Weekend Assignment #319: The Play’s The Thing.
Nowadays we get most of our comedy and drama from television, from movies and even from Internet downloads. Perhaps we sometimes forget that all of these evolved from a much older art form, the stage play. Do you ever attend plays, musicals or operas? Why or why not?
Extra Credit: Have you ever seen anything by Shakespeare performed live?
I love plays,sometimes. I grew up with not much in the way of arts education. My father’s idea of cultural education was the Mandrell Sisters variety show on NBC. If it wasn’t for my Aunt Rosie(the lovable artsy Aunt every shy lonely kid needs),I think I’d listen only to country and metal, and think Hee Haw spoke to America. She didn’t get the chance to take me to my first play, sadly. If she had, I might have absorbed that along with all the great stuff she introduced me to. My two favorite books of all time, Hotel New Hampshire and the Godfather, were both gifts from her.But I digress
I don’t really count all the school plays I went to in high school as my first plays,because I knew everyone in them and I couldn’t really appreciate them as art in my hormone addled teenage brain. No, the first one I ever ,really truly saw was a College of Lake County production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, which I loved to death. I had not ever read or seen “Hamlet” before that,but went to a version in Chicago the next year. Hamlet in that one was played by Gary Sinise, an actor who I think hasn’t done much since then.(Just kidding, folks.) But it did light a fire for live theatre for me for the next few years, which was really helped by me going to Columbia College in Chicago the next year.
For those of you who are uninformed, Columbia College is a small liberal arts college in downtown Chicago. I could go on about my Alma mater, but the pertinent point is that it has a giant theatre and arts department. And so, I had a lot of people I knew who worked on plays, and would let us students in to dress rehearsals and such to see new things. Since I could go to these and still make the train back to the suburbs,I went to a lot of plays those three years.I saw John Malkovich do Lee Harvey Oswald. I saw every Broadway touring company that came through, loving some(Cats) and hating others(Miss Saigon). But for all those big elaborate musicals, there was something missing. Where was the passion , the fury of the punk and metal I loved?
If you’re thinking it was Rent, you’re wrong. I fell asleep in that thing, and forgot I’d seen it until one of my stepdaughters made me watch the movie.Nope, it was a play who’s title said it all:
Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack.
If you lived in Chicago in the mid-90s and were anywhere on the north side, you probasbly have heard of this play. Written by Billy Berningham, and staged by the late great Torso Theatre(who took this play to Broadway, I think). It was the only thing besides a Gwar show where I wished I’d worn a raincoat. To give you an idea of the level of this, the first act opens with the President of the US using a dildo as a dog toy. The second act opens with a man performing oral sex on a Big Mac.
We will now pause while your mind processes that sentence. To say that in an era of extreme, CCOC pushed over the top even then. It was bloody, disgusting,and always worth eveyr second of time I invested in it. If I had any money to burn, I’d put it on here in Charlotte just to see how fast we’d get shut down. I’d been in Rocky Horror, but this was Rocky on,well, crack.
I miss those days of theatre going. Unless it’s a school function, I really don’t get to see live theatre anymore. Touring musicals are a small fortune for tickets, and most don’t really appeal to me. Any national tours here sell out in minutes,and the aforementioned costs don’t lend themselves to quick financing.
But I remain hopeful. There’s a small company here in Charlotte that I hope to see soon. It’s called Citizens of the Universe.They’ve done some really interesting productions, like staging an adaptation of the movie “Fight Club” in a parking lot. So kepe up those shows, and I hope I’ll make it to something soon.
Extra Credit:I already answered this back in the article,so I’m going to take this time ,and list the five plays I’d put back into production if I had oh say, Simon Cowell’s money:
1)Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack(see reasons above)
2)Illuminatus! The eight hour adaptation of the Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea trilogy, It was rumored to have been staged in England and Germany in the 70’s. But I haven’t even ever seen footage, or even a picture.
3)Shogun:the musical. Just to see how fats I can get a crowd to leave.
4)A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d have the Looking Glass Company of Minneapolis do it,just because theirs was amazing.
5) Warp! It’s another legend of Chicago theatre that went to Broadway and vanished. It was pretty much a superhero comic on stage, with art direction by comic legend Neal Adams, and co-written by horror film legend Stuart Gordon. Cinefantastique magazine did a an article on it when I was eight, and there were even comics based on it in the eighties, but like the second one, it’s something I was too young to see, but would love to see someone try again.