What would a platypus dream about and why? I asked one day, reading an article about an experiment conducted on a duck billed platypus (Ornithorhyncus anatinus). The goal of the research was to discover whether this hybrid creature demonstrates signs of REM sleep, when most human dreaming occurs. Suddenly, three characters appeared and started to talk, each adamantly expressing their point of view.
Frankie, the f’n Platypus stuck in a tank in the laboratory, contemplating the higher questions of life as he tries to tear electrodes out of his fur and figure out an escape. Arvin, the dedicated scientist, fascinated by this creature and the evolutionary link it could provide in his understanding of REM sleep. And Prozak, his disaffected daughter – that’s Prozak with a "k" so Ely Lily lawyers get the fuck outta my way – who writes songs and fronts a garage band, The SSRIs.
Prozak is wrestling with anger, depression, and the legacy of her mother’s suicide, around which there is a colossal, stultifying silence. Prozak wants to make noise - ditch the antidepressants - fight the beast inside her. One night she comes to the lab looking for her father, but finds the Platypus instead, who gives her an ear full. Prozak tries to convince her father to release Frankie, but Arvin is mid-experiment and too focused on the amazing results indicating REM sleep. He is at a loss as to how to help his daughter. When she takes her clubbing to an extreme and starts hooking, he is haunted by the unstoppable force that swallowed his wife. He tries to save her, but it is too late. Prozak lands in a coma in the hospital. Arvin sitting by her bed finally reveals the full depths of his own loss. Meanwhile, bank in the tank, the Platypus starts to dream, travels to the hospital to awaken Prozak. When she is returns home, she discovers the Platypus is gone. But records his traces in a song…
Digging into aboriginal mythology and the song lines that run throughout the land, I found the belief that it is really the ancients, the Animals, who are dreaming us. The story has music at its core and an ancient creature who dreams. Writing the ensuing musical play Prozak and the Platypus I was just a scribe to vociferous characters, who still keep on talking. Luckily, I found Jill Sobule to give them music and voice. Or who knows the havoc they would have created in my brain…
Jill’s music was initially written for Prozak and her garage band, the SSRIs – and in performances of the play can sound pretty grungy. But they are great tunes and Jill sings them better than anyone, so we decided to make an album of her singing them with great musicians. It was recorded in LA in Dave Way’s beautiful studio, with his dog wandering through and his daughter bringing M&M cookies and John Doe coming through with how to twist up a chorus. The resulting CD also has a graphic novella by Garbage Artist KellyAnne Hanrahan (also known as Koolass), who made the webbed site too. You can buy CD and Comic through CD Baby or Amazon.com and download the tunes at all the usual locations. Prozak’s hit single Empty Glass is also on Jill’s recent album California years…
Prozak and the Platypus started at SPF (Summer Play Festival , Beckett Theater, NYC) with a workshop production that had lines down the block. It was done as a reading and workshop for students at NYSSA (New York State Summer School for the Arts), one of whom ended up directing a production of it her senior year at the University of Chicago. It was also part of Brand New – a festival of new work at Hartford Stage, and read at the Barrow Street Theater in New York. Jill Sobule did a concert version at NYMF (New York Musical Theatre Festival) to celebrate the release of the album. Technically, it has never had a full professional production – or been reviewed - so all you producers and theaters doing new work – go for it.
Prozak and the Platypus was inspired by an experiment conducted in Brisbane on the duckbilled platypus by an eminent sleeper researcher, Jerome Siegel. The play touches on various themes from sleep science to depression to aboriginal mythology. Click here to read more about the themes dealt with in PnP.