Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Halloween Entertainment

Steppin’ Out
Can You Bear a Little Philosophy?

            Last spring I mentioned to Patti Wray, owner and producer at The Venue on 35th here in Norfolk, VA, where I do most of my theatrical work these days, that I’d been thinking about putting together a one- man Halloween show.
            As the weeks went by, a format for such a show took shape in my mind, and last month dates were finalized, even as the show continued to evolve conceptually.
            Now in its final form (just in time), the new show, “Steppin’ Out”, will play at The Venue for three nights only, Oct. 11, 12, and 18, at 8 p.m.
      It’s all part of a larger plan—the creation of a repertoire of one-hour, one-person pieces I can perform anywhere at different times of the year. Other titles in the rep so far are “The Concise Dickens’ Christmas Carol” (coming into its 8th season) and “Oceans of Feelings: A Concert of Poetry” (active since 2010.)
       The new show’s title, “Steppin’ Out,” is taken from a song whose lyrics I wrote as part of the 1981 play, There Was a Stone in Her Sister’s Old Shoe (Ouch!), which I and a troupe of rag-tag players put on in Lancaster, PA, and, to our surprise, captured such a wide and enthusiastic following the show stayed open for three months.
            “Steppin’ Out” refers to one of the song’s chorus lines, “steppin’ out in the other world tonight.”
           “It’s one helluva Halloween show,” says Jala Magik, my partner and first line of defense against going public with anything bad. By this she means, as she tells people, that it reveals with wit and depth the true meaning of the season.
            And what might that be?
            Long ago it struck me how curious it is that the human skull—an icon of Halloween symbolism and a universal metaphor for Death—seems to wear an insane grin. What if, I speculated, the skull is trying to tell us something? What if it’s saying that Death is a huge joke and Halloween is a mad-cap celebration of that joke?
            This became the controlling idea of Stone in Her Sister’s Old Shoe and continues to govern the material in “Steppin’ Out.”
            There are two parts to the show. The first is called “The Death Suite,” a kind of poetic symphony shared between the Poet and his own Death, a constant companion named Marsoon. They trade onstage appearances back and forth through a series of poetic monologues developing the idea that Death is a friend—a rescuer, in fact, who delivers us from “the clammy mists of constant sorrow.”
            After a short intermission, the Poet returns with a stagetale, “Bertha Doesn’t Live Here Any More,” the first-person account of the mysterious disappearance of a mental patient. Based on true events, “Bertha” follows the mishaps of a poorly prepared investigative reporter who finds insanity to be his comfort in a world of harsh facts.
            Taken together, the two pieces impishly propose that our common ideas about Death and Sanity are pretty much backwards. The so-called dead still live and the so-called sane are insane in a world turned up-side down in the limitations of ordinary human perception.
            As Marsoon says, “Can you bear a little philosophy?”
            If so, check me out at The Venue on 35th, 631 W. 35th St., Norfolk, VA, on Oct. 11, 12, and 18 at 8. Tickets are $10, reservations can be made at 757-469-0337.


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