As we start to get deeper into the holiday season, classic seasonal films of old begin to emerge from DVD cases to be watched on a loop for the next month. While A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street may warm the hearts of many, some crave a holiday classic with a different message, like the 1988 Christmas action film, Die Hard. While the original film was set in a downtown Los Angeles office building, locals are about to see it reimagined with a Pittsburgh twist
Bricolage Production Company will open its Downtown headquarters December 6 for a new installment in their Midnight Radio series, Die Hard N’at. This production will see the Bruce Willis action drama reinvented with a Pittsburgh audience in mind, but delivered in a format that allows more audience interaction.
“‘Bricolage’ is a word that means ‘making artful use of what’s at hand,’” says Jeffrey Carpenter, artistic director and cofounder of Bricolage. ”We are really obsessed with the audience, and creating a heightened experience for the audience. That’s really where we began.”
Midnight Radio is Bricolage’s longest-running recurring program, featured in eleven of the company’s 16 seasons. The format takes its inspiration from the live audience radio shows of the 1930s and ’40s, with the actors using the art of sound effect creation, called Foley, to create the show’s soundscape in addition to their characters.
“We’re not pushing a button to make a sound effect. We’re using a pot, or a pan, or a fan, or other household items to create the world we live in,” said Tami Dixon, principle creative and cofounder of Bricolage.
Midnight Radio has evolved as a format over the past decade. Original scripts now make up the vast majority of Midnight Radio productions, which was not the case when it began. This is also the first edition where Dixon and Carpenter have not written and directed.
“It was sort of Mystery Science Theater-style where the audience watched an abridged version of the movie, and we wrote whole new dialogue, with the actors talking over the movie like they were the characters,” said Gayle Pazerski, scriptwriter for “Die Hard N’at.”
Pazerski, who has contributed writing for a number of Midnight Radio productions since 2006, wrote the script for “Die Hard N’at” single-handedly.
“I had to watch it over again while taking notes, then pull the whole script to make sure I had all the scenes in order,” Pazerski said. “Then, also making it sit for radio play format. That was challenging, too.”
Pazerski was also responsible for “yinzerizing” the movie, filling it with Pittsburgh-isms sure to make locals bust a gut. It is a subject that comes to Pazerski naturally, even if the jokes are corny much of the time.
“Both of my parents are born and raised here, that’s the way they talk, those are the phrases they use. My whole family talks that way,” Pazerski said.
A born and bred Pittsburgher, Pazerski took much inspiration from her family for many of the jokes and comedic moments. One of her favorite moments in the show is a joke simply based on John McClane staying on his friend’s couch.
“One of the words my dad says that used to confuse my friends is the way he said ‘couch,’ like ‘cahch,’” Pazerski said. “So in that scene, I made it all about that joke. The main characters are having this tender moment, and I’m just making jokes about the word ‘couch!’”
This is not Bricolage’s first Midnight Radio to “yinzerize” its source material. In years past, Midnight Radio has featured Pittsburghese renditions of Night of the Living Dead, A Christmas Carol, and even the works of Shakespeare.
Three special editions of the production have also been arranged. On December 13, the cast of “Die Hard N’at” will welcome audience members to experience how the art of Foley is done, and get a hands-on workshop in the craft, led by the actors. This will begin at 6:45 p.m. before the show.
On December 15, the matinee performance will have a pay-as-you-wish admission, with tickets on a first come, first serve basis. December 20 is the only performance to feature an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, a new challenge for the Bricolage crew.
Whichever performance one sees, though, Dixon and the crew at Bricolage can guarantee a ridiculous good time to cut through the stressful preparations of the holiday season.
“Let’s let go of the internal drama in our families, the crazy political climate, and the insanity of what’s happening in the world, and for 85 minutes, be enveloped by this ridiculous world of Yinzers fighting to save Christmas Eve.”
“Die Hard N’at” will run from December 6 to 22, with evening performances at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission, and $25 with a valid student ID. A free 30-minute happy hour will be held before each performance.