Musical Hanukkah: Checking out The Rocket Theater


“This just keeps getting worse,” Mitchell mumbled as they walked up to the stage door of The Rocket Theater. Okay, so there weren’t any queens hanging around outside, blowing kisses at them like he’d been afraid there would be, but JR still trailed behind them like some little brother who wanted nothing more than to hear the older kids liked his plan.

Maybe, Mitchell thought, if this was okay, he’d pat the manager on the head.

“It’s just a walk-through. We’ve done a million of them,” Daniel said.

“Not with a guy named Penis.”

Daniel gave him a sidelong look. “Better than a girl named Penis.”

“Think they hire women around here?”

“They hired Kerri, didn’t they?” Daniel knocked on the stage door, then tried the handle. It was, of course, open. The action behind it was minimal; mornings at most clubs like this were quiet.

“The queens hired her, not the theater,” Mitchell said, following the drummer through the door and holding it for JR. He couldn’t deny that this was a better theater, or that he’d had more than a few fantasies of ShapeShifter being the band who’d break the stranglehold the queens had on the joint. The fact that they were able to do that and stay open was pretty damn amazing. Their audience wasn’t nearly as big or as thirsty as the All Access crowd.

“Help ya?” A stage hand showed up out of a shadow or something. Dressed in black, with dyed black hair, he had a body carved at the gym and colored in a tanning bed. Mitchell wondered if he did more hands than stage.

“We’re looking for Penis,” Daniel said.

Mitchell admired the guy’s straight face although if it had been him talking, he’d have been equally as cool. They weren’t ShapeShifter for nothing.

Besides, they’d left Trevor at home. There was no one to start the snickering.

“Before you ask, he does not have a strange-shaped head,” the stage hand said.

“Why would he?” Mitchell asked, as blank as possible, like he didn’t get the joke. A quick phone call to Kerri before they’d come over had cleared it all up: the guy’s name was Richard. He’d been through rehab twice and he was the lord of the manor, deservedly so, Kerri said. He knew everything.

“Why Penis?” he’d asked her.

“His name’s Richard,” she’d said. “What’s Richard’s nickname? Dick. What’s another word for a dick? A penis.”

“Coulda called him Schlong,” Mitchell had said.

“Penis sounds better. Wait until you meet him. It fits.”

The stage hand eyed Mitchell, clearly expecting to be hit with a joke. But Mitchell just kept staring. Finally he said, “So where is this Penis dude?”

“Ahh, you’re the ShapeShifter guys,” someone said from behind a curtain. He stepped out into the backstage area. Well over six foot four and skinny as hell, with one of those protruding Adams Apples and the curl to his shoulders and back that extremely tall people adopted when they spent too much time with short folk, he had his red hair pulled back in a pony tail. “I’m Penis,” he said, offering hands.

JR took over from there while Mitchell and Daniel let the buff stage hand show them around. The dressing rooms were huge and well-lit, as Kerri had said they would be. One wall in each room was given over to clothing storage, including wigs. Mitchell wanted to try them on and goof a bit, but the stage hand was looking a little

“Something wrong?”

“Penis will be looking for you. We don’t do a lot of live music and when we do, it’s nothing like what you guys play. You’re the best to tell him what we need to change. He’s eager to get to work on this.”

Mitchell and Daniel exchanged a look. Sure, JR had babbled something about theater management doing whatever it took to make the band happy. They’d heard that before, too many times. And too many times, it had been nothing but hot air. “You’re for real?” he asked the stage hand.

The guy nodded. He looked like he wanted to say something but was holding back.

Mitchell frowned, wondering what it would take to get this Chrome dude to spill, but he was already hustling them back to the stage. He’d changed the subject, too, to the catering. “Whatever you want in your dressing room, that’s no problem. We’re used to all sorts of strange things. I mean, I thought eating disorders were limited to teenage girls, but you’d be surprised.”

This, Mitchell thought, from a guy so buff, he probably ate baby food out of the jar to avoid any and all fats.

“There you are,” JR said as they stepped onto the stage. Mitchell looked out into what would be the audience. He couldn’t help but grin. There was something about a stage that got him every single fucking time, especially a stage he was going to be playing from. JR stepped up beside him. “What do you think?”

When the manager actually waited for his answer, he said, “Perfect.”

