Last night, my husband, my best friend, and I embarked upon a puzzle-filled adventure that I’m sure we will be talking about for weeks to come. The Bloomington Playwrights Project has created Bloomington’s first ever escape room experience!
Now if you are like I was 48 hours ago and have no idea what an escape room is, I will give you the explanation my teenage son gave me. Escape rooms are a new form of interactive performance that puts a small group of people in a situation they have to escape from in a certain amount of time. Sometimes there is a fear factor aspect to it. For example, Chris Evans (Captain America) created one where Red Skull threatened to kill those that did not escape. The ones trapped in the room can escape by solving a series of puzzles that lead to more clues and more puzzles, but they must do so in the allotted amount of time, or they fail.
I was asked to come test out the escape room with a small group of friends. I knew that the BPP was using an IU basketball theme for their escape room, but I had no idea what to expect. My son’s description had me envisioning Bobby Knight coming after me with a chair if I didn’t solve the puzzles in time. It was a humorous if not slightly disturbing image to say the least. Plus, I don’t know anything about basketball. I am a theater, literature, gaming nerd. I only know the basics about sports because my family is full of sports fans. But on sports days, I would do my best to hide in my room with a fantasy novel while they indulged in the sportsball. I hoped my lack of sports knowledge wouldn’t impede my ability to escape nor my enjoyment of the event. Read more
John Webster. When I hear that name I automatically think of the 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love. In one of my favorite scenes, we meet Webster outside of the playhouse where Shakespeare’s troupe is rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes) comes out of the playhouse and sees a filthy young boy (Joe Roberts) sitting in the mud playing with several mice.
Boy: “I was in a play. They cut my head off in Titus Andronicus. When I write plays, they’ll be like Titus.”
Shakespeare: “You admire it?”
Boy: “I liked it when they cut heads off, and the daughter mutilated with knives.”
Shakespeare: “What’s your name?”
Boy: “John Webster, here kitty kitty.” (Goes to feed one of the mice to a black cat that has come up to him) “Plenty of blood. That’s the only writing.”
We know little about Webster’s life, but there is little doubt that this funny yet disturbing depiction is the brainchild of Tom Stoppard. This is his Webster, and since seeing this movie almost a decade ago, it’s also mine. It fits the bloodiness of his plays, and the dark twisted mind of a playwright whose predilection for horror and the supernatural seems more akin to Shyamalan than to Shakespeare. Every confrontation I have with a Webster play is colored by this depiction, for better for worse. I want to see that twisted, masochistic little boy in the creations that bear his name.
Last week, Limestone Post published a preview piece about The Legend of Georgia McBride by yours truly. While writing, I could barely contain my giddiness about the show. I was so excited that part of me worried the production could never live up to my expectations. We have all had that experience. After waiting weeks for that 5-star meal or that video game sequel, you have the meal or play the game. While it’s good, it just doesn’t live up to your grandiose expectations. So there I was Friday afternoon, fretting that perhaps I had oversold this performance in my article and in my own imagination.
But every once in a while, we have the exact opposite experience. We work ourselves up into a tizzy with excitement, and then the reality of the thing is so much better than we ever could imagine. The Legend of Georgia McBride did that for me. It gave me everything I wanted from a play about drag: shade, puns, glamour heart, strength, rebellion, and laughs galore!
We have all heard the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Philosopher George Satayana’s oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) phrase has become so cliché and so overused that it is both overflowing with and devoid of meaning, yet it is one writers, philosophers, and politicians all like to use to emphasize the need for remembering. Forgetting the past hinders our progress toward a “more perfect” future, but can the process of remembering do the same thing? Do our reconstructions of history replace the lived reality of historical event? Can remembering also condemn us to repeating the past?
My mind has been full of questions like these since seeing the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of Row After Row this past weekend. Row After Row is a short play (run time of 1hr and 10mins), but a lot of funny jokes, character development, and historical layering occurs during that short time. The play takes a close look at the world of modern day Civil War reenactments. As someone who loves performance, I have always been intrigued by the men and women that dedicate numerous hours and an insane amount of money to participating in this large-scale performance, and this play provide a nice little glimpse into that world. Read more