Patchwork: Were You Away?

By Chris Quilter
By Chris Quilter

By: Chris Quilter

If you are one of those people who love hearing about other people’s vacations, I don’t believe we’ve met. Whenever anyone in my gene pool comes back from a trip, especially one that might excite envy in others, our traditional greeting — preferably delivered with a puzzled expression — is, “Were you away?”

I’m on that kind of trip. It has landed me in an enviable thatched-roof farmhouse south of Hamburg, Germany, where cousin Jane’s daughter, an anthropologist by trade, tends to her kids, husband, dogs, cats, and chickens. It’s idyllic — a 100 shades of green, as Jane puts it. The weather has been atypically sonnig und mild, no one will let me lift a finger and, if I muster the strength to get this written, I will qualify as a foreign correspondent for the Indy.

Because I specialize in lazy traveling where almost nothing happens very slowly and have a column to fill, I am going to use this column to announce something of immense importance to the mental health of our beleaguered community: “Lagunatics” is coming.

“Gagtime,” which runs for the first three weekends in October at the Forum Theater, is the 21st annual roast of the coast, but only my 10th time as co-writer with creator/director/diva and hot glue gunslinger Bree Burgess Rosen. I was determined to call it quits after last year’s 20th anniversary show. I’ll be 70 in a few weeks and thought it was time to find more dignified ways of making a fool of myself. Surely, I reasoned, our “best of” show last year would be my last chance to go out on a high note. If I can call you Surely.

It turns out I have an addiction stronger than reason to the sound of helpless laughter. And the town — a bottomless mosh pit of material — keeps doing things that cried out for musical parody. So, before taking off on my vacation, I spent a frenetic six weeks of writing and talking Bree and myself into believing that the show would be one of our best. In case I’m wrong, Bree and the cast are now in rehearsals doing everything they can to triumph over the material.

“Gagtime” has some tried-and-true elements — men in dresses, dancing goats, and songs about tourists, traffic, and the ravages of over-privilege. This year, the town has also provided us with a bumper crop of hot potato issues such as the village entrance, the view preservation ordinance, and the school board brouhaha. This presumes you have taken an occasional glance at the Letters to the Editor in the Indy, which merit a number, as does our hometown’s one and only Brenda Starr, reporter.

As usual, a few numbers didn’t pan out. The sludge pipeline at Aliso Creek was going to be our traditional salute to E. coli

Making fun of Laguna’s brush-clearing goats remains a beloved “Lagunatics” tradition, as seen in this 2009 show.
Making fun of Laguna’s brush-clearing goats remains a beloved “Lagunatics” tradition, as seen in this 2009 show.

before our creative juices pooped out. The proposed pathway linking Top of the World and Arch Beach Heights felt like a neat fit for “The Happy Wanderer” but never got past “I love to go a-wandering.” We skipped the praiseworthy South Laguna Community Garden, which sits on Coast Highway where its organic crops get a light coating of brake dust and exhaust emissions. We skipped Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, although Sr. Mary Pat Immaculata Virgine will make — spoiler alert — a surprise appearance. We even skipped our traditional Pageant of Disasters tribute.

I think this is the third year Bree and I have tried to adapt “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” But we did work in a song about the post-parade belly dancer brawl at the Marine Room (which was the moment I realized I would have to work on another show) as well as the closing of San Onofre, the upcoming Complete Streets roundabout, and as merry marketers like to say: much, much more.

Do make plans to come to the Forum in October and hold us to our promise of “not a dry seat in the house.” Just stop pestering us to do a number about the Diaper Bandit. That was so last year.


Laguna local Chris Quilter likes to believe that you’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.

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