Six Minutes of Pure Horror

by Whatsblem the Pro

 

You goddamn kids, dancing on my lawn in your underpants! Why, in my day. . .

We didn’t always have the Internet, you know, and the world was a lot less openly, deliciously freakish before you could go online and discover millions of people happily indulging in every fetish you’ve ever even thought of. . . like it’s normal! Because it is normal.

People didn’t necessarily know it was normal then, especially teenagers. As recently as the ’70s, the ho-hum trivialities of 21st Century non-vanilla sexuality – like mere transvestitism – were considered way beyond the pale; even something as ordinary and normal to us today as flamboyantly gay culture was seen as completely outrageous, in every sense of the word. . . unimaginable, even: there’s a scene in the film Behind the Candelabra in which one character points out to another that the audience in a Vegas nightclub watching Liberace perform in all his decadent sartorial excess on a stage dripping with gay pride weren’t being accepting of the star’s homosexuality; they were simply unaware of it, completely and totally. The Stonewall Riots didn’t take place until 1969, after all, and that shot heard ’round the world was still in the process of being heard.

If you were young then, you probably witnessed a lot of social horrors among your mates at school; kids seem to be significantly less vicious with each other now than they were in those days. The Internet, decades of integration, and the greying of the ’60s generation seem to have done a good job of getting kids to be nicer to and more comfortable with each other. In the ’70s, the peer pressure was intense. If you were a little unsure of yourself back then, possibly a little nerdy, maybe not too confident in your own sexuality or in expressing it, you didn’t have many avenues or outlets available to you for empowerment and camaraderie, or even for more information; you mostly had to wonder and fret about what kind of freak you really were.

There were touchstones of culture that helped, that allowed kids to identify each other as friendlies on the same fringe. Some of them were as simple as quotes from Monty Python skits. If you joined in on the first round of “spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam” then you had communicated that yes, you too got bullied and beaten up and mockingly called Professor Einstein for your smartitude, and now were among your own people. If you were a punk rocker in 1978 and you saw another punk rocker, your clothes and hair told the tale and you were instant friends, because there were so few of you and you had so much in common. Being gay or lesbian or bi or what have you? That was mostly some kind of super-secret club that did a lot of hiding out. The unlucky kids never twigged to the signal, or lived in places where they really were truly alone.

Some touchstones were deeper than others; some were real lifesavers for a lot of kids.

In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show around the country gave a wide variety of people with certain unusual inclinations in common a way to meet each other and do a little acting out in a way that was terribly nerdy and terribly sexy. . . and tremendously liberating and empowering, often to a life-changing degree. Not just a film; a powerful message: don’t dream it, be it. Sound familiar? It should, ’cause in 1975, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was a lot like Burning Man.

If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch it at home until you’ve seen it in the theater with a good crowd. It’s a theatrical experience, an audience participation experience, not a sit-on-your-ass piece of passive entertainment. Hit the nearest city and find a theater that shows it, dress in your most outlandish duds, and go. . . or, you could get your very first Rocky on (and maybe your rocks off) with the 2013 lineup of the Six-Minute Players at Camp Videogasm, a Burning Man theme camp located in Snowflake Village.

I got in touch with El Smith, the Six-Minute Players’ Coordinator/Director, and she was kind enough to write up the following brief history of Rocky Horror on the Playa for me in answer to my questions:

“RHPS on the playa was started by Tiki Bob in 2005 at Videogasm in Snowflake Village. I played Columbia that year and accidentally started an orgy onstage during the pool scene. . . but that’s another story. Someone at Videogasm called us “the Six Minute Players” because we had no rehearsal and didn’t meet up until six minutes before the show. We liked the name so we kept it. We put on a shadow show complete with a devirginizing ceremony, which changes every year.

Tiki Bob retired from RHPS at the end of the 2007 season and I took it over. At that time, and up until 2011, we had pretty much a new cast every year. With a new annual cast and no rehearsals, we were pretty much just a trannie free-for-all. Some people knew their roles well but for most people it was just an excuse to show off onstage while fucked up. . . which I didn’t have a problem with.

