the Magic Accordion

words wot I wrot(e)

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The Magic Accordion

a responsible work

written and performed by
Michael Paulukonis and Michael Benedetti

Dramatis Personnae

YPA: Young Performance Artist, a starry-eyed idealist from West Viriginia

G:        the Greatest Performance Artist of All Time (a doll in a white suit, spiked hair, and sunglasses, suspended from a wire. Any similarity to Laurie Anderson is purely coincidental and should be banished from your mind)

DIR:   the Director of the National Endowment for the Arts/Director of Wallpaper

            (one side of a cardboard box)

H:        the House Ways and Means Committee

(a five-animal hand-puppet from Ikea that appears from a side of the box)

SPK:    the Speaker of the House

            (the other side of a cardboard box)

Other:  refers to any action not taken by character. ie, announcements, staging, audience interaction ,etc.


YPA starts [boxing] aka The Life of Biggie Smalls a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G. [this is a quiet, non-obtrusive signature piece from Michael Benedetti. it will not be announced]. Other hands out paper crayons, etc. and direct audience to create buildings and trees.

Michael Drew Benedetti confounds the audience with a startlingly personal interpretation of the Life of Biggie Smalls

This is completed.

[boxing] comes to an end

YPA:    Thanks Mom; thanks Aunt Marge. Boy, I wish people other than my relatives would come to my performances. When nobody’s here I get depressed. I wonder if this is all worthwhile.

[The Greatest Performance Artist of All Time apppears suspended from a stick. While she never really speaks audibly, the YPA reacts as though she does.]

The Greatest Performance Artist of All Time appears before the Young Performance Artist. Any resemblance to Laurie Anderson is strictly coincidental. Honest.

YPA:            Whoa!!!!! It’s the greatest performance artist of all time! … What’s that, you say? I shouldn’t get discouraged! I really am doing good work? Gee, thanks. But it sure is hard making a living as a performance artist here in West Virginia. …What’s that you say? I should get a grant? From the Wizard? In Washington, D.C.? Terrific! Off I go!  …. Oh, wait… What’s that, you say? You have a special gift for me, to protect me and guard me on my journey?  Oooooh, it’s a Magic Accordion! Gee, thanks! Big City, here I come!

[YPA wanders about mentioning various town and locales he is passing through. Mentioning several local communities would be a nice touch. Other directs audience to use pictures of Buildings and Trees in a manner that would seem to suggest how large the community is. Guess.]

YPA:    Well, here I am in Washington, DC, the political and cultural capitol of America. And it’s just like I pictured it! [begins pointing at audience drawings in no particular order] There’s the Washington Monument! And there’s the Capitol Building! That must be the White House, and I think that’s the Lincoln Memorial. Gee, there sure are a lot of great things to see here!

DIR:     First time in Washington, son?

YPA:    Why, yes, it is! I’m a young performance artists here to see the Wizard about an arts grant!

DIR:     Heh, heh, heh. You don’t want to see Mr. Wizard, son, he only deals with Science; you want to talk to me! I’m the Director of the National Endowment for the Arts!

YPA:    Wow!

DIR:     Why don’t we talk about your ideas over dinner?

Y:         Okay!

[YPA sits in a chair. Director’s hand is removed to reveal fork.]

YPA:    This must be a famous Washington Watering hole. [Begins pointing to audience in no particular order] There’s George Will & William Safire. That’s Janet Reno. I think that’s Martha Washington. And Condoleeza Rice. Oooh, it’s Andrew Jackson: to hell with the Supreme Court! Mr. Jackson!

DIR:     So. You’re a young performance artist looking for a grant. Tell me proposal.

YPA:  Well, it’s rather small and I’d only need $25,000.  See, after taking all my clothes off and painting myself blue, I will gnaw on this big block of chocolate for twelve hours while beating my head with a Lebanon baloney. After this, I will wrap my feet in felt, and walk backward to get a cup of coffee. I think this last part will cost about $15,000 and take six months.

DIR:     $15 thousand and six months for a cup of coffee!!?!??!???

YPA:    Well, I’d like to get a fresh cup in Brazil.

DIR:     Ah-ha! I love it! It’s Beautiful! What geomorphic neo-libidinal pan-constitutional resonance exploring the dialectic of mastication! I know you only asked for 25 thousand, but, here, take 200 hundred thousand! I insist! Oh boy, I can see Congressional Committees lining up for blocks to protest this!

H:         Did somebody say Congressional Committee?!?

DIR:     Oh, no! It’s the House Ways and Mean Committee! I didn’t expect them!

