Drew Gasparini met Marc Summers in 2011, when the two were doing a production of Grease at Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, NJ. Gasparini was playing Eugene, and Summers was radio announcer Vince Fontaine. With plenty of downtime from Rydell High, the two bonded backstage.
“Marc Summers was always my childhood hero,” he says. “He’s like a TV icon, and I, seriously when I was a kid, used to hold a roll of socks and pretend to be him from Double Dare. I introduced Alex [Brightman] to him, and we all became fast friends. Marc sat me down about five years ago [and] said he had an idea that he wanted to do a show about his life. I said, ‘Awesome. How about let’s talk to Alex Brightman about this?’ And that’s how everything kind of started snowballing.”
But, what could be so compelling about Marc Summers? Over a series of dinners with the duo, Summers revealed more about himself, including his entrée into the world of hosting the messiest game show on television, Nickelodeon’s Double Dare—and how difficult it was for him to get “slimed” day in and day out when he struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder.
“He pioneered ‘big, loud, messy’ and, throughout all that, was suffering from something that was completely the antithesis of that,” explains Brightman, who began to record their conversations and make his way through Summers’ memoir, Everything in Its Place: My Trials and Triumphs with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
“I took the story of the book, which chronicles a lot of his life, and started coming up with a chronology, and then through interviews with Marc, I would fill in the blanks and ask him stories randomly,” says Brightman. “For example, I would say, ‘Let’s hear the story about how you lost your virginity.’”
Everything in Its Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, which premiered April 1 for a run through April 16 at the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana, begins with a “physical challenge” (a coined phrase from Double Dare). The loser of the challenge, played by Mike Nappi, must play all of the other characters in Summers’ life throughout the course of the show.
Technically, then, Gasparini (who’s written underscoring and interstitial music for the show, giving the piece a cinematic feel) and its writer Brightman bill The Life and Slimes as a “one-and-a-half-man show.”
“It’s a showbiz story,” says Gasparini, “but it is told through the lens of finding something out about yourself way later on in your life when you thought you had it figured all out, and it’s also about when life keeps knocking you down. Not to use the terminology in the show, but here we go: ‘When life keeps handing you physical challenges, how do you overcome them?’”
Aside from struggling with OCD, Brightman and Gasparini learned that the 1998 remake of Hollywood Squares was originally to be hosted by Summers, but when the news broke about his obsessive-compulsive habits, the job went to Tom Bergeron. Summers learned the news during a commercial break when he was on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
Following its run in Indiana, Everything in Its Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers will play the Adirondack Theatre Festival August 10-13. Brightman and Gasparini are hoping to bring it to New York City for a limited engagement.
“The idea of these two productions is to workshop, to do it silently a little bit—as silently as you can nowadays,” says Brightman. “[Then] we’re hoping to get it here for a limited run. That’s the hope. We don’t want to let this just linger because it’s one of those things where it’s cool to have him to do it, [and] there’s a docu-series [called On Your Marc] being [made] following the show.”
He adds, “It’s a passion project. It’s not really one of those [where] I was like, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a story about Marc Summers,’ but it became a passion project because he was passionate about it, and he’s awesome. He’s become one of our dearest friends, which is weird.”