request and ends their friendship right there in the dark, establishing huge amounts of internal conflict for the bride and opening the door for the second choice maid of honor, who will then, in a second dark theater phone call, ecstatically agree to be maid of honor without knowing—yet!—that she was the backup plan. Frankly, I think canceling the column would be ridiculous.

TD: Hold on Stephan. Before you say anything, I just want to let you know that in earlier conversations, Jake didn’t frankly think canceling the column was ridiculous. Jake and I, frankly, until right now, were on the same page.

JDG: How could we have been on the same page? It’s obviously a crazy idea to attempt to end a play of infinite length.

TD: That’s true. It’s very hard to end anything of infinite length. And I’ve tried to end Sweatpants Wedding many times before. I guess we could start a new column called Dispatches from Eternity: Sweatpants Wedding Revisited.

JDG: That’s an idea.

TD: But back to the original point: This was Jake’s idea.

JDG: What was my idea?

TD: To end Sweatpants Wedding.

[It’s worth noting here that Jake and Stephan, who are snuggled up on the couch in Stephan’s Thai Town apartment so Stephan’s laptop can film both of their faces and show them to Tom, are getting anxious and squirmy, while Tom is still lounging on his pillow and grinning.]

JDG: He’s making things up, Stephan. I wasn’t going to do this, because I felt like we didn’t need any extra drama, but I need to show you the email Patrick Benjamin sent me.

[Jake pulls a piece of paper from his backpack and hands it to Stephan. Stephan reads it, then holds it up to his laptop’s camera for Tom to see. It’s a printout from Jake’s Gmail, a forwarded message. Patrick’s note to Jake is a single sideways smiley face. Below that is the following letter from Patrick to Tom:

Dear Tom,

           With every fiber of my breeding I wish to instill my appreciation for your cancelation of “Sweatpants Wedding.” You took my advice, which is always the right thing to do. You will be duly rewarded.

           – Patrick

Tom’s grin widens when Stephan pulls the paper away. Tears well in Stephan’s eyes.]

JDG: Look, Sweatpants Wedding is going be a big hit. We know this. Big money. Big fame. Movie deal. You name it. And for Tom to decide to end it, first of all I find it misguided, but also I find it suspicious. It makes me think he’s trying to cut you out of the deal, Stephan, that he has another plan for Sweatpants Wedding, a plan that doesn’t involve you.

TD: [Opening a packet of Gushers] That plan would be to talk about it for another decade and revisit it on my forty-second birthday. [Tossing a purple Gusher into the air and catching it in his mouth] Look, just to be really super clear about this: Stephan, you can do whatever you want. You can have Sweatpants Wedding if you want. It’s yours. I gave birth to the baby, but you’ve been breastfeeding it, so you’re the one it loves. And when you put it on stage, I’ll sit in the front row and laugh really loudly at everything. I’ll even explain the lyrics to the people sitting next to me if they don’t hear them all or if they don’t get all the references to threesomes and stuff. I’m excited for that kind of role.

JDG: You want to be a fan but not a creator anymore?

TD: Whatever Stephan wants. I don’t care.

JDG: What do you want, Stephan?

TD: Yes. What do you want?

SM: So I think a hiatus—well it’s already been on a little hiatus—but I think a hiatus is a great idea. And maybe while we’re on this hiatus, we can hold a competition, asking readers to send in lyrics for a Sweatpants song, and the best lyrics win, and whoever submitted them gets to become my writing partner. It could be a sort of kickstart for the plot, something that might push the story to where it could actually be on a stage.

JDG: I see. So, Tom, Stephan wants to do some crowdsourcing for Sweatpants Wedding. You like that idea? How can Trop help make it happen?

TD: Actually I think that’s a great idea. A Kickstarter campaign for Sweatpants Wedding would be fun as hell.

SM: That’s not really what I meant. I meant something to kickstart some ideas, to kickstart some plot, not like a money Kickstarter.

TD: What do you mean? Why not a money Kickstarter?

SM: Well I guess a money one too if that’s what it takes to get ideas.

TD: We tell people that if they donate fifty bucks, they get to write a lyric in a song.

JDG: How much money do we need to raise?

TD: Stephan knows way better than me. He’s a Hollywood Man. Stephan, what would it take to bring your vision to life?

SM: To just finish writing it?

JDG: If we’re doing a Kickstarter campaign, we have to have a product of some kind. We have to have something that people can at the very least attend.

TD: How about a one-time performance at an awesome venue. Then we mail the video to the people who are out of state.

JDG: Ok. But we need a budget for that.

TD: Stephan, what do you think?

SM: To do it the right way, probably ten to fifteen grand, if you’re not paying the people for rehearsals.

TD: Dude we can get fifteen grand on Kickstarter no problem. No problem.

SM: My concern is getting it to a point where it’s not just like a mixtape and a pile of ideas but actually a performable thing.

TD: Ok. How about this: Do no more work except for the Kickstarter, but in the Kickstarter be really transparent about the fact that a lot of work remains to be done. Then, on performance day, if the play’s not ready, we can just approximate a play, and no one will complain, because they knew they were investing in an unfinished product.

JDG: You guys seriously think that if we got fifteen thousand dollars, we could do a one-time performance and have a video crew film it and edit it and make it into a decent little DVD?

SM: Twenty-five would be a lot easier.

[Tom’s grin flags slightly, his fake tooth losing one or two sparks of its sparkle.]