H:            NOBODY expects the House Ways and Means Committee!

DIR:     That’s because nobody knows what you do!

H:         Silence! You will come with us.

[they are kidnapped]

YPA:    Oh, boy, they’re kidnapping us. This is just what I expected to encounter in the big city! I don’t think I’m in West Virginia anymore!

            [the Director turns around, revealing the side that is the Speaker of the House. He has a cardboard gun taped to his hand]

SPK:    Ah, you have come.

YPA:    It’s the Speaker of the House! And he’s got a gun!

SPK:    Purely a formality of the office. Welcome to my chambers.

DIR:     What’s the meaning of this?

SPK:    You have been chosen to be reeducated for your misunderstanding of the relationship between art and finance.

YPA:    With all due respect, Mr. Speake,r sir, I may not understand finance, but I do understand art. I am a practicing performance artist, here to get a grant so that I may continue my work.

SPK:    Work? Please, show me your work.

YPA:    I call this Explaining Pictures to an Inflatable Rabbit

[YPA proceeds to read The New Potty or some such children’s book to the Inflatable Rabbit, making good and sure to talk about the pictures a lot.]

Mercer Mayer's "The New Potty" is a fun and educational book, as every Inflatable Plastic Rabbit can attest.

SPK:    Mr. Director, you planned to fund this junk? You are beyond redemption and deserving of the worst possible punishment. You are henceforth the Director of Wallpaper at the Antarctic Research Facility,effective immediately, ex-post-facto and ad naseum.

[the Director-side is covered with wallpaper]

YPA:    But what about me?

SPK:    You have…potential. But first, I have a series of exercises for you.

YPA:    Ok, sure, I’m game! (boy, this is just what I expected from Washington!)

SPK:    Whistle Dixie!

YPA:    [he complies with this and all subsequent request-orders, albeit a bit uncertainly and with growing confusion and lack of coordination]

SPK:    cross your fingers

            say the alphabet backwards

            hop on one foot

            hop on both feet

            hop on both feet while patting your head with your left hand

YPA:    [exasperated]

This is ridiculous!

SPK:    And reading kiddie books to a plastic animal is not?!

YPA:    That's different! I'm trying to communicate something!

SPK:    You want to communicate? But you have to have an audience that won't  walk out on have to keep 'em awake and in their seats….unless you’ve got them rolling in the aisles!  Don’t you see, you’ve got to

Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh
Don’t you know everyone wants to laugh?
My Dad said “Be an actor my son—but be a comical one!
They’ll be standing in lines for those old Honky-tonk monkeyshines”
You could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
Or you could charm the critics and have nothing to eat.
Just slip on a banana peel: the world’s at your feet!
Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh!

Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh
Don’t you know the whole world wants to laugh?
My grandpa said “go out and tell ‘em a joke
But give it plenty of hoke!”
Make em roar make em scream
Catch the ball, butt a wall, split a seam!
You start out by pretending you’re a dancer with grace:
You wiggle ‘til you’re jiggling all over the place.
Then, you get a great big custard pie in the face!
Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh!

The Speaker of the House Makes 'Em Laugh

YPA:    I see what you mean! Art should make people happy!

DIR:     I think he’s got it!

YPA:    Art should be upbeat!

DIR:     By George Washington, I think he’s got it!

YPA:    Art should serve the needs of the state!

SPK:    Now you’ve got it!

YPA:    [paces furiously]

I need to come with a new piece now. Let me think…. I’ve got it!

[passes out rhythm sticks to audience and teaches them the basic tango polyrhythms]

[plays Good Citizenship Tango as the DIR/SPK box dances about]

Every accordion player is a Good Citizen

The tango ain't a dance that you can dance on your own
It takes two to do it
And a civil society ain't something that's gonna happen on its own
It takes you to do it

Now everybody from Duluth down to Durango
They're doing the Good Citizenship Tango
And a man up in the boardroom working out some exploitative angle
He's doing the Good Citizenship Tango
And the people out in the fields picking a strawberry or a mango
They're doing the Good Citizenship Tango

Now if you feel the need
To rock the boat
Please do it the American way
And register to vote!

[the speaker-director box turns into a Voter Registration Booth]

Astronomy for the People hopes you enjoyed the show.

Astronomy for the People are not only Good Citizens, they are also available for Birthdays, Bar/Bat Mitvahs, and the occasional Bris.
All photos in this document taken by L. Chloe Kaczenski.

©2001 Michael J. Paulukonis & Michael Drew Benedetti, except as noted