Category Archives: Welcome to Munchen

Auditions for Munchen: Monday, December 15!

Seeking large, talented ensemble of performers for the 11-episode podcast Munchen, Minnesota

Get in on the ground floor of what the New York Times is calling the “audio renaissance” in storytelling, with podcasts such as Serial and Welcome to Night Vale attracting record-setting audience numbers.

Rusty old mill town

Secrets rumbling underneath

Scooby gang unite!

Monday, December 15th
6:00pm-9:00pm
The Parish Hall at Cleveland Public Theatre
6407 Detroit Avenue (Just east of the Gordon Square Theatre)
Cleveland, OH  44107

Please email herman.mindy@gmail.com or jgville@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.  Actors will read selections from the script. All auditions will be recorded.

Munchen, Minnesota
Written by Christine Borne and Justin Glanville
Directed by Mindy Childress Herman
Sound Engineering and Design by Sam Fisher

ABOUT THE SERIES: Like a lot of older industrial cities in the Midwest, Munchen, Minnesota has fallen on hard times. Many of the town’s neighborhoods have emptied, leaving houses vacant and crumbling. Crime is rampant. But Munchen’s got an even more serious problem: it’s on the verge of a supernatural infestation. And the only people with the power to save it are a geeky teenage girl, her gay librarian father, and an ambitious city planner who didn’t have a clue what he was in for when he transferred from the East Coast. It’s a combination of horror, mystery, comedy and family drama.

The pilot episode, “It’s Pronounced Munchin’” will be recorded in front of a live audience as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Dark Room on Tuesday, January 13th at 7:00pm. Actors must be available for rehearsals the week of January 4th.

We are looking to cast a large number of actors for the entire series, but are especially interested in casting the following roles for the pilot episode. Since this is a podcast, a strong voice and acting talent is more important than whether or not an actor looks the role. We are also seeking female actors.

Jonathan Jewell, 26, is an urban planner recently fired from his job with a federal housing agency in Washington, D.C. Out of desperation, he’s just accepted a job with the Munchen, Minnesota Department of Housing and Development. He grew up in L.A., the son of affluent parents. He is African American.

Raul Aceveda, 31, is Steve’s boyfriend of two years. He is of Puerto Rican descent, works as a junior marketing executive at Ladyslipper Cosmetics, Inc., and is a big name in the local drag scene.

Miles Redfeather, 14, is of Native American descent. He’s Meredith’s classmate at Munchen South High School. Nerdy and overweight, he’s the target of much ridicule by his more popular, athletic peers. He lives with his overworked mother, a nurse, and his father, a truck driver.

Please email herman.mindy@gmail.com or jgville@gmail.com for more information.

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Mesmerism, Phrenology and Spiritualism: A Guide to 19th Century Psychology

We have a therapist character in the Munchen show. His name is Dr. Runnels and he practices decidedly… outdated therapy methods.

In fact, he is a mesmerist.

Mesmerism was a method of psychological and physical healing developed by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a Viennese doctor. Only Mesmer didn’t call his technique mesmerism. He called it animal magnetism. Which had nothing to do with our present understanding of that term meaning “sex appeal.”

No, to Mesmer, animal magnetism referred to an invisible fluid that circulated through the universe and in and out of people. Disturbances in the fluid’s flow led to physical and psychological unrest.

To restore proper flow, Mesmer would have patients sit across from him, their knees touching his. He’d move his hands over parts of their bodies, including such sensitive regions as the diaphragm, in sessions that sometimes lasted hours. (Unsurprisingly, this led to at least one scandal: He was accused of having sexual relations with a young female patient he was treating for blindness.)

mesmer1

The goal of Mesmer’s sessions was to produce a “crisis” — a physical convulsion believed to lead to an emotional or physical breakthrough. In this way, it harkens back to the practice of exorcism, which Mesmer had studied early in his life. At the end of a session, to relax the patient, Mesmer would play a little tune the glass armonica — a fascinating instrument about which I’ll blog later.

Mesmerism produced a trance-like state in the patient, but it was different from hypnosis in that the sessions were mostly non-verbal. Still, it is understood as a precursor to contemporary hypnosis in that it lured patients into precognitive states. It also has clear connections to such practices as reiki and energy healing, which are now experiencing a boom in popularity in the West.

A commission including Benjamin Franklin studied mesmerism and animal magnetism for several years. The commission debunked the techniques as being based on nothing more than the power of suggestion. But mesmerism remained popular until the tail-end of the 19th century, when Sigmund Freud’s “talking cure” (aka psychoanalysis) revolutionized treatment of the emotionally disturbed.

