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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Theater Geek Karaoke

In Portland, Theater on June 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

This past Sunday I found myself portraying Frank Hardy in a short play called The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From. I had never heard of this play until about an hour before I was on stage, and during performance I and the three other actors had to read from scripts. We had no sets, virtually no props, and had not rehearsed in any meaningful way. It was loads of fun.

Play|Date is a new project from the Misfit Academy and is hosted by The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a small venue in Portland’s SE Industrial District, and it can best be thought of as dramatic karaoke. Participants have a list of short plays they can choose from, put in their names and, just like at a karaoke they’re called up to the stage to read through the scene with other performers.

Unlike other art events, it’s participatory. Portland has no shortage of plays, concerts, comedy shows, gallery openings, or the like, but there are far fewer arts events that encourage the general public to make art or actually flex their artistic muscles. They do exist, but not in numbers. Play|Date offers depth to the Portland art scene by expanding the field of who can do art and be a performer. It’s a catalyst for creation. I know that sounds sort of hokey, but it’s true.

Just like how karaoke isn’t a concert, Play|Date isn’t an actual performance. However, there’s a certain pleasure to seeing average people sing at karaoke, and there’s also a specific enjoyment that one can get from seeing unrehearsed nonactors read through a scene. You’re watching other humans, just like you, spontaneously attempt to make art. Having an active, vibrant, and interesting art scene in this town can mean more than just having a lot of good performance spaces. It also can mean that this is a place where people (you, me, everyone) can actually go places and attempt, just a little, to create.

In Which I’m a Zombie at a Haunted House

In Holidays, Horror, Theater on October 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

ZombieDr. Dre thrummed along in the background while I was being turned into a dead cop. The makeup artist told me to close my eyes while she worked, spraying paint of various colors on my face. The decades-old beats of The Chronic played away, and I refrained from bobbing my head. “Hold still,” said the makeup artist, “I’m going to splash blood on you.” I held still. She splashed blood on me. It tickled.

Last Friday evening I spent much of my afternoon and all of my evening at FrightTown, one of the largest haunted houses in Portland. A few of my friends had volunteered as monsters previously, had said it was fun, and convinced me to come out.

Based on my height, my looks, and the casting guy’s three second appraisal of my general demeanor, I was put in the role of Evidence Locker Zombie. “It’s high energy,” said the guy, “you think you can handle that?” I said that I could. He gave me a card and told me to report to the costume and makeup people. I was given a torn-up jumpsuit that said “POLICE” on the chest, and sat down to get turned into a blood-splattered corpse.

I was initially a little disappointed at being made a zombie. They’re pretty-much played out in popular culture. I’d hoped that FrightTown would make me a werewolf, what with being all hirsute and such. However, there were no werewolf roles. I decided, though, that I’d make the most of being a walking corpse. Zombies are solid, respectable horror antagonists, and at least I hadn’t been cast as a killer clown.

When I stepped out of makeup I was surrounded by a plethora of bizarre figures. Cultists. Fish people. A guy with a chicken for a head. A guy with a cooked chicken for a head. More zombies. A gigantic fat man with no shirt and gigantic shoulder armor. Killer clowns. A go-go dancer all of whose skin was green. Evil Santa. It was kind of like the Star Wars cantina, except an entirely different genre and no one was drinking.

I and my fellow zombies were given a brief acting lesson (we weren’t allowed to talk, for instance) and led into the playwood-and-props maze that was to be our haunt, a zombie apocalypse inspired by 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, and The Walking Dead. (FrightTown is actually three different haunted houses. There was also a Lovecraftian villiage and a haunted funhouse.) The sets were painted to look like desolate streets, bloody hospitals, and sinister decontamination chambers. As a zombie cop, I was to hang out in the destroyed police station, specifically in the evidence locker. It was, I think, the most physical job in the entire haunt.

The evidence locker contained several metal shelves behind a cyclone fence. The fence and shelves were bolted together in such a way that they were stable, and the zombie within could climb up and scare the passers-by. The following photo is of poor quality (and there was obviously much different lighting while the haunt was in full effect) but it gives you an idea of how I appeared to most people going through FrightTown.


When the fluorescent lights went off and the music and sound effects started up, I paced nervously in my abandoned, post-apocalyptic police station. I was wondering if I’d actually be able to scare people, or if the public would find any of the sets and costumes at all convincing. As people came in, though, my worries died away.

The first people I saw were a teenage couple clutching each other tightly as they ran past my evidence locker. I didn’t even get a chance to jump out and scare them. As other people moved in, I got into a groove. I’d hide behind the metal shelves and wait for them to look into the evidence locker, wondering where the zombie was. I’d jump out, scare them, snarl, and then climb the shelves and fence like I meant to pursue them. Sometimes I hung out on top of the fence, draped over it like a dead-looking dummy and then went “RAWR!” as they looked up. If there were a lot of people passing through the room at once, I’d gnash and yell and scream from my perch. My habit of towering above the customers while screaming and rattling the fence got me nicknamed “King Kong” by the event management. I was fine with that.

It was effective.  There were some people, mostly young men, who acted too cool for the haunted house, but for the most part folks seemed to appreciate the show I was putting on for them. The most rewarding bit of my night was when a woman, after I jumped out, said “you’re behind a fence, you can’t get us.” I locked eyes with her, screamed in her face, and began climbing and yelling. A very loud “WHAT THE FUCK” left her mouth, and I was satisfied with a scare well done. Many other people seemed disquieted by my performance. “You can’t climb,” they said, “zombies aren’t allowed to climb.” But I did. I climbed up the fence like I was coming for them, and they ran away to the next room of horrors, a cadaver-strewn jungle populated by undead soldiers.

Kids were numerous and scared easily. To tell the truth, scaring kids almost felt like cheating. I got no end of amusement, though, at seeing the smiles on adults as their children screamed their heads off. Large groups of adolescents and twentysomethings came in, almost always clutching each other. One person would have their hands on the shoulders or about the waist of their friend in front of them, holding themselves against the monsters. The haunted house veterans called this formation a conga line, and I wondered how many people were using the scariness of the haunted house as an excuse to cop a feel. Probably a lot.

My gig as the evidence locker zombie is the most physically demanding thing I’ve done in a while. Constantly climbing up and down a thing, jumping, yelling, and generally being a rage zombie from 7:00 until 11:30 is, it turns out, fairly tiring. I also blew out my voice out from all the screaming and growling and I sounded sort of like Christian Bale’s Batman for the next 48 hours. My arms were cut up and bruised from places I’d hit myself on the fence, and my whole body was sore.

It was all worth it, though. As a lover of horror and someone who enjoys being freaked out and scared it was great to help create the sense of dread. I have no idea how many zombie movies I’ve watched or video games I’ve played. As much as I’m tired of them now (and I do think they’ll come back around) it was a wonderful feeling to finally be the thing I enjoyed, not just consume it. As I yelled and growled and pretended to hunger for flesh I felt more connected to the genre than every before. It wasn’t something I was watching or playing or reading. It was something I was embodying. Getting dressed up as a walking corpse was a fantastic reminder of how great it feels to imagine, to put on a show, and to create.

No Trouble at All: Why A Comedic Episode About Cooing Balls of Fur is the Heart and Soul of Star Trek

In Science Fiction, Theater on August 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

Last weekend I took in what’s become a cultural staple of Portland, Trek in the Park, an annual performance of an original series Star Trek episode in, well, a park. It’s become something of a massive cultural juggernaut and this year, regrettably, is the last time that theater group Atomic Arts is doing the performance. They went out with a bang, though, performing the Trouble with Tribbles, one of the best-known Trek episodes. It had been a while since I’d seen it, but watching it performed live this past weekend really drove home what Star Trek is about. Tribbles may not be the greatest Trek episode ever (that’s either The Best of Both Worlds or Balance of Terror) but it’s a fantastic episode that sums up what Star Trek‘s all about.

The episode is very much a slice-of-life portrait of what it means to live in space, deal with space problems, and have a space job where you have to do space things. Kirk tangles with an annoying Starfleet bureaucrat, is forced to be cordial with Klingons, disciplines a number of his subordinates for getting in a bar fight, and investigates a shifty merchant selling dubious merchandise. Kirk doesn’t give any inspiring speeches, call for a red alert, or ever command the Enterprise in combat. Throughout the Trouble With Tribbles Kirk (along with Spock) simply does his job, executing his duties as an administrator. That’s precisely what makes Tribbles such good television, though. We get to see the characters breathe and do things other than just dive into the kind of heavy situation that would be suitable for a movie plot. A big part of Trek’s appeal is its hugely detailed world, and in Tribbles we get to see people simply live in it. Along with Kirk we also get to see McCoy doing doctor things at the tribbles, Lurry (the manager of the station where much of the action takes place) dealing with the Federation and Klingons simultaneously visiting his station, and Cyrano Jones (the sleazy space merchant) trying to make a living by hustling exotic animals and artifacts. We also get to learn that Scotty reads technical journals for fun, which is kind of endearing.

The regular problems and issues of life in outer space are the heart of Star Trek. While the show has had its fair share of action sequences (I do love seeing Kirk fight a gorn) it’s really always been a show about problem solving. The crew gathers to discuss an issue, either on the bridge or in a conference room, susses out just what precisely is going on, and eventually come up with a course of action to deal with it, usually involving the application of technology, medicine, diplomacy, or lateral thinking. The motivations of the characters generally have very little to do with their own survival, avarice, emotional problems, or self-betterment. Most often, Trek‘s characters are grappling with the issues at hand either to pursue knowledge or make the galaxy a slightly better place.

If there is action, it’s usually to just show us the stakes. Torpedoes are firing, so it’s important to come to a solution quickly. People are dying, so it’s necessary to science or diplomatize as fast as possible. Action in Star Trek is generally auxiliary to the main plot, rather than something pursued in and of itself. Trek‘s usually at its most awkward when it attempts to be an action movie, rather than a thinky show. Probably my least favorite part of Trek is the string Next Generation movies which (with the kinda-sorta exception of First Contact) generally fell flat because they tried to turn Picard into John McClane. Insurrection and Nemesis were embarrassing failures not just because they were bad Star Trek, but because they seemingly forgot what Star Trek‘s about.

The emphasis on action and de-emphasis on problem solving is precisely what’s missing from J. J. Abrams’ current version of Trek. The two Star Trek movies that have come out so far have done a good job of re-creating the characters (especially Zachary Quinto as Spock) and are both perfectly fine action movies that happen in space. I want to emphasize, in no uncertain terms, that I enjoyed them as space adventure movies. However, Star Trek isn’t just about high-stakes movie action. Very often, it’s about put-upon administrators who just want their space station to work right, annoying interplanetary bureaucrats, and troublesome alien furballs that breed constantly. It’s about the weird stuff you find in the great unknown reaches, the unforeseen problems, big and small, that come with discovery, and the great panoply if life and phenomena that could be somewhere out there. The great unknown does not always need to threaten your life and limb, declare war upon you, or present an insurmountable menace. Sometimes it’s enough for that unknown to just grow fur, coo at you, and eat your chicken sandwich.

Bonus! My wonderfully multitalented girlfriend, Sarah, was tasked with taking the official photograph of the cast. Check it out.

Shakespeare, the Remix

In Shakespeare, Theater on March 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

Cymbeline is a play that I’d never read, never seen, and generally knew nothing about until last Tuesday night. It’s one of Shakespeare’s kind of obscure C-list plays that’s seldom performed, and I had no idea what I was in for when the lights dimmed and the show started. The production was, strictly speaking, an adaptation of Cymbeline. While the original play was there, the director had added in a piano player/narrator type character who contextualized and commented on what was happening in the play (honestly, I did not find this to be a particularly interesting addition). I enjoyed the production quite a bit, but afterwards I completely understood why Cymbeline is so seldom performed: it’s an utter mess.

Make no mistake, it’s a really entertaining mess, but I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare just kind whipped up to amuse himself as it contains themes, riffs, and bits from just about every other Shakespeare play. A dottering old king like a la King Lear? Check. A conniving queen like the one from Macbeth? Check. A dude who is duped into thinking that his wife is cheating on him by a lying, manipulative douchebag and who subsequently wants to kill said wife a la Othello? Check. That drug from Romeo and Juliet that makes you seem dead even though you’re not? Check. Female-to-male cross dressing straight out of Twelfth Night? Check. Mistaken identity and misunderstandings in the spirit of Much Ado About Nothing? Check.

The various plots of Cymbeline ping-pong about ancient Britain, down to Rome, and back again, and Celts, Centurions, and hilarious Welsh hillbillies all show up, because why the hell not. Then, after a big battle that seems to happen just so the play can have a climax, all of the various plots are resolved in one big end scene that wraps it all up with a crowd-pleasing happy ending. Cymbeline is disjointed, messy, weird, thematically unstable, and I kind of loved it. It is like Shakespeare made a Girl Talk track out of all of his previous works, sat back, and then let the crowd eat it up.

It’s certainly not as affecting as King Lear, as magical as the Tempest, or as funny as Much Ado. Cymbeline is, though, of a glorious example of everything getting put in the Bard-blender and then being served up as a frothy drama-smoothie. It is,and I use this term wholly unironically, totally epic.

Blood and Boomsticks: Why The Evil Dead Musical is Kind of Like Ulysses

In Books, Horror, Theater on January 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

This past weekend I saw Evil Dead: the Musical. The title alone is something of a ridiculous novelty item, and I enjoyed the mere fact of saying to people “I’m going to go see Evil Dead: the Musical this weekend.” “What a delightful sounding quirky event!” people said in astounded reply, “you certainly are always doing something enjoyable and wacky!” Yes. Yes I am. So, how was it?

Uneven. High school musical-esque. Borderline terrible. Hugely enjoyable. I hated and loved it.

ED: tM (at least the production I saw) is by no means “good” or any approximation thereof. As a play and a stage show, it’s not even passably okay. Despite that, though, I enjoyed myself immensely. Walking out of it, I was torn between how bad I knew the production was, versus how much fun I had watching it.

First, the bad stuff: the acting was stilted, the singing was average-to-bad, the sound went in and out, and the pacing was terrible. Scenes bled into and out of each other with no kind of logic or cohesion, and there was no attempt whatsoever at horror or anything even approaching mild scares. More than anything else, it looked like someone’s Evil Dead fan fiction was being acted out on stage. As a musical production in and of itself, I knew in the relentlessly logical and taste-having section of my brain that ED:tM was bad, low-grade, terrible, putrid, and other flavors of general non-quality.

Despite that, during the performance my state of being could have been best described as “having fun.”

Even though I knew that ED: tM was kind of bad, I left very happy with my theater-going experience. I had fun. Not just a little fun. Lots of fun. I really, really enjoyed seeing a dude dressed up as Ash say “boomstick” and “groovy.” I liked watching dancing zombies and evil trees, and I utterly loved sitting in the splatter zone, getting a bucket of fake blood dumped over my head, and being subsequently assaulted by a zombie during the final musical number.

There was also a zombie (excuse me- “deadite”) who kept making bad puns throughout the whole show. As stupidly vaudvillian as it all was, I kind of loved the constant stream of groan-worthy bad jokes. But again- I knew that what I was watching was objectively terrible.

So, why the hell did I like this? Why on Earth did I thoroughly enjoy something that I knew was bad? This is something that bothered me about ED: tM, and a good deal of other media as well.

ED: tM works (if it does work) only insofar as the viewer is a fan of the Evil Dead movies. In fact, the whole thing kind of is fan fiction, in that it’s a kind of media where most of the enjoyment comes from recognizing things. The audience didn’t have fun so much because the Ash on stage said “groovy.” Instead, we all collectively remembered how awesome it was when Bruce Campbell said “groovy” and enjoyed that bit of fan-memory in a sudden collective burst.

Also: fake blood. I got doused with the stuff, and getting coated in a layer of ersatz gore is almost always fun.

It’s very tempting to write off nostalgia, the fun of recognition, and fan service as bad reasons to enjoy something. While those are not the best reasons for a given thing being “good,” I don’t believe that nostalgia or the fun of recognizing fan-favorite lines like “gimmie some sugar, baby” are illegitimate reasons for liking something. Ulysses, a hoity-toity book that is supposedly the best bit of English word-art ever put to the page, is almost 67.5% Homeric fan fiction. When I read Ulysses most of the fun I had was picking out the references to literature and mythology, and finding parallels with the Odyssey. I actually alternated back and forth between reading Joyce and Homer so I could pick out the various parallel bits. While Ulysses is enjoyable as a rather nicely written book in and of itself, the added dimension of reading it as a classical literature fanboy made my experience of consuming it a lot more fun. I felt like I “got” when Joyce was winkng at me- that is, if someone who had only one eye can be said to “wink” in any real sense.

That feeling was magnified severalfold in a theater. Sitting in a room with a collection of like-minded fan-nerds amplified my own enjoyment of the theatrical goings-on. Their laughs, groans, and applause amplified my own. We were all sitting in a theater getting fan-serviced together, and it felt damn good.

I hesitate to call ED: tM a guilty pleasure, as I don’t feel at all guilty for having fun while watching it. However, I do acknowledge that a great amount of the fun I had came from external stuff already lodged in my brain prior to the performance. Would I recommend it to others? No, probably not. Did I have gobs of stupidly blood-splattered fun this weekend? Yes, absolutely, and I’d do it again.

