So tonight I got to go see the second creative collaboration this semester. For those who don't know what a creative collaboration is at the U of M theater department I will explain the process briefly. A professor picks a theme or topic that they are interested in exploring and then they audition and cast actors to explore that theme with them. The cast then meets with that instructor (or instructors) and they create a new work pulling form any sources they want.
They meet, write and create for approximately 5 weeks (my collab. Club Valhalla met for more like 7 weeks and I believe Frankenstein met for only 4 weeks). At the end of this process they present whatever they have got. It is not meant to be considered a finalized work. More like: "This is what we were interested in and this is what we have got." performances are free and generally on Monday and Tuesday evening.
With U of M jargon out of the way let's jump into Frankenstein. This project really excited me when I heard about it. Frankenstein has always been a fascinating story to me and the monster has been so misrepresented by Hollywood. With several personal friends in this piece, it was hard not to hear about the project and where it was going.
So what was it? Well it was an audience interactive piece. Pretty much right away the audience got the opportunity to get right up on stage and explore. There wasn't what appeared to be an overarching plot or narrative. More a study of several different creatures and employees that we got to view and interact with.
I witnessed several different moments that were absolutely horrifying. I saw a guard rape and beat a test subject to death. I saw I surgeon pulling teeth one by one out of a subjects mouth. At one point in the performance a creature walked up behind me and grabbed my hand pulling me into a corner (which was absolutely terrifying).
So what made this performance work?
- This show had a tremendous sound design. Most horror fans know that things aren't really scary unless there is really disturbing music playing. On top of that there were screams, shouts, singing, and cast members frequently banging on various set piece and props. The effect was a constant feeling of misdirection. The moment you felt comfortable in the space a noise came from just outside of your sight line and terror returned.
- All the characters were very developed. With no real plot or narrative it takes a lot to maintain an audience's attention. All the characters, especially the creatures were fantastically thought out. They all seemed to have their own arcs, physical restrains, and desires. Together the cast built a true feeling of desperation with these characters.
- The costumes were great. I can't do justice to describe the costuming of the cast especially the creatures. They all seemed to be made of of bits of junk and found objects manipulated to make these creatures horrifying. Some of the costumes added to characterization. For example one creature had latex that covered his mouth. There was an air pump on the back of his head that pumped air to expand and contract the latex (maybe also give the actor an air supply?). This became a feature of his character.
- Finally Carl Flink's choreography was incredible. I am secretly becoming his biggest fanboy.
I don't think "what didn't work" is a good way to describe the criticism of this piece because it is not a finalized work. So I will phrase this as the "What will make this project better if it were to be pursued and pushed forward."
- One of the major feelings needed to make effective horror is claustrophobia. You want to make your audience feel trapped like they cannot escape. Largely due to the space this show was performed in, but the rules established early on of "refrain from touching the actors" really gave most of the audience the excuse to avoid actors every time they approached them.
- I really wanted to see some of the human characters further developed. This show seemed very one-sided and the human just completely mistreating the monsters with no remorse. Now there could have been moments of redemption that I missed due to the format of the show, but these themes can definitely be expanded.
- I really wanted an ending. There was a very scripted beginning that brought the audience into what the performance was about. I wanted a closing vinette that the whole audience could experience together. It was interesting that everyone in the audience had a completely different experience, but it would be nice for the audience to had the same jumping off point and landing pad.
I thoroughly enjoyed tonight's performance and I will definitely have nightmares tonight as the result of great work. Congrats.
So this will be very brief because most of the information will be coming from my post tomorrow or the next day ish... but...
Tomorrow is May 1st or better know globally as International Workers Day. The Occupy movement has called for a general strike. No Work. No school. No class.
Now it will be interesting to see how much turnout the various events get tomorrow. Occupy is at a turning point. The winter froze a lot of activists out and let the message we fought for slip under the radar of the corporate media. May first is being viewed by many as the relaunch of the occupations across the country.
I am ready for this movement to come roaring back into the mainstream and grow bigger than before, because the issues we are fighting for are too critical to just let slip through our fingers. So dedicate some time tomorrow and go to an Occupy event to show your support for the 99%. You can find events happening in your area here
With that friends I bid you goodnight,