SMASH commemorates loss

Temple SMASH starts the year with a performance in memory of one of their own.

Actors perform a skit titled “Pumpernickel” at Temple SMASH’s first show of the semester. ( COURTESY CALVIN WOODRUFF )
Actors perform a skit titled “Pumpernickel” at Temple SMASH’s first show of the semester. ( COURTESY CALVIN WOODRUFF )
Actors perform a skit titled “Pumpernickel” at Temple SMASH’s first show of the semester. ( COURTESY CALVIN WOODRUFF )
Actors perform a skit titled “Pumpernickel” at Temple SMASH’s first show of the semester. ( COURTESY CALVIN WOODRUFF )

Memories were made inside a small cluttered studio last Thursday, Oct. 11. It was an hour of full-blown comedy and electrifying tunes that the Temple SMASH crew had pulled off with incredible talent and energy to remember someone who once did the same.

Chocolate Pudding for a presidential candidate, a charismatic lawyer whose only words are “pumpernickel,” unruly politicians who are visited by God and a heartwarming performance by Hills Like White Elephants — these are just a few of the things that one would see during this most recent episode of Temple SMASH.

“To put this show on, we have had an amazing group of new students, joining and returning. It’s a vastly collaborative effort…they all worked really, really hard,” said Jonah Cooper, a senior media studies and production major.

Complementing each performance was the one-man acoustic band, Hills Like White Elephants. The soulful music, played by Ziggy Gamble, had the entire audience captivated and mesmerized as he performed original songs.

“I was really impressed, his music made me feel so relaxed and at peace with myself,” said Emily Colby, a freshman theater major who played the apathetic daughter in the “Green Party Party” sketch.

But behind the comedy and subsequent laughs lies a sobering thought. This episode was more than just the average quarterly show — this one held a special significance, as it was dedicated to SMASH head writer Jonathan Schifferdecker who passed away a week before Fall 2012 semster began.

“Every sketch that was in this episode was either written by Jon [during] the summer before he passed away, or it was inspired by Jon or friends who knew Jon,” said director Rita Kraynak, a junior majoring in media studies and production. “Some of them were inside jokes they had together…every single piece was inspired by Jon.”

Two of the live skits and one of the digital shorts were written during Schifferdecker’s last writing meeting. After that meeting was when he got into a fatal car accident.

SMASH was a very big part of Schifferdecker’s life at Temple, where he transferred to after watching SMASH’s first season online.

“A part of me felt as if we were [still] doing the show with Jon,” said Cooper, who is also the executive producer of SMASH and a close friend of Schifferdecker.

About 40 percent of the show was written by Schifferdecker, and the other 60 percent was inspired by him.

Cooper even reached out to alumni of SMASH to come back and write pieces, in Schifferdecker’s memory.

The program consisted of four different segments and between each segment were comedic digital shorts such as “Dorm Room Scrunchie,” an exaggerated reenactment of what goes on in dorms when one person wants to leave a sign on the door to tell his or her roommate that the room is “occupied.”

Three of the four skits were satirical comments on the current political state of the country. The first one, titled “Presidential Debate 2012,” was a particularly cynical and tongue-in-cheek view of the potential leaders of our nation with one candidate being a sleeping clown and the other a jar of chocolate pudding.

The second, titled “God Shot,” had the crowd roaring with laughter as they watched two misguided Southern presidential candidates being told by “God” that they were in fact not told to run for the presidency by him and that they should stop lying to the masses.

The last political skit was titled “Green Party Party” and shared the story of a family with an overzealous father and an apathetic teenager.

However, the crowd favorite seemed to be the third skit titled “Pumpernickel,” the only skit that wasn’t a comment on politics.

In a court room, a defending lawyer fights his case with an emotional appeal that has the entire room sympathizing and moved when ironically his client is more than happy to admit to his crimes and all the evidence points to guilty. They called it the infamous “Pumpernickel Technique.” It consisted of one man, on a stage, wailing and roaring one word: “Pumpernickel.”

“Production was hectic, but we made it through and I think we put on one of our best productions yet,” Kraynak said.

Yet overcoming grief with humor and celebration, instead of mourning, the life of one of their dear members and coworkers was said to be the power of the Temple SMASH team.

“Everyone was really determined to do the best they could do,” Cooper said. “I’m very proud of [the cast and crew].”

Luis Fernando Rodriguez and Hayon Shin can be reached at

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