Certain projects that I worked on generated “take aways.” Lines that were too good just to forget about. The project might have been good or lousy, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the quality of the take-away. Some take-aways were crude and cannot be repeated in polite company. Others were crude and can perhaps be repeated in polite company. Others were just funny… at least to me.
For instance, I once worked on a radio play called “Heart of a Dog” in which a character kept muttering (in a Russian accent) “arsefessor” (don’t ask me why) to refer to another character who was a professor. For years afterward I would hear my colleagues muttering from time to time, “Arsefessor!” (Hey, I never said these take-aways were in any way socially beneficial.) The thing is, after you’ve worked on one of these plays for a month or two (or three), certain words and lines got burned into your brain.
Another take-away came from an adaptation of the play Trojan Women. The play called for one character to summon the warriors to the ship by calling out, “To the ships!”
So one of our sound effects engineers — I’ll call him Pat — was called upon to utter these immortal words, as all the actors had left by the time the crew realized that this line hadn’t been recorded. Pat was a brilliant sound effects foley artist but a quiet, unassuming man. So when called upon to cry out “To the ships!” he said it as if commenting on the weather, not as if summoning an army to battle as the script called for.
On the second take Pat generated enough enthusiasm to make the line sound like he was asking for someone to pass him a jar of peanut butter.
The third take sounded like a question: “To the ships?”
Each take fell woefully short of the necessary vigour, but became increasingly hilarious for the crew in the control room. And the line, “To the ships!” became the rallying cry of the CBC Radio Drama department.
To the ships!