CAVEAT: The playwright, Heidi Arneson, is also the venue manager for the People’s Center Theater, which I have rented on several occasions.
SHOW TITLE: BLOODYMERRYJAMMYPARTY
PRODUCER: blank slate theatre
HAILING FROM: Minnesota
SHOW DESCRIPTION: Zombies, Lesbians, Pillow Fights, the Total Woman converge at a 1972 jammy party. Party games turn deadly, the dead play Truth or Dare, Bloody Mary is conjured, and female shame transforms into wild pride!
WHAT CAUGHT MY INTEREST: Every word in that show description (the marketing density in that thing is insane). The fact that this is a lauded show I missed the first time around. The fact that Heidi is a remarkable artist/administrator whose work I have yet to see a full hour of.
Just who do you think you are, anyway?
Hi, I’m Heidi, a multi-armed Minnesota artist. Over the past couple decades, I’ve cranked out a slew of one-woman comedies about childhood, sexuality and family: DEGRADE SCHOOL, PREHANSEL & POSTGRETEL, HEIDI HOUSE, HOMELAND SECURITY, GRRL, etcetera, and led workshops to help others (such as Amy Salloway, Howard Lieberman, Maria Bamford, and many more dancers, poets, writers, actors, and, most notably, male inmates) get up onstage and tell their stories. I found that we all have stories of love, loss, redemption and adventure; and when we share our stories, we heal, transform and connect. For the last few years, I gave performing and teaching a rest, in order to buff up my other arms (writing the never-finished-novel, finishing the 100 year old house, painting Midwestern and Italian landscapes, and turning my urban yard into an edible garden). Now all those acts are underway, I’m plotting to get onstage again, in a two-woman show, long in coming ( I wrote a first draft in 1979), with longtime actress/writer friend Mim Solberg from NYC. Who knows? Maybe we’ll rock the Fringe 2014 with our work about being middle-aged artists who still have sharp teeth.
So what’s the big idea?
BLOODYMERRYJAMMYPARTY is a musical 1972 girls’ slumber party set in the suburb of Peachy Village, Minnesota. There are all the games, Truth or Dare, Lift, ghost stories, crank calls and exploding hormones you’d find at any 20th century tween-fest, (it’s tons of !FUN!), but underneath the frivolity, everybody has a secret, something they’re trying to hide, something that’s eating them up alive, some passion they’re dying to express. Holly will not put food in her mouth. Kathy with a K has a murderous rage. Mother Madge has unrequited urges. Dad Roger has forbidden lusts. Sheri with a “shh” has the “Lesbian Curse”. Director Adam Arnold, brave leader of blank slate theatre, calls this play a seven-layer cake. Every breath is packed with as many intrigues as there are characters. In the darkest moment of the darkest night of the year, once all the secrets have been revealed, a rule-breaking, wildness ensues. The play includes two songs by my daughter, Alberta Mirais, sassy scoring by Ian Boswell and musical director Frankie McCleod, precise stage managing by Taylor Hall, and stellar acting by Noa Beckham-Chasnoff, Maggie Erickson, Hannah Graves, Kendall Kent, Julia Kindall, Lucy Lawton, Lucas Levin, Jacob Mullin, Lizzie Potts, Jackson Raynor and Hanna Sprout.
How did you come up with a screwy idea like that?
I started creating this show over 20 years ago. First it was entitled SLUMBER PARTY, then MARY MARGARET, PLEASE APPEAR. This play bloomed from a cluster of personal histories I was trying to process through autobiographical performance art. So I performed all the characters myself, to get into their skin, and I performed this ubiquitously, in order to understand that uncomfortable time. Developing the play, doing it over and over, gave me insight into other girls, and into being female in my culture, and into some of our iconic myths, like Bloody Mary Margaret, the wicked old woman in the mirror. What happens if you say her name ten times? In the dark, rehearsing alone, in an empty theater (People’s Center Theater, some two decades ago) I discovered the main message of the play, which is so important to me, as a woman and as an artist- as I go through my life-long transformations- that trusting in your own wildness can set you free.
After finally putting the one-woman play to bed, I did a Bedlam musical, BEAVERDANCE; this convinced me I could expand my little one-woman show into a full-cast musical, so all the thirteen year old girls could fully speak.
(Photo by Heidi Arneson, of Kendall Kent and Lizzy Potts.)
Why should I care?
1972 was a crazy time. “Women’s Libbers” were out bra-burning, and Title Nine had just passed, giving girls equal rights to educational and sports funding, but THE TOTAL WOMAN, a book requiring women to be submissive sex-pots with perfectly kept houses, and greet their husbands at the door with empathetic martinis, dressed in only Saran Wrap, was a bestseller. Girls back then struggled with conflicting messages. Be submissive and be strong. Be a tender Barbarella and an Out-spoken Bitch. Be dieting for a 24-inch waist, and simultaneously save the world. Blank slate theater is performed by youths; we asked the teenage cast if these conflicts were obsolete. They replied “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT. WE ARE STILL STRUGGLING WITH ALL THESE SAME ISSUES.”
Justify your show’s existence in haiku form.
THE BLOODY, MERRY, JAMMY PARTY
(an almost Haiku)
Oh no. Must I go? I must.
The Party Awaits.
The blood, the buzz, the Pizza Spins;
Social games I’ll never win.
Most dreaded and most lovely.
This Sleep-over will set me free.