Weekly Dig - December 19, 2007[Performing Arts]
"Punch 'Vixen.' Punch the 'slut'!" Not what you'd expect to hear at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. But this is theater, not real life. I'm sitting in on a rehearsal, and director Jackie Davis is coaching one of her actors on which words in his monologue need amping up.
It's not everyday you see a guy in antlers descanting on sexual assault. All in a day's work for Brett Marks, who portrays Prancer, one of Santa's malcontent sleigh-schleppers in The Eight: Reindeer Monologues.
Prancer's a B-movie actor with a serious chip on his shoulder, but he's not the only deer here with issues. Comet (Curt Klump) is an ex-junkie, Donner (Ed Peed) is still dealing with the fallout from his boy Rudolph being sent to the loony bin, Dancer (Melissa Baroni) just wants to know if she gets Hanukkah off, and Vixen (Eliza Lay), well ... she done got raped by Santa Claus.
Not your average warm 'n' fuzzy Christmas play. But with at least three area productions of A Christmas Carol, plus White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, The Nutcracker to deal with, we Bostonites could do with a little more whiskey in our eggnog.
Enter the X-Mas Project, the brainchild of Hannah J. Barth and Jordan Harrison; both first-time producers armed with nothing but a little startup cash, some contacts in the theater community and a hankering to shake up the local scene.
Barth (who also plays feminist reindeer Blitzen) first fell in love with Jeff Goode's acid-tongued Christmas play when she did it in college at Salem State. She thought it would be a great show to bring to Boston. "It was an idea I had last year, but I never did anything with it," says Barth. "Jordan got me off my ass and moving."
Together, the two assembled an ensemble of Boston's finest fringees and got the backing of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Ticket proceeds would go to the BARCC, and in return the X-Mas Project would get publicity in the nonprofit arena, and much-needed rehearsal space.
"As long as people are willing to work for free, I don't see a reason not to do benefit shows," Harrison says. "But then of course, these people are crazy."
So how to market a show with no established name and next to no budget? Take a cue from the Mooninites: guerilla marketing (sans city-wide panic). "If you're a theater company that nobody knows, you need to create a ruckus," Barth explains. "We needed to get butts in seats, and nobody knew who we were."
With that in mind, Harrison set about writing and filming a trailer for Reindeer Monologues, one that would reach the YouTube crowd and -- interweb gods willing -- go viral. The seven-minute "prequel" uses well known Boston locales, area theater folks and the actors to generate buzz about the show. Last I checked, Harrison's vid has already gotten 819 views on YouTube -- that's a wider market than most local fringe troupes could dream of reaching.
The night before I dropped in, the X-Mas Project crew had taken their guerilla marketing ways to karaoke night at the Charles Playhouse. "I think I marketed a little too hard last night," Barth mutters, rubbing her forehead.
How will people respond to a play that tackles the issue of rape ... with Santa and his reindeer? "It's a funny, twisted play, but it also deals with very serious themes in a responsible way," Harrison says while I eye a disused pair of felt antlers on the table. "These are real deer," he continues, "And they have real deer emotions."
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES
THE FACTORY THEATRE AT THE PIANO FACTORY
791 TREMONT ST., BOSTON
THU-FRI 8PM; SAT 3PM, 8PM; SUN 3PM
$15 ADV/$20 DOS