The Six Minute Players had a one-year hiatus in 2010 while I was recovering from a neurological disease that had paralyzed me twice, and I dropped the ball on temporarily handing over the reins. Videogasm still put on a shadow show that year but it wasn’t my cast and I didn’t have a hand in it so in my selfishness I don’t consider it one of the Six Minute Player shows.

I picked the show back up in 2011 and we’ve steadily taken it more and more seriously. I have a core cast now that will be returning for their third year with me, the costumes have gotten better, we have actual props now and there’s even a rehearsal! Of course we drink pretty much the entire rehearsal but we still do manage to get things done.

The show has just gotten better and better since 2011. We did experience a setback with our audience attendance last year due to our placement in Bumfuck, Egypt. We usually have an audience of at least two hundred people, and last year it looks like we only had about a hundred at most. I don’t care so much about attendance for myself; I don’t really do anything besides coordinate/direct the show and manage props, but I care for my actors. They put in a lot of work every year to make sure we only get better and being pissed on like that by placement is not cool. I don’t know, maybe one of the placement people used to be in the show and I told them they sucked and I didn’t want them back. Sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Complete speculation of course.

Once again in their infinite wisdom, placement has decided for 2013 to once again marginalize the hard-working cast and crew of the Six Minute Players (not to mention the incredible audience-driven Videogasm) and has put us even further into Bumfuck, Egypt. We’ll be at 8:30 and E this year, and the ‘E’ does NOT stand for Esplanade. We were back in the middle of nowhere last year, too, but before that we were on the Esplanade for nearly fifteen years. . . which explains how we went from an audience of at least two hundred to less than a hundred last year.

The future of the Six Minute Players could very possibly be in jeopardy due to the increasingly poor decisions of the placement team. While there will always be a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing at Videogasm, regardless of the camp location, the Six Minute Players could very likely decide that the show is far too much work for so small an audience. We love and appreciate our audience and do it all for them, and would hate to have to close the curtain on our troupe. . . that would mean the terrorists, aka BMOrg, win.

I would like to do an actual live stage production of the Rocky Horror Show but until I can afford the equipment for that to be possible it will remain a pipe dream. I’m not interested in doing a Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or other crowdfunding thing.

I have no plans to hand over the reins or end the show unless I’m paralyzed and stuck in the hospital again. Otherwise, we’ll keep on dancing in our fishnets and stilettos.”

This is the Six-Minute Players’ cast and crew list for 2013; core cast members are marked with an asterisk:

CAST

Frank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Alyssa Smith*

Janet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kristen Craig*

Brad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Charles Douglas Reed

Riff. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sam Fish

Magenta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MarZ Attack

Columbia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Heather Bewsee

Dr. Scott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Hal Wrigley

Rocky. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . Geordie Van Der Bosch*

Eddie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .Ranger Genius*

Crim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .AntiM*

Trixie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . Heather Tyler Harrell

Emcee. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . Nick Fedoroff

CREW

Backstage/Prop/Lighting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Heather Tyler Harrell, Howard Clayton, Nick Fedoroff, Nathan Goulette

Photography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Wendi Corbin Goulette

Hosting Camp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Videogasm @ Snowflake Village

Coordinator/Direction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .El Smith

(Jan Dirk Roggenkamp is also a core member who plays Brad, but is not able to make it to the playa this year due to the birth of his sons last week)

Behind the scenes on the film’s set, with interviews

Swimming in Air with the Bones of God

by Whatsblem the Pro

Ichthyosaur skull -- Image: The Pier Crew

Ichthyosaur skull — Image: The Pier Crew

Jerry Snyder’s enthusiasm is infectious. His face breaks out in moonbeams as we hit the high points of the Pier Crew’s project for Burning Man 2013. We’re at the Generator, a fee-free community art space in Sparks, Nevada, where Jerry and the crew are building his brainchild: a giant wooden puppet of an ichthyosaur skeleton.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: This is a puppet? And there’s a sort of carny tent revival show, right?

