We had an enthusiastic crowd Friday night for my first show and first concluding seance at the Art Church of West Philadelphia. The Ouija board was personed by audience volunteers JOE and JOHN and the planchette was zooming about urgently. We spoke to a M A N who was 5 0 and A R M E N I A N who told us he did not speak or write English well. His name was L A M E K (Lamech? A Hebrew surname; were we talking to an Armenian Jew?).
Kolkata’s Armenian Ghat, a former loading dock along the banks of the Hooghly built long ago by Armenian merchants, is mentioned in the show, and after the Ouija board spelled the word Armenian an audience member, someone who was not touching the board, spoke up and self-identified as Armenian).
I asked Mr. Lamek if he knew anyone in the audience and he spelled J O E. When asked if he had a message for Joe it spelled out L A L A L A L A over and over. This oblique response has happened to me twice before (in 2011 during my previous show Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead and in 2012 during a midnight seance on the stage of Philadelphia’s historic Plays & Players Theatre) and my belief is that it means the spirit doesn’t want to answer the question, or (continue reading…)
Last night my ongoing Ouija-as-theatre experiment continued for another round. Kristