So, Friday night at the festival, they started the night off with a showing of Cesar Jaime and Jeff Pacocha's documentary about Del Close, The Delmonic Interviews. Somehow, I had never seen the film before, but Shaun has seen it 5 or 6 times. That night he mentioned that watching the film always depressed him because it made him think about what he was or wasn't doing to advance "the work".
And later that night I happened to overhear some of the Tucson improvisors discussing who was going to performing the next day. "Well, there's those guys from Utah and there's Bare." "What are Bare like?" "Oh, a friend of mine from Chicago told me that they're, you know, crowd-pleasers."
Crowd-pleasers? Is that an insult? A compliment? Just accurate? I mean, we do strive to entertain the audience. We are, modesty aside, pretty funny. Is that bad?
In any case, on Saturday night when we were trying to decide what to do for our show (Hotel? Small Town? "Who would do that?"? Pageant of History? (which we will be doing this Wednesday at The Playground's Motel 6)) I jokingly threw out "Actual Theatre."
Actual Theatre was a show we developed two years ago with director Don Hall. It was an improvised show that centered around the real relationship between Shaun and me. We used personal monologues and (long) scenes that were usually half-a-step from reality to explore our often-contentious relationship and build to an exaggerated argument which would end when one of would get so angry that we'd storm out of the theatre. And that'd be the end of the show. We did a run at WNEP Theatre and really felt like we accomplished our goals for the show. Good friends of ours would leave the show asking Don if he thought we could do the show the next week since this week "ended so badly."
After listening to (and about) Del for an hour the day before and having been mulling over that over-heard comment, it was suddenly attractive. If we did it right it wouldn't be crowd-pleasing, but crowd-affecting.
There were a number of good reasons not to do the show.
- we hadn't done it for two years
- We were the closing act of the festival, and it could be a very odd way to end the festival
- when we did do the show, Don was the maestro, calling scene changes and monologues with light and sound cues
- The audiences that came to see Actual Theatre at WNEP were prepared for, if not the exact show they saw, an evening of more dramatic theater than happy make-em-ups
- even if we did the show well, it wouldn't necessarily be fun for the audience
- there were some kids in the front row and Shaun said "I can't be 'emotionally honest' without swearing." Fair enough.
We tried to get some people to talk us out of it. We asked Jos� if it was alright to end the festival with a odd, maybe jarring show. "Sounds great," Jos� said. We called Don to ask if he thought we could do the show after two years and if he thought it was OK to do that to the festival. "A festival is the perfect place to do Actual Theatre! Have fun!" Don said. "Do it! Doooo it!" Jen yelled in the background.
So... it looked like we were stuck. I didn't want to go back to Chicago and tell Don we had wussed out of doing the show. We went out into the parking lot and worked out some structural changes to the show to accommodate the lack of Don or really any light control and to work within the audiences expectations. "No sense in warming up," Shaun said. We went back inside to watch JoKyR & Jesster. Their show ended all too soon (it turns out their was a miscommunication about pulling their lights and indeed, it was too soon).
And... we did Actual Theatre. The opening, movement to music, went better than we could have expected. The first loooong scene went so well that Shaun told me afterwards that he was considering trying to figure out how to indicate to me that we should just do that scene as a 40-minute scene and be done with it. But we jumped into the monologues that took the whole thing into a (controlled) spiral into chaos. At about 40 minutes, I asked Shaun if I could join him in his improvised car. "No," he said, "get out." "Fine," I snapped, and left the stage and the building and headed down the street to Fat Cat's for a shot and a beer and to wait for Shaun.
And... it worked. The show was, by turns, funny and confusing and dramatic. The next day people were still asking "Is Bare OK?" Whew.
So... some more pretty pictures of Phoenix:
More unrealistically beautiful palm trees and blue sky.
Koi at the Chinese Cultural Center.
Windmill at the Castles & Coasters miniature golf. Which sucks, by the way, Far too many of those holes where you have to get the ball into a specific hole on an upper level and then it drops through a pipe into a lower level.
Apollo 12 invokes "comic book".
Bare begins. Thanks to Amy Carpenter for taking photos of Bare.
That first long scene, just sitting in chairs.
I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so I'm just enjoying having so many pictures of Bare to choose from.
Shaun does a monologue in the one well-lit spot on stage.
I lecture an imaginary class about working together.
I deliver a rambling monologue.
Things start to get ugly and chairs are thrown.
Shaun sits in his improv car and watches me leave the building.