JERRY SNYDER: Right. It goes with our premise of this guy, sort of an uneducated miner who finds these bones and thinks these are God’s image on Earth.

WTP: He wasn’t an archaeologist? He was a miner?

JS: Well, in reality, Dr. Camp was a UC Berkeley paleontologist who did serious work very painstakingly, over the course of years. . . he did science. The name, though, is way too good to waste. We figured, he’s Dr. Camp, let’s make him campy. We’re sort of reinventing him as this itinerant miner who wanders into Berlin, Nevada, an ignorant, uneducated guy who has this revelation that this is God’s portrait on Earth. This is the face, the image of God!

WTP: God looks like an ichthyosaur. Sounds legit so far.

JS: God is a fish-lizard! This is God’s message to his Creation! So he recreates this skeleton and goes around preaching to people from town to town in this sort of tent revival, saying “I’ve seen God, He saved me! He pulled me up from the depths of despair and sin and privation! He showed me His face! If you really believe, you may make the bones of God move, you may manipulate God Himself, become one with God, and make God’s bones dance across the desert night!”

WTP: Preach it, brother Camp!

At what point exactly does this story diverge from the actual story of Dr. Camp?

JS: Oh! Uh, entirely. It’s entirely made up. Dr. Camp was a respectable scientist who wasn’t a bit kooky, as far as I know.

WTP: Let’s talk about you for a minute. . . how did you get here?

JS: Well, my first burn was 2004. My first almost-burn was 1994, when I was an art student at UNR, and a friend told me “hey you should go to this Burning Man thing,” and I didn’t. Oops. Ten years later, we finally made it out there.

I’m from Yerington, Nevada originally. I lived in the Bay Area for a few years but moved back here in 2001.

Jerry Snyder and a rib for the Ichthyosaur Puppet

Jerry Snyder and a rib for the Ichthyosaur Puppet

When I was an art student at UNR, I always felt like Reno was right on the verge of something really big; it’s felt like that ever since. Things come and go, but it really has developed a lot. Burning Man has had a lot to do with that, and that fosters a very specific kind of art; it’s often very sophisticated outsider art, by insiders in non-art worlds. . . techies and geeks.

WTP: I think some of it could fairly be called craft, or even research, but I like the way it inflames the passions of the inner child in people.

JS: With the Pier, and the ship, and this project, we started thinking: let’s just build the stuff that we wanted to build when we were seven years old and weren’t able to.

WTP: Yeah! I know exactly what you mean. . . that’s why I wrote an obituary article when Gerry Anderson died.

So the Ichthyosaur is a marionette?

JS: Yes, it’ll be hanging from a 20’x20’x60′ structure. It’ll move in a swimming motion, the flippers will move, the head will move side-to-side, the jaws will open. . . of course, this is all dependent on how well we can figure out how to do all this stuff. No one’s really done this. . . it’s not like you can just Google “how do I build a giant dinosaur puppet” and find much on the Internet.

WTP: And you’ll have a live human playing Dr. Camp?

JS: Yes, I’ll play Dr. Camp; Ed Adkins will play Dr. Camp, I think Brandon Russell will play him, and so will Ian Epperson.

Some of the crew at work

Some of the crew at work

WTP: What sort of interactivity will it have?

JS: Aside from making the puppet move, Dr. Camp will be preaching and there will be hymns sung, pilgrims will come and be saved; basically, we’ll have a full free-form tent revival meeting going on. The rest of the time the place will be staffed by one or two people so that you can come and play with the puppet if you like.

We’re working on the hymnal; Brandon Russell, who wrote the ship’s log for our project last year, is writing our hymns, and they’re hysterical. A few of them are on our website.

WTP: Why do this? Will you burn it, or are you taking it home from Burning Man?

JS: (laughs) Because I want to see it. It’s in my head and it wants out.

