MAX: Son, you have a family tradition to uphold! I arrived from New York without a penny to my name and look where I am today – Police Chief! Fire Commissioner! President of the San Francisco Collateral Loan Bank!
RUBE: Pop, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not the guy.
MAX: Not what guy?
RUBE: I’m not the guy who’s gonna gild the gold in Goldberg! I’m the guy who’s gonna draw the Rembrandt outa Rube!
MAX: You’re dreaming, son! Your dear, sweet mother made me promise on her deathbed – “Max,” she said, “KILL the dreams! Step on ‘em!”
RUBE: Ma said that? MAX: And then she died. Dreams is dreams, boy. They lure you high and then they push you off the cliff. Your dying mother told me, “Max,” she said, “start him at the bottom and he won’t have far to fall. Start him in the sewers!” RUBE: The sewers? Pop –
MAX: Don’t you know that all the Great Men – J.P.Morgan and John D. Rockefeller and Thomas W. Crapper – spent years trying to find a simple way to eliminate human waste?!
RUBE: But Pop –
MAX: Take a whiff! You can almost smell it! I’m talking about the money to be made! Besides, if you start in the toilet, the only way to go is up.
RUBE: Up?! To where?!
MAX: To the bowl! To the seat! To the water closet! How do you think I got ahead in this world? One step leading to another, one man introducing me to another man! A name leads to a job! Then a hand to a shovel to a paycheck! There’s a pattern, there’s a logic to Life, and there’s no time for dreams!
MAX: YOU LEARN TO SHAKE AND BE A CHUM / WHILE UPSTAIRS IN YOUR CRANIUM / YOU ADD ANOTHER NAME TO YOUR COLLECTION! / YOU SEE A HAT THAT’S PRETTY FINE – / THE STORE-KEEP IS A FRIEND OF MINE – / I BRUNG HIM ONCE SOME PICKLED BRINE – CONNECTIONS! / THE BOYS THAT YA DINE WITH, / THE FELLAS ON THE STREET, / THE FIREMEN, THE COPPERS, AND THE CROOKS, / EACH ONE REPRESENTS A DOZEN MORE TO MEET – / SON, YOU DON’T GET AHEAD BY READIN’ BOOKS!
CONNECTIONS, YOU MAKE CONNECTIONS! / YOU FIND YOURSELF SOME COMMON GROUND / AND THEN NO MATTER WHERE YOU’RE BOUND /YOU GET DIRECTIONS / FROM YOUR CONNECTIONS! / IT’S THE FORMULA OF LIFE!
“Mixing Metaphors” sung by Mana Allen and Marcus Neville. Music and Lyrics by Matty Selman.
THE STORY: Young Rube Goldberg’s father knows exactly what’s best for him – follow the logic of life to your humdrum destiny! But Rube wants to be an artist, and he can only find his dream the hard way: via a Muse and a Sewer pipe and an invisible Boob.
THE BACKSTORY: Young Rube, with music and lyrics by Matty Selman, is a libretto I’m quite proud of. Innately silly, it asks a very serious question: what is the path of an artist, of anyone, really, toward the point and purpose of a life? How does one get from A to B, let alone to M or Z? And Rube Goldberg gives us the answer.
As in Steeplechase, Matty wrote a version of the play without me, then generously welcomed me aboard. George W. George, Rube Goldberg’s son, was a friend of Matty’s, and incredibly supportive of the process and its outcome. Several new songs were written, the play was given a new structure, and eventually was put on its cartoon feet. It was workshopped several times at the Gathering at Bigfork in Bigfork, Montana, then first produced at the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in southwestern Michigan, followed by a professional premiere at the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis. I did a good deal of work on the show during these productions, and finalized the current play afterwards.
This essentially fictional biography of the great cartoonist is to be taken, quite literally, not literally at all. In Rube’s story is our own. It is a testament to the power of art, to the inevitability of destiny, to the belief that A will always lead us to B, even if we have to travel to F and W first in order to get there.