“I’ll say,” Daniel said, pacing off the width of the stage. “I never knew it was this big.”

Penis smirked. “We hope to get a lot more of that.” He held a clipboard that he looked down at. “Now, tell me what sort of sound you need us to get. What goes where. The whole works. We guarantee the backline will be perfect.”

“We’ve got all that,” Mitchell said. “We’re ShapeShifter.”

He watched Penis carefully. The guy tried to mask his irritation, but Mitchell caught it. Sure enough, The Rocket Theater wanted to move into live rock shows. Why else would you worry about the backline for a band like them?

He shrugged. Whatever their story was, it was theirs. All he needed to focus on was the chairty show. He’d make the calls when he got home, get the right people on this, figure out what was going on, why they were doing this, and how it would impact the scene.

But for right now, all he wanted to do was stand and stare at the audience and remember those dreams he’d had when he’d been younger.

So we’re getting closer to the holiday and the show. Feel like you’ve walked into the middle of something? You have.

Have no fear, though. This link will take you to the set-up for this piece. This link will take you to the introduction of this year’s celebration, complete with links for the new t-shirts available to us real people. Remember that any copies of The Demo Tapes or any t-shirts you buy will include a donation to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which works to bring instruments to our kids, so they can join their school band or orchestra. It’s a worthwhile donation on your end, and you’ll get either a book or a t-shirt — or both! — to remind you that even something as small as a buck has power. Come join us.



  1. Rhonda Leigh Jones

    December 16, 2008 11:31 am

    This is awesome! And I’m a picky, picky reader. The characterization is wonderful. Just makes me want to hang out backstage w/ these guys. I know you’ve got some character descriptions around here somewhere, so that I can do just that. Awesome. But…er…there’s a little type-o, which I don’t usually point out b/c I know that’s a pain in the a**, but…ya called the drummer, the “dummer,” and I know one of my guys would be having fits about something like that. Poor drummers…:snicker:

  2. Susan

    December 16, 2008 11:46 am

    Oh, Rhonda, THANK YOU. There is nothing dumb about Daniel; the guy’s a total egghead, news junkie type. Loves feeling smart. So yeah, calling him a dummer would be an insult.

  3. Alice Audrey

    December 16, 2008 12:30 pm

    I get the feeling this is building up toward something. Next!!! Soon, right?

  4. Susan

    December 16, 2008 12:36 pm

    Well, Hanukkah starts in a few days, so … yeah!

  5. Wylie

    December 16, 2008 2:33 pm

    LOL – I just love the ‘man called Penis’ interplay!! LOL

  6. Thomma Lyn

    December 16, 2008 2:41 pm

    WHEE! And we meet Penis. 😀 What fun! I love how he got his name.

    This was just classic — laugh out loud lines and a scene so clear that the guys and the scene played itself out in Technicolor in my head. Great work, my friend!

  7. Shelley Munro

    December 16, 2008 3:29 pm

    Your characters always leap off the page. LOL about Penis.

  8. Cindi

    December 16, 2008 5:34 pm

    I loved it, Susan! I’ve known some Richards but you didn’t dare call them Dick. Penis is so great! LOL

  9. Cindi

    December 16, 2008 5:35 pm

    Oh forgot to say Happy Hanukkah! I know it starts Sunday at sundown. 🙂 *hugs*

  10. Amy Ruttan

    December 16, 2008 7:45 pm

    LOL I have to say the Penis part was hilarious. 🙂

  11. BeadedTail

    December 16, 2008 7:57 pm

    I always enjoy your characters and love how your descriptions pull me into the scene!

  12. Rhonda Leigh Jones

    December 16, 2008 9:54 pm

    Dang! I forgot to give kudos for Penis! That was great!

  13. Bob-kat

    December 17, 2008 3:38 pm

    Cool. It was just like being back stage again 😀

    I’m going into hospital in the New Year and I need a good book to read. I reckon’ The Demo Tapes would be perfect so how do I get hold of a copy? 🙂

  14. Ann

    December 18, 2008 5:51 pm

    Awesome. Too funny. 🙂

  15. West of Mars » Blog Archive » Thursday Thirteen: Around town
  16. West of Mars » Blog Archive » Musical Hanukkah Flashback #9

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