What we’re thinking about is possibly donating it to Great Basin Brewery, if it’s technically feasible. They have a location that has a high ceiling, and I’m hoping we can hang it up there. They’ve been really generous and wonderful to us and to other burners so many times, we would really like to do something nice for them. We didn’t get a Burning Man grant, so Great Basin has been a godsend to us and really gone out of their way to help us out.

WTP: The Pier Crew is also running this build space, right?

Space, time, tools: The Pier Crew's gift to the Reno arts community

Space, time, tools: The Pier Crew’s gift to the Reno arts community

JS: Yes! It’s called “The Generator” and we’re super excited about this project. I just look around and smile whenever I’m here. . . we have an incredibly generous donor who foots the bill, and we’re going to be able to provide this amazing resource to the community, with tools, full metal shop, full wood shop, and so on. Anyone will be able to come down here and make art, when we’re all set up.

WTP: Tell me what you want people to know about the Ichthyosaur Puppet.

JS: In part, it’s silly. In part, it’s just making a giant dinosaur. . . but there’s also a sense in which I am totally fascinated by the intersection of art and religion, and this notion of them both being made-up stories that are trying to get at the truth. I don’t mean that to be insulting to people of faith at all, but I like playing with these notions of misinterpretation, and faith, and the ways in which we try to explain the world. Maybe the way we see the world is just wrong, and the things we accept as reality are something else altogether. I like putting characters into that particular kind of confusion.

WTP: Thanks, Jerry.

Burning Man Fashion 2013: Manish Arora’s Indian Burn

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

A major five-day fashion show in India last week featured a much-ballyhooed grand finale: designer Manish Arora’s latest line, inspired by his visit to Burning Man.

From the Times of India:

Arora, whose new collection was a beautiful amalgamation of Indian and Western outfits with multicolored embroideries, explained the inspiration behind the theme of the show.

“Last year I went to a festival called Burning Man which happens in a desert of America. I got inspired by the place, I always wanted to go that place and I went on my 40th Birthday last year so the collection is based on that,” he said.

No doubt this will inspire mixed feelings in a lot of burner hearts. This is the world of high-dollar (OK, high-rupee) haute couture, blatantly capitalizing on the Burning Man trademark. On the other hand, maybe there shouldn’t be a Burning Man trademark. . . and perhaps this penetration of our culture into so exotic and faraway a milieu as Indian high fashion should encourage us and even flatter us a little.

No matter what you think about it, it’s impressive that Manish Arora’s burn-inspired line wasn’t just included in the show; it was the grand finale, and was apparently hyped half to death. Asian Age covered the event, and had this to say:

For those who were waiting for it to happen with bated breath, it did. Yes, the grand finale of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week 2013 at Pragati Maidan happened without any glitch. And grand it was.

The show area reserved for designer Manish Arora’s show took almost a day to prepare. In fact it was cordoned off for the entire day and the junta wasn’t allowed to be seen near it.

The show finally started after the expected delay and the guests were greeted with a wide runway — black and glossy, open-air opera like setting and an international band waiting to blow our minds with their insane music.

Manish’s experiences at the Burning Man festival in Nevada resulted in the making of this astounding collection.

The show was divided into two segments.

The first one kicked off with geometric motifs and borders along with lustrous holographic stones, dull gold and beads were put together to create illusions of the Burning Man. Indigo, black, pink and green were used as the base to let metallic gold stand out.

Sequined, embroidered peplum and balloon dresses, fitted pants, sweatshirts and pencil skirts were noticed along with over-sized tops, coats, knitted dresses.

While the second part saw models wearing leather turbans with long, distressed hair peeping out, leather trench coats, jackets with Chinese collars, long and short dresses, shifts, shorts, overcoats and interesting knitwear. Neon embellishments shone bright on cuffs, collars and corset belts.

Breaking the tradition of a Bollywood celebrity closing the show for the finale designer, model Bhawna Sharma sashayed down the ramp in the showstopper outfit and bid adieu to the week.

This is what Manish Arora looks like:

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

. . .and this is what Manish Arora thinks we look like, as translated through the mirror of his subcontinental big-money fashion sense:

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Photo: Ramesh Sharma