SM: We could probably do it for fifteen.

TD: How much time would you need from the end of the Kickstarter to performance time?

SM: Well it would need to be sort of written, you know. I mean if I’m not on a job, I could devote a couple weeks to just trying to work on the story, but I’d want some help, too. Like I’m really desiring some help.

TD: So we need to raise some of the Kickstarter money to pay Stephan. How much money would it take for you to put on your calendar that you’ve got three weeks during which you can’t work on another project?

SM: Like three grand maybe.

TD: So we need twenty-eight grand.

JDG: But first we need a video. That’s what you need to make a Kickstarter campaign work: a good pitch video that people will share.

TD: No problem. Stephan can do that shit no problem.

SM: Well, to do it the right way with multiple days and people and professional sound recording, we’ll probably need like ten grand.

JDG: To do a Kickstarter video? So what you’re telling me is that we need to raise ten grand in order to raise twenty eight grand? That seems like not the best business math for us.

SM: I mean I could call in a bunch of favors.

TD: Yes!

JDG: Do you want to call in the favors, Stephan?

SM: Well it sounds like it’d be fun. Um, yeah, I think if sooner rather than later we can kind of like get the story fleshed out to a point where I think it would look good on stage, then I would be very confident that we could pull it off. Probably.

JDG: Pull off the Kickstarter video or the actual play?

SM: The Kickstarter video. And we could do that with like a few grand plus some favors.

TD: Perfect.

JDG: What do we want the Kickstarter video to be? We’re trying to raise thirty-one thousand dollars for a one time performance of Sweatpants Wedding. How do we convince people to pay for that? What do we show them?

TD: We’ll just talk about everything that Sweatpants Wedding can be, and then we’ll mix in like forty five seconds of really awesome singing, plus like some animations or courtroom style illustrations of what Sweatpants Wedding should look like. We can describe that to an artist and have scenes in the video of us talking to her and her drawing. And the interview portion of the video is us holding up placards of those drawings and describing all this crazy ass shit that’s gonna happen on stage, with actual song audio, too, of course.

JDG: How long is this video going to be?

TD: Not long. Five minutes. We’ll do everything in a really businesslike way. Like it’s a TED Talk about Sweatpants Wedding and everything that it can and will be.

JDG: A TED-style pitch for why you should give money to Sweatpants Wedding, why it’ll change the world. I like that.

TD: Even if we don’t get the money, this is going to be an amazing video. I can see it now: Stephan talking to the set director and explaining why we have to have a piano fall from the ceiling and land right on Grandpa’s boner.

JDG: I think we’re on to something with this TED Talk thing.

TD: We’ll also need a shot of Stephan in a recording studio with a circular mic and one of those huge headsets on, singing his heart out, plus another of me and Jake behind the glass twiddling knobs and stuff.

JDG: So the scene we feature in the video we play within the TED Talk is sort of like a music video of one of the songs, with shots of Stephan singing the song in the recording studio, Stephan working with a set director, Stephan trying on sweatpants with the costume director, Stephan lifting weights and practicing a choreographed dance with the actors—

TD: Yeah. And us twiddling the audio knobs in the studio and eating Sun Chips.

JDG: Alright so how do we get started on this?

TD: I’ll start by writing a script for the Kickstarter video.

JDG: Ok, great. And remember this is a TED Talk-style idea pitch. You’ll have slides to refer to as well as that mini music video, which you can describe in your script. And once we have the presentation scripted, we’ll make the music vid, gather whatever slide images you need, set you up in an auditorium, put you in a suit, and film you giving the presentation. Then we edit that video together with the slides and the music vid. And that’s our Kickstarter video. Ok, Tom, you have an assignment.

TD: To write the script for a five-minute TED Talk-style presentation convincing people to invest in Sweatpants Wedding? No problem. That’s the easiest assignment I’ve ever had.

JDG: Is this a crazy idea, Stephan? You haven’t said anything for a while.

SM: No, no, I think TED Talks are cool.

TD: Stephan, if I do this, will you write the actual play, like the whole thing?

SM: Sweatpants Wedding?

TD: The whole thing.

SM: Well I would love to, but I want some help.

TD: OK so this is the input I need from you: What are your demands? Like what sort of help do you need exactly? This can be a lengthy list, you know, your wildest fantasy of what resources you’ll need if you have any chance of finishing the script.

JDG: Like a trip to a secluded beach and a tiki hut with a writing table?

SM: A Tony Award-winning Broadway writer to work with me for a week, helping make Sweatpants awesome?

TD: Sure, man, your wildest fantasy.

JDG: He’s gonna need pencils and notebooks.

TD: And Gatorade.

JDG: A new pair of sweatpants, of course.

TD: And a cat. And cat food. Is your cat in LA, Stephan?

SM: No. Not yet. It’s still in Georgia.

JDG: Definitely make that a demand. The Kickstarter campaign should pay for bringing the cat out from Georgia.

TD: I’ll bring you a cat, Stephan, as long as you bring me a play.

JDG: You’re gonna need an acoustic guitar, too.

SM: It’ll come with my cat.

TD: Ok. I think we’ve got a good plan. You send me a complete list of demands, Stephan, and I’ll write the video script.

JDG: Wow. Not only do we have a plan, but we have a cliffhanger ending for our final Future Hit Musical Sweatpants Wedding post.

TD: Congratulations, everyone.

Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.

Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.

Stephan McCormick lives in Los Angeles.