Bumbershoot Sunday: Catharsis, Radical Theatre
Sunday’s Bumbershoot was all about fascinating stories and eye-popping theatre. I took advantage of the festival’s come-and-go-as-you-please freedom to deal with the overlapping timeslots of a reading and a comedy show. It feels strange at first to leave during a performance, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this option should be taken advantage of, so long as you sit on the sidelines and exit quietly.
Eric Erlandson, the guitarist of Hole, met with Marco Collins for an interview and reading of Erlandson’s book Letters to Kurt. Collins made it clear that he was going to ask difficult questions, and Erlandson stalled him for a bit by reading a beautiful prose poem he recently wrote while traveling between Seattle and Los Angeles by train. They discussed the therapeutic qualities of journaling, Erlandson saying he found a catharsis in writing by hand. Then the probing began. It turns out that Erlandson and bandmate Courtney Love had been big fans of Mudhoney, not Nirvana, and were in a relationship when introduced to Kurt Cobain in a parking lot by mutual friend Everett True. The next few years were chaotic. The deaths of Cobain, Erlandson’s bandmate Kristin Pfaff and his father all occurred in a single year. Collins seemed more interested, perhaps playing to the perceived voyeurism of the crowd, in revealing personal details like Courtney Love’s hotel name (“Blanche DuBois”), than giving Erlandson space to talk about his meditations on grief. Not that Erlandson completely wanted to, anyway. He was shy. His writing is a brave endeavor that hasn’t always paid off for him. Apparently he got a call from Courtney after Letters to Kurt was published. “You’re stealing Kurt’s mojo,” she allegedly said.
Just as they were getting into the dirt, I slipped to the theater next door for a live taping of the comedy podcast Doug Loves Movies, with Doug Benson. The house was full of fans bearing “nametags” that were used for games later, and which the back half of the theater didn’t really understand. The guests on Benson’s panel were involved with Adult Swim shows and podcasts that I’d never heard of. It took a long time to get around to the advertised “movie trivia,” but the audience enjoyed the off-topic banter anyway. The first of the day’s two Very Topical Political Comments, that I witnessed, happened when someone was offered a cupcake by an audience member. I apologize that I don’t know the comedian’s name but he said, “The thing about cupcakes is, if you eat it and it’s not consensual, you won’t get fat. Your body has ways of rejecting it.” You should’ve heard the howls.
The second Very Topical Political Comment came during the balls-out weird performance, Out Out There (A Whole Night Lost) by The Cherdonna & Lou Show. In the middle of a show that involved slow-motion fleeing from a wasted birthday cake, David Lynch-style demon masks, severed limbs, a humorous vignette on backstabbing and fully nude modern movement—phew—a giant, sparkly uterus with legs walked onto the stage. Joan Collins’ famous shriek, “No more wire hangers!” from Mommie Dearest looped itself while said objects were flung at the uterus-with-legs from offstage, for a series of minutes. Each time something bizarre happened during this show, a handful of people left the theater. This was one of those times. A group of girls in their early 20s giggled wildly. “I don’t know this reference,” said one of them, so I told her, “It’s from a Joan Collins movie, but also it’s about abortion.” She knew the latter part, of course.
Those that remained in the crowd gave a standing ovation at the end.
More bold moves—the roving improv comedy spectacle, 7 Minutes in Heaven (left), was incredibly satisfying theatre. A cast of eight characters corralled passersby to witness their speed-dating experiment. Folding tables and chairs were set up and the pairs swapped seats every seven minutes, four times. A guy with a placard advising to look but don’t touch was visible at all times, but you could get close. Some audience members sat at their feet or hovered behind their backs while watching these caricatures of daters interacting. A buttoned-up businessman carried hand sanitizer in his briefcase. A sexy “performance artist” wanted to help all the men relax. A hyper, failed gymnast named Jeannie, who now works at the Little Gym, tried to small-talk a virginal mama’s boy named Nigel, who wore knuckle rings and a silver vampire grille. The best part is: none of the actors knew each other’s characters prior to meeting at the designated time and place. A whole new surprise cast will appear today at 2:30 and 7 o’clock performances.
Remembrances: The work of Christopher Martin Hoff (left), the plein air painter who passed away earlier this year, is featured among the Fisher Pavilion’s visual art exhibits. His watercolors show industrial sites, overpasses, the construction of things we all witnessed, like the central library, and of things nobody but Hoff spent time staring at, shipping cars and cranes on the waterfront, familiar intersections and stretches of Pine Street. Interviews with Hoff are reproduced on the walls in between paintings, and his easel and materials, covered with an umbrella, are set up in a central space. People were very moved, some viewing the exhibit for more than an hour.
Pioneering singer-songwriter and The Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, gave a hugely entertaining performance with local wunderkinds The Dusty 45s as the final act on the Mural Amphitheatre stage. The 74-year-old charmer told tales of her first hit single in the ‘50s, what it was like being a young female artist then, and how Elvis encouraged her to embrace the transition from country to rock ‘n’ roll. They dated while on tour together. He gave her a ring and asked her to be his girl. She had the diamonds on it checked out—“You know how us girls are.” They were real, just “itty-bitty.” “He was still a poor boy then,” she said. She sang songs like “Funnel of Love” and “Rip it Up” to roaring applause. Jackson preceded her hit “Fujiyama Mama” with an off-color joke about World War II, and later talked about finding the Lord in the ‘70s, both of which earned tepid responses from our heathen crowd. “Let’s Have a Party” restored her in good graces, and for the finale, the 45s’ Billy Joe Huels lit his trumpet on fire. Now that’s a party!
Oh, and Mudhoney have still got it.