Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wild West VBS Tropes

Once again, I spent the time during rehearsals for this year's VBS skits making a list of the various tropes I noticed playing out, but since the theme this year is the Gold Rush, I had a little help coming up with some.  And while the VBS itself was set in the gold rush, the skit is actually set in 1860, in a boom town called Discovery City that's seen better days.  Each day followed the lives of its inhabitants: incompetent lawmen Sheriff Theodore Tweedle and Deputy Otis Henry, Sadie Brown, who runs the Hard Time Cafe (later Good News Cafe), Caleb Foster, a prospector who spends more time spreading the gospel than searching for gold, Petunia Periwinkle, a starlet hopeful who got off at the wrong stop, and Dr. Marvel, a snake oil salesman.

Tropes found in the skits include:
(Some of the tropes are spoilery, so don't read this list if your church is putting on this VBS)
  • The Wild West - Naturally.
  • Anachronism Stew - Quite a bit.  Despite being explicitly set in 1860, movies are mentioned in one skit, Home on the Range is sung (it wasn't written until ten years later), Sadie runs an outdoor cafe, and many idioms that likely didn't exist at the time are used in the dialogue.
  • All There In The Manual - The character descriptions in the Drama Guide give bits of information that are not even hinted at in the actual skits, such as Sadie opening her restaurant after her father died, and Dr. Marvel having been a con artist since he first cheated on a test in first grade.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners - Theodore and Otis.
  • The Sheriff - Theodore.
  • Clueless Deputy - Otis, though the sheriff isn't much better.
  • The Missionary and a Prospector - Caleb
  • Bird Oil Salesman - Dr. Marvel hawks an all-healing "potion" made from the oil of a pink-striped albatross.
  • The Outlaw - Jake "The Snake" Jackson, meanest outlaw in the west.
  • US Marshal - Dr. Marvel is caught and waiting for the marshal by the end.
  • The Ditz - Petunia, Otis, and Theodore.
  • Surrounded By Idiots - Sadie, though she rarely expresses this directly.  "The closest those two could get to a brainstorm is a light drizzle."
  • Offstage Crash - While trying to hang up a sign, Otis ends up crashing through the door of the Sheriff's office, with a rather excessive sound effect.
  • Your Other Left - Theodore tells Otis to raise his right hand so he can be sworn in as a deputy.  You can guess what happens.
  • Donut Mess With a Cop - Once he's sworn in, Otis suggests they go celebrate by getting some donuts.
  • Cucumber Facial - In one skit, Otis gives Theodore a fancy spa treatment, complete with mud mask and cucumbers on the eyes, which Theodore agrees to only when he hears it will help his luck with the ladies.
  • Took A Level In Kindness - After Caleb shares the gospel with her, Sadie becomes noticeably nicer, and the narrator comments that her biscuits even taste better.
  • I've Heard of That, What is it?/Global Ignorance - Hearing that Petunia is from Ohio, Sadie comments that she's originally from Kentucky.  Petunia seems to know, but then asks how far away it is.  Hearing that the two states share a border, she blames her ignorance on not being good at "biology."
  • I Know You Know I Know - After hearing about a recent bank robbing by Jake "The Snake" Jackson, Theodore is not worried about Jake showing up there, since "There's a new sheriff in town, and he knows it!  And he knows that I know it."  Otis asks, "But does he know that YOU know he knows that you know it?"  "That's the only thing we don't know," Theodore replies.
  • Giftedly Bad - Petunia.  She fancies herself as someone who just needs her big break to become world-famous, but in truth her acting is terrible and her singing even worse.  
  • Hollywood Tone Deaf - Petunia. The script mentions her voice making glass break and coyotes howl, but sadly these are not included as sound effects.
  • False Reassurance - The reason Petunia thinks so highly of herself is that no one tells her point blank that she's terrible, instead saying things like "We've never heard a voice quite like yours," and "What you did to those notes has never been done before."
  • Medicine Show - Dr. Marvel puts on a show (all in rhyme) to sell his potion.
  • Never Trust a Hair Tonic - Petunia takes some of Dr. Marvel's potion, and it turns her hair purple (in our version, anyway.  The script just says "the crazier, the better").
  • Different As Night And Day - It turns out Caleb and Dr. Marvel are twins.  As Sadie puts it, "He's a giver, and you're a taker."
  • Acting For Two - Since the two rarely show up on the same day, Caleb and Dr. Marvel are played by the same person.  Their only actual interaction is offstage.
  • Pie in the Face - Mistaking Caleb for Dr. Marvel, Petunia lets him have it with one of Sadie's pies as payback for her hair.
  • Too Dumb To Live - When Jake "The Snake" Jackson comes to town, he's able to tie up Theodore and Otis by simply asking them to put their hands together and sit back to back.  Once he's done, the two wonder how they got tied up.
  • Stuff Blowing Up - Jake plans to use dynamite on the sheriff and deputy after robbing the bank, but didn't bring any matches.
  • Completely Missing The Point - While tied up with the dynamite, Otis laments their imminent explosion, since it means he won't be able to go the square dance next week.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall - Jake has trouble opening the bank door, so Otis tells him that it's just painted on, and he has to go around the side (i.e. back stage) to get in.
  • Ten Minute Retirement - After the humiliation of being outwitted by Jake, Theodore quits being the sheriff, to Otis' dismay.  He returns to the job after Jake returns and turns himself in.
  • Heel Face Turn - After reading a bible that Sadie slipped into his money bag, Jake realizes the error of his ways and turns himself in.  Also, by the end, Petunia decides to give up on show business and learn about Jesus.
  • Get Out of Jail Free Card - Averted, as Jake does indeed go to jail.
  • Leitmotif - Anytime Jake "The Snake" Jackson shows up, a rattlesnake sound plays.  After he repents, the sound isn't heard.
And of course, it wouldn't be a VBS skit without a little bit of Fridge Logic:
Why did Petunia drink the potion, anyway?  And when did Sadie find the time to sneak a bible into Jake's bag?

Our version also had a bonus trope, Samus Is A Girl.  Since we had more female actors than male, we decided to make Jake "The Snake" Jackson a girl, and after much discussion, came to the conclusion that it would be funnier for everyone to think Jake was a guy until she actually showed up.  Technically, the Drama Guide says to use another outlaw mentioned, "Calamity Kate," in that scenario, but there's so much in the script with the rattlesnake leitmotif that it just made more sense to do what we ended up doing. 

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