The tail-end of the 19th century, by the way, was the real watershed moment in modern psychology because it’s when Sigmund Freud developed his revolutionary “talking cure” (aka psychoanalysis), from which derive most current non-medical forms of psychological treatment.

All this got me thinking about other pre-Freudian psychological belief systems. Here’s are three others. Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments!

Phrenology. Famous from the scads of illustrations available in antique shops, phrenology alleged that the shape of human skulls reflected the shape of people’s brains — and therefore revealed their personalities. There was no associated therapy (haha, skull reshapers), but it was wildly popular as a means of gaining self-insight. Some people even consulted phrenologists about the compatibility of prospective spouses or employees. (Bonus: The device in the video below was made in Wisconsin — not too far from Munchen!)

Physiognomy. Similar to phrenology, this was the idea that face shapes revealed personality traits. It dates back as far as Chaucer, who calls it “fisnamy” in The Canterbury Tales. It experienced a brief revival of attention a few years back, when several studies found that people could identify the faces of gay men in randomly selected photographs. Here’s a decidedly Midwestern-flavored talk show about physiognomy, even though it’s from the Bay Area:

Spiritualism. Perhaps the defining proto-pscyhotherapy of the late 19th century was spiritualism, in which the living communicated with the dead. It’s still popular today, as evidenced by the Lily Dale community of spirit mediums in western New York and the popularity of such traveling psychics as John Holland.

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Filed under Supernatural and Weird Fiction, Welcome to Munchen, World Building, Writing Craft

Norwegian dance is the new square dance (in Munchen)

As we build the world of Munchen, we keep making fun discoveries about the unusual real things that exist in this world. I especially love when this happens organically — when we’re writing out a particular scene, for example, or need to flesh out a character. Christine wrote last week about the strange case of lutefisk, and this week I made another find: The Norwegian Dancers of Stoughton High School.

Norse-Afternoon-of-Fun-lg

I discovered the Dancers as I was writing a scene for Meredith and Miles, our two teenage misfits. At first I had them doing a square-dancing unit, which I remember doing (and sometimes enjoying — though I’d never admit that!). Then I thought — but wait, Munchen is a Norwegian-settled town that still very much shows its Scandinavian roots. Maybe they don’t square dance. Maybe they… Well, is there such a thing as Norwegian dance? I Googled “high school norwegian dance” — and voila. There they were. The colorfully costumed kids of Stoughton High. Sometimes synchronicity seems to be on our side. I rewrote the scene to have Meredith and Miles doing the Norwegian springar dance, sometimes known as the pols dance, similar to the polka.

This Stoughton troupe is serious. They perform all over the country, and getting a spot on the team is competitive. Tryouts are in April, and the only open spots come about when a senior graduates. Another type of dance they perform is the halling dance, a wedding dance in which young Norwegian men compete to perform the most impressive acrobatics. Here’s a video of some of the troupe’s greatest hits:

All this gave me the idea that Miles — poor, picked-on Miles — has a strange knack for Norwegian dance. His exploration of this unusual skill will lead him to get into all kinds of adventure — and of course trouble — as the season goes on.

Here’s to strange regional high school activities!

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Filed under Place, Supernatural and Weird Fiction, Welcome to Munchen, World Building

“They say it’s a fish…originally.”

Justin and I are finishing up the third episode of Welcome to Munchen this week. At this point in our story, fourteen-year-old Meredith Halvorsen is getting ready for the annual Lutefisk Championship. Meredith has a bunch of…unusual hobbies and is a bit of odd duck because instead of rebelling against her local culture like a normal teenager, she embraces every lye-soaked bit of it.

The fun of world-building is doing the research, and in this case doing the research involved me watching a bunch of tutorials on how to make lutefisk. In this video from Lakes Country TV, I learned what Nelson’s customers expect in a good lutefisk, and what will keep them from coming back.

TRIGGER WARNING: If Rick Steves gives you the spinny eyeballs, you’re going to get really excited watching the host of Lakes Country TV. (See this video of a baby tasting chocolate for the first time and you’ll get an idea of how I feel about Rick Steves.)

BONUS: there’s a really big hint in this video about the supernatural infestation that Munchen’s about to experience. Guess what it is, and you win 900 pounds of free lutefisk.*

*Not really. I mean, what would you even do with all that lutefisk.

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Filed under Welcome to Munchen, World Building, Writing Craft