An artist, a writer and a musician were acting sickly and being prodded by medical students when they concocted a plan.
No, it’s not the opening line of a joke, but it was the start of something funny.
Artist Robert Gullie, writer Anthony R. Pezzula and musician Jim Gaudet are standardized patients at Albany Medical College, acting out symptoms to help future doctors work on their bedside manner.
Longtime pals Gullie and Pezzula — who met on stretchers at the college — had long wanted to collaborate. The result is “Obituarium: End Prose and Portaits,” an exhibit opening Saturday at Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery.
For “Obituarium,” Pezzula wrote Victorian-era obituaries to accompany Gullie’s mixed-media collage portraits.
“The whole concept of Bob’s work and then being interpreted into an obituary with Tony’s writing is so great, I think it’s so clever,” Gaudet said.
Pezzula is a Colonie writer whose works have been published in numerous journals and magazines. His plays have been performed throughout the region, and one of his short stories, “Making Friends,” was adapted into a short film.
In “Obituarium,” he creates life stories for a quirky cast of characters.
Conjoined twins Mavis and Mildred Williamson ran for Town Council — one on the Democratic line, the other Republican. They didn’t speak for two years, Pezzula writes, but they reconciled and had been “inseparable ever since.”
Libro Testadura was a hypnotist with a penchant for medieval weaponry. Testadura — which translates to “hard head” — died after challenging a neighbor to a duel. The neighbor had made a disparaging remark about Libro’s earring.
“You come to love them all,” said Gullie, an artist from Cohoes who had been looking for a project that involved a vintage photograph collection acquired over the better part of a decade.
For all but one of the pieces, Gullie created the image first.
Then, Pezzula would write the obituary. “That was the challenge for me,” Pezzula said, “to look at his images and come up with something that fit the images.”
With extraneous limbs, crazy hats and Victorian-era men dressed in drag, Pezzula had plenty of room to be creative. “I tried to make it silly, but not disrespectful,” he said.
The first few pieces required a few rewrites, as Pezzula and Gullie worked to get their vision for the pieces in line. But after that, it went smoothly, said Pezzula, who researched obituaries of the time extensively.
“Collaboration between artists are so much more fun because they can bounce back and forth ideas,” Gullie said.
The pair had such a good time, they hope to continue the project and even spoke of compiling a book.
“It’s fun to see people read them and laugh,” Pezzula said.
Not that “Obituarium” is all funny fodder. There is poor little Otis Mahoney, a child whose soul was stolen by the devil.
Otis is Pezzula’s favorite piece in the exhibit. “Even the devil himself shed a tear when Otis expelled his last breath,” Pezzula quoted.
Otis Mahoney provided Gaudet some of his favorite material, too. Gaudet — who met Pezzula and Gullie posing as a patient — wrote three songs to accompany the exhibit.
“Bobby (Gullie) said he wanted a real sad song, so I’m saying to him, ‘I’m attempting to write the saddest song ever written,’” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll accomplish that, but it’s pretty darn sad, I’ll tell you that.”
“It starts light,” Gaudet said, quoting his work: “Otis Mahoney was full of baloney and that’s what the kids in the schoolyard said, but they changed their tune on good Friday afternoon when they heard that Otis Maloney was dead.”
As silly as it sounds, Gaudet’s musical mastery shines through with lyrics like “A sadder song has never been sung, a sadder story has never been told.”
“I’m really excited about the tunes,” said Gaudet, who also wrote songs about Iggy the Great — his son just thinks he’s mediocre, Gaudet crooned — and the gangster Hats Kozalino. “I really like the project they gave me.”