Live, Real Star Trek: "A Group of People Dating Back to the 1990s…"

In Science Fiction, Theater on July 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

This is mostly about Star Trek, yes (as you can surmise from the accompanying illustration). But, bear with me as I digress for a moment about Star Wars.

Long ago, in the before time, I remember an era when Star Wars was still cool. In that time (the late 1990s) the movies were re-released in theaters, albeit with modernized special effects and additional footage. I remember sitting in a theater as an exuberant teenage, excited to see it all on the big screen. The audience whooped and applauded, laughed and hollered with raucous energy as the movie went on. Darth Vader was greeted with hoots and people shouting “yeah!” and a wave of applause went up when the Death Star exploded.

One of the biggest reactions from the audience, though, was towards the beginning. I remember it very clearly. Luke, kvetching to his uncle, says that he wants to go to Toshi Station with his friends and “pick up some power converters.”

The audience roared with laughter, applause, and general appreciation. It’s probably one of the cheesiest lines in Star Wars, and brings to mind all manner of B-movie derision. Luke’s line sounds precisely what some hack writer would think up to tell the audience “Hey, guys! We’re in a futuristic universe here!” and given what we know about George Lucas, that’s probably exactly what it was.

Nevertheless, the audience cheered with very real affection. The transparent artifice of the line did not stop them from loving it. If anything, it was the reason that they roared with approval.

I was reminded of that moment last weekend when I saw Trek in the Park, an event wherein a Portland theater troupe performs an episode of the original Star Trek live. I went to it last year and enjoyed myself, so there was no way I was going to miss it this time around.

Like last year, it was loads of fun. The particular episode they performed was Space Seed, better known as “the one with Khan in it.” The thing about the performance that reminded me of Luke’s legendarily groan-worthy line, was that Khan is from the 1990s. When Star Trek was aired in the sixties, I suppose that the nineties were still distant and future-y enough to write science fiction stories about. According to the original Star Trek timeline, Earth apparently got into an enormous eugenics war in the late twentieth century, bred a bunch of supermen, developed interstellar travel (but without FTL) and generally devolved into chaos. Space Seed contains several references to this, and to “the twentieth century” in general.

A few choice lines:

Much older. DY-100 class, to be exact. Captain, the last such vessel was built centuries ago, back in the 1990s.”

“Seventy two alive. A group of people dating back to the 1990s. A discovery of some importance, Mister Spock. There are a great many unanswered questions about those years.”

“With simple nuclear-powered engines, star travel was considered impractical at that time.”

“Earth was on the verge of a dark ages. Whole populations were being bombed out of existence.”

“[Khan’s] age would be correct. In 1993, a group of these young supermen did seize power simultaneously in over forty nations.”

“From 1992 through 1996, [Khan was] absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world. From Asia through the Middle East.”

…and so on.

The performers, though, made absolutely no attempt to cover up how unashamedly retro this all was. If anything they reveled in it. Much like that crowd at the screening of Star Wars who had such a great reaction to Luke’s ultra-cheesy line, the crowd lapped up with verve and amusement any reference to the nineties, and anything else hokey or otherwise dated. On top of that, a full complement of electronic music and woo-woo sound effects accompanied the performance. All through the production music that would have been massively futuristic fifty years ago hummed away.

What was weird is that the hokey stuff really made it all better. The concession to genre, anachronism, and borderline kitsch seemed to alchemically combine into something that was, actually, very awesome. Had they attempted to modernize the production or play it straight, it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable. Nor do I think (and this is what I find sort of weird) I wouldn’t have been nearly as emotionally invested in what was going on.

I am fascinated by an audience’s ability to laugh at something for being silly, hokey, and sort of dumb; but at the same time be utterly charmed and on board with it. Nearly every single person there was utterly into how, well, Star Trek-y it all was, how a piece of sixties SF was walking and talking right in front of us. We were rooting for it because it was anachronistic, full of genre conventions, and of its. Not despite those things. We can laugh at the absurdity of another time without mocking it, regard artifacts as absurd and all the while wholeheartedly embrace them.

Live, Real Star Trek

In Portland, Science Fiction, Theater on July 13, 2009 at 7:39 am

You know the whole phenomenon of Shakespeare in the park? It’s great. Basically a bunch of people do a free performance of Shakespeare in a public place. Last Saturday I went to something like that, but instead of “Shakespeare” it was “Star Trek.”

