On the weekend of February 19-20, we had the “sneak premiere” of “Hit the Mat” at Jeff Mach’s Wicked Faire.
Through the course of the rehearsals, the show evolved into what I have come to call “The Drama Club Tag Team Championships.” Members of the cast had submitted scenes from plays and movies, and we choreographed grappling routines into them. The idea was to have, as much as possible, the meanings and intentions behind each line expressed by the moves.
We got to the event bright and early. So early, in fact, that nobody at the event who knew what was going on was available. When we got things sorted out, it turned out that they had put in a small conference room, one the size of a standard small hotel room. Far too small to perform in. They were nice enough to work with me, though, and found us a spot in the lobby under a stairway where we could set up and be busy all day. Thus was the “Warriors of Doom Wrestling Corner” established again.
After a run-through, I had lectures and performances to give, and the cast held down the location by holding “challenge matches.” I was able to give a demonstration of “grappling for fun and safety,” and the mats were kept busy almost nonstop. One fellow, who had challenged all three Warriors of Doom two years ago, challenged us again.
Then came time for the show. Technically, it went off without a hitch. It was a no-tech show, using only the house lights and no amplification. The audience was close enough, seated on the floor and standing around us, that lights and sound really weren’t an issue. However ambient noise was. There were other performances going on in the lobby, and the sound of them occasionally blasted over our performance. We soldiered on, though and did the best we could.
As the director of the piece, I saw a million little things that I that can be done better, but the cast threw themselves into the work and the audience was with us every step of the way. They laughed at all the right moments and cheered at the most skillful of the moves. Afterwards, comments from the audience were exactly what I wanted to hear. They enjoyed the show immensely and said that the moves made the scenes more dramatic, more meaningful, even more understandable, especially the Shakespeare.
The next day we found out that we had to move our performance location. We were given a nice big room and moved the mats into them and set up chairs like a real performance space. We spread the work of our performance and by the time our afternoon show came around, we had a good-sized audience.
This show went even better. Some flubs that had occurred the precious day were fixed, and the pace was better. The morale was high and we concluded the weekend with a very good feeling.
Part of what made the shows so successful was the fact that Armond Cecere had brought his mats for us to use. We were able to lay them down, doubled up, which gave us a nice padded surface to fall down on. Sadly, it seems that the promotional photos, videos, T-shirts, and other stuff that he had brought to sell disappeared out of his bag before we left!
Having seen the show twice, there are a few things I might adjust about it. The order of some of the scenes may be moved around. There is definitely work needed in certain parts of the scenes that are not realizing their full potential. But none of this discounts the amazing fact that in just a couple of months a diverse group of people, with truly diverse levels of skill in the grappling and theatrical arts, was able to realize the idea of making a grappling arts stage show a successful reality.
We had been offered an opportunity to perform again at the Alternative Living Expo near Philadelphia, but between the number of cast members who would not be able to make it, the work that I wanted to do on the show, and other things that occurred that weekend, we passed. There are other events coming up, though, at which we will definitely be performing.
In all, I must say that I am pleased with the start this show has gotten and look forward to where it can go.
Here are some highlights from the shows at Wicked Faire…