Resurrecting the Exquisite Corpse
Welcome to the Starship Dental Prize. A vessel so intrepid it dares to probe the darkest, dankest folds of outer space, not to mention the incandescent snarls of surrealistic whimsy. Fish. Squonk. Celine Dion. Her stalwart crew includes a sassy computer powered by illogic (Becky Hirschfeld), a vodka-swilling ensign Anton Anton (Bryce Byerley), psychic science officer Mentoo Fractosa (Chandler White), and a pelvic-thrust obsessed captain Oliver Clozoffe (Jody Frandle). Her mission, undetermined. Her story, as yet unwritten.
The third in an ongoing series of “Exquisite Corpse” theatrical events spearheaded by members of Foul Play Productions and Stage Werx, the evening’s production, entitled Defenders of Intergalactic Donuts: They Dared to Conquer Infinity, admittedly doesn’t have much to do with donuts in the end. Scripted on the spot by oddience members who are given a choice of random props and three minutes to pen a few crucial lines of dialogue without seeing the lines that come before (except the very last), the resultant play dwells at the crossroads of blind chance and organized chaos. Or as host and “Voice of Stage Directions” Mikl-em points out in his welcome speech, it’s a “piece of art … that no one would make on purpose.” Purpose be damned, let’s play.
The Exquisite Corpse writing game was popularized by the surrealists in the early part of the 1900s, in which a word or series of words would be written on a blank page by the first player then passed on to the next, whose own contribution would follow a previously agreed upon sequence (i.e. noun adverb verb) or spring off of whatever the last line of the previous contribution was. Adapted into a theatrical format by the San Francisco Cacophony Society in the 1980s, the corpse has been recently revived down at Stage Werx as an occasional occurrence, taking on film noir and sci-fi tropes with equal verve. I’m still holding out for a musical (hint to organizers).
The first hour of the evening is one part cocktail party, one part scriptwriting boot camp, as attendees are first encouraged to mingle with the cast in order to get a bead on their personalities in order to write lines of dialogue for them. From the outrageous, androgynous intergalactic rock star Lord Lady Chameleon (Gerri Lawlor) to her estranged sister and chanteuse Camilla Chameleon (Christina Shonkwiler), to the television-obsessed Queen Vixxnord! (Dawn Corine) and her evil sidekick Professor Fritzdoctorsteinberg (Brendan Hill), each character has just enough backstory (not to mention improv training) to keep the party patter flowing along with a few choice libations and some groovy, space lounge tunage. After some chit-chat, each oddience member gets a crack at the script, and the results are predictably unpredictable.
As the actual play unfolds, part of the fun becomes trying to guess which person is responsible for penning the mort disturbed set of lines which include such gems as “I’ve got glitter in my ass-crack,” “I liked them better when they were dead,” “No tickling for you, I fear,” and “I’m feeling festive, we’re heading to planet Get-down-get-down.” Plot twists are as varied and muddled as the frantic search for the correct props becomes, but some universal truths do still manage to shine through. Rock stardom may have little to do with actual talent but much to do with seduction. Desire is a universal drive. Always look on the bright side of life (whistle, whistle). If you’ve got it, flaunt it … and if you flaunt it, make sure people are wearing sunglasses. Hiccup. Weevil. Splat.