Live Star Trek. It was fucking fantastic. The actors were wonderful, the audience was massively appreciative, and geeky enthusiasm ruled the day. I was amused to see one of the actors from King Lear, which I saw earlier this summer, also in this. I suppose there’s a fair amount a crossover between Shakespeare and Trek fans. Also, the whole thing was accompanied by The Fast Computers, a band whom I’d seen a few times in Eugene, and were great in this setting, providing a retro-electro background.

The episode that they chose to perform was a nice one- Amok Time, wherein Spock goes into heat and subsequently battles Kirk at the behest of a sexy Vulcan chick.

The homemade props were especially good. Both of those polearm things ended up splitting in half during the fight, to great effect. All in all, utterly awesome. My geek heart was aflutter the whole time.

And, apropos of nothing, here are a bunch of kids splotching paint all over a car.

Elizabethian Low-Fi

In Shakespeare, Theater on June 19, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Along with The Tempest, King Lear is probably one of my two favorite Shakespeare plays. I remember, very clearly, the process of reading it for the first time.

It was my birthday, my eighteenth birthday, and I couldn’t sleep. I looked up at the clock and saw that it was three in the morning, but no part of the mechanisms of sleep complied with that. I knew that I would miss three hours of rest, that I would be a unslept and groggy on my first day of legal adulthood, so I figured that I might as well do something productive with my time. I got out King Lear, which I needed to read for English later that week. I read the whole thing before my first class started, pretty much unable to put it down. I found it surprising. It was so very, very dark that I was inescapably captivated by it. It’s a play with storms, insanity, torture and death aplenty, and I couldn’t put it down, even though I found myself getting more bummed out as I continued to read it.

The morning of my eighteenth birthday, King Lear depressed the hell out of me. Reading it for the very first time with no idea of what happened at the end gave me this feeling of “Oh god, there is nothing positive about the world.” So of course it’s become one of my favorite bits of literature ever, and I jumped at the chance to see it on Thursday in Cathedral Park.

When one thinks of the phrase “Shakespeare in the park,” one often imagines fumbled lines, missed cues, and the inarticulate trampling of iambic petameter. I showed up fully expecting the production to be very “okay” and was surprised to see that the Portland Actors Ensemble did a terrific job. In face, the “in the park” aspect of it was one of the best things about the production. The outdoor venue and public space were a serious asset for the whole thing, rather than a liability.

Take a look at that picture of the underside of the St. John’s Bridge there. You like big, creepy gothic stuff? I know I do. Well, how do you like them arches? Now imagine some old dude screaming up up at those neo-gothic arches and shouting “And thou, all-shaking thunder, smite flat the thick rotundity ‘o the world!” Get the picture? Pretty fucking sweet, huh? Even better than that, it was actually raining. Not as much as it really could have been- not enough for Lear to have a full-blown storm to rage at, but it was a nice addition, nonetheless.

It was also neat to see the actors entering and exiting from all directions. Yes, I know that having actors climb through the fourth wall is something that’s been around for quite some time, but when done right it’s still highly cool. More than having entrances and exits via the stairwell that ran through the audience, though (there it is in the picture) was that after the intermission the doorway in the arch was taken down and one could see the actors striding toward the center of the stage, sihouetted in the archway before they made their entrances. Having Edmund in shadows in the background while Glouster wailed up at the sky behind his bloody eyemask was really, really fucking cool.

By the end of the play I’d totally forgotten that I was at a free performance. No, scratch that. I hadn’t forgotten that I was at a free performance. Rather, the DIY-ness of it all just increased my enjoyment of it. They were using a public space instead of a set, fairly cheap costumes, there was ambient noise from the bridge and the street, everyone was getting rained on, and that made it all better. This wasn’t art inside some hermetic space or presented in some sort of pristine matter. The messiness of the situation granted it a certain kind of authenticity. That’s what it had- authenticity. That’s what I want, what so many people of my age and type want. Something stripped of artifice and slickness, or at least something that is conscious of such. Moreover, lack of artifice should be supplanted with a certain unfeigned enthusiasm, a truthfulness and security in one’s actions and creations, an unsentimental sincerity that seems to pervade the DIY aesthetic. Lear in the park certainly had that.

I had a blast, and am certainly planning on seeing their next performance, Henry IV Part One. Also, I rented Ran, Kurosawa’s film based on Lear. Totally epic, and the subject of a future post.