Senior superhero thesis engages the ‘theater of the awkward’

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English major Thomas Arcuri ’15 discusses his senior thesis project, “The Somewhat Less Than Super Adventures of the Gargoyle and the Sparrow, Including the Pseudo-comical Incident of the Fanfiction and What Transpired After,” a comedic play revolving around two retired superheroes seeking to recapture the fame of their glory days.

Jenna Salisbury: Your play has quite the title. How did you come up with such a crazy title, and what’s the story behind it?

Thomas Arcuri: Well the title is kind of a summary of the plot. It’s about two guys, whose superhero personas are the Gargoyle and the Sparrow. I kind of framed them after Batman and Robin. Their real names are Frank and Eddie. Frank, as the older of the two, is a little more grounded than his partner, Eddie. Eddie tends to jump headlong into things without thinking. He’s really impulsive and his impulsiveness is what ultimately gets him and Frank in trouble.

The play starts off with Eddie who, after a run in with an ultra fan, Catherine (who is also a prolific fanfiction writer) is inspired by her slash fanfiction of The Gargoyle and the Sparrow, to try to become famous again. In an effort to reclaim his fame, Eddie seeks out Frank and convinces him to pretend to be married and basically reenact Catherine’s fanfiction to cater to their fan base. However, the dynamic duo soon finds themselves in a situation beyond their control.

JS: That’s a funny, albeit very bizarre story. Where did you come up with this plot?

TA: Well, from Catherine’s angle, I related to her because we are both amateur writers. Plus, identity politics has always fascinated me. Like how people love categorizing you, and how that kind of clashes with how you identify yourself. And I thought superheroes served as a great gateway to that theme because they are able to hide themselves behind a fake persona that is always under the scrutiny of the public, making it easy for them to escape their true identities.

JS: What did you love and hate about writing your play? Was there anything that made the creative process difficult or troublesome?

TA: My enthusiasm for script writing began late in my high school career with the plays “Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead,” and “Waiting for Godot.”

Then, at Union I took a couple of acting classes, got heavily involved with the Mountebanks Theater Club and took a script writing class with Professor Albert. I ended up loving the script writing process of putting a story together and having it come to life in front of a live audience. And this play specifically has that “theater of the awkward” vibe.

It’s kind of quirky, kind of offbeat and ever so slightly uncomfortable. And it’s not a traditional comic story. It doesn’t have action-packed fight sequences or moral dilemmas, or anything like that. It focuses on characters that let their dreams and pasts dictate their actions, which tangles them in sticky situations.

I’d say one of more challenging aspects of writing a script is striking the balance between what you want to convey and what makes sense to your audience. Sometimes you write something that you absolutely love and want to share, but if it doesn’t fit with what you want to convey you have to take it out for your audience.

JS: What are your plans for life after Union?

TA: I will be substitute teaching in elementary schools and hopefully in the near future, begin applying for grad school for library science. I also plan to continue to develop new ideas for projects. I’ve got a couple ideas swimming around now, actually. And my long-term goal as a writer is to make a good adaptation of the biblical tale, The Story of King David.

 

Arcuri will be having a dramatic table reading of his play in Karp Hall, and plans on scheduling a radio broadcast of the play as well.

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