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Post details: Some Concerns Brought Up About My Mad Scientist Skit

Some Concerns Brought Up About My Mad Scientist Skit

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

The other night, a member of the Midwest Furfest Variety Show e-mail list brought up several concerns that he had about my Mad Scientist Foxee skit that I was considering doing at this year's Midwest Furfest Variety Show, and since his concerns were legitimate I thought that I would repost them and discuss them here. His concerns focused on many aspects of my proposed Foxee skit, including its length, the safety of some of the high-voltage stage props that I was planning to use for my skit's special effects, and the reliability of the technology that I was using in my Foxee robot. Here were his concerns:

1) Five minutes on stage is a long time. Holding the audience's attention for more than three is often problematic, and little/nothing happens for the first few minutes of your sketch.

First of all, I am not quite sure if my skit will even take up an entire 5 minutes. I don't have the dialog for the skit written yet, and until that it written and the skit is read through and timed, I won't really know for sure how long or short the skit is. I guessed that the skit would be about 5 minutes in length based several assumptions. First, the Mad Scientist will need a minute in the beginning to give his monologue explaining his experiment and why he is doing it to set up the setting and the story of the skit. Secondly, the "It's alive!" special effects sequence will take up some time because I plan to act very dramatically throughout it by doing crazy things like yelling, evilly laughing, ducking in case something explodes, etc. After that the Mad Scientist will meet Foxee or the first time as she comes to life, and will have to ask her how she feels and if she is operating properly. Once the first-meeting formalities have been completed, the Mad Scientist will go straight into "Phase II" of his experiment where he tries to pick up Foxee with some very nerdy sounding pickup lines, such as "You can be an acid and I can be a base, and together we can make some heat!", "You must have a lot of lactic acid build-up in your legs because you have been running through my mind all day!", or "How would you like to see if my hardware interfaces with your software?" Foxee would naturally be shocked by the question, and that would cause the 30-seconds or so of back and forth sarcastic snappy dialog that would culminate with the Mad Scientist getting frustrated and announcing to the audience about how he just found a new lab animal to try out his brand new death ray on. So there really is a lot going on, and I have confidence that the crazy personality and funky accent that I plan to use for my Mad Scientist character will be able to hold the audience's attention for the duration of my monologue.

2) I think I can guarantee that having HV discharges and the like on stage will be absolutely verboten. Hotels and fire marshals tend to get antsy about this kind of thing.

Plasma balls, strobe lights, and lumina discs are all common novelty decorative displays of electricity and light, and all three of those items these days can be purchased at any local Radio Shack, Fry's Electronics, or even Wal*Mart. I own most of these devices already, and they are very safe. As far as the Jacob's Ladder goes, I probably won't even be able to build one because it will cost me about $100 to do so, and since I am not even quite sure how I am going to scrap together enough money to build the Foxee on time, I doubt I will have a lot of money to spare on a minor detail like a set prop. However, if I do end up being able to build one, I have the plans on how to build one that uses non-lethal amounts of electrical current and has a safety cut-off circuit that will automatically shut the device off if somebody decides to stick their hand into the flowing lightning bolt. That is the design that I am planning to use, and there shouldn't be any problems with it-- especially considering the fact that it's only going to be turned on for about 10-seconds during the skit anyway.

Hypothetically, even if I did end up building a more dangerous version of a Jacob's Ladder without any safety devices built into it, and it used more dangerous components such as a television flyback transformer to produce the lightning effect, it would still only be a shock hazard if somebody was foolish enough to stick their hand into the device while it is turned on. And once again since I plan for the device to be all by itself up on stage while it is powered on during the short time it is needed during the performance, the chance that someone could get right up next to the device to be hurt by it should be highly unlikely. In addition, high voltage devices many times more dangerous than my proposed Jacob's Ladder, such as a 400,000 volt Tesla coil that could throw 12-foot bolts of lightning were demonstrated by other people at the DucKon 14 Science Fiction Convention earlier this summer without incident. That just goes to show you that when precautions are taken, these displays of electrical power are really not much to worry about. None the less, since I probably won't even be able to build a Jacob's Ladder in time for the Midwest Furfest convention anyway, I won't start worrying about it until I actually have one built. It would be pre-mature for me to get worked up about it right now.

3) The idea is pretty funny, but can you be certain all the mechanical effects will work perfectly?

As much as I hate to say it, no I can't be entirely sure at this time that everything is going to work, especially since I haven't gotten past the design phase on Foxee yet. Even if I was further along with building Foxee however, I still would have to ask if anyone can ever be 100% certain that every mechanical device that they use will always work perfectly. Even NASA screws up every once in a while, such as they did with Apollo I, Apollo XIII, the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Space Shuttle Columbia, the Mars Observer, the Mars Polar Lander, etc. The best I can do is test my Foxee robot and all of my electrical effects thoroughly both before the convention and on-site before the variety show, bring spare parts and tools to do emergency on-site repairs if the need arises, and be prepared to ad-lib an ending to my skit in case something still goes hay-wire with Foxee during the skit and the performance cannot be completed as intended.

In any case, I do very much appreciate the member of the Midwest Furfest Mailing List who brought up these concerns, because they make me think about potential problems that I might not have otherwise considered. I am extremely new to the world of furry conventions, costuming, animatronics, and putting on stage shows, so I am absolutely sure that what I am up to is not perfect and that I haven't thought of everything. I very much appreciate people bringing issues like this to my attention, so if anyone else has any concerns or suggestions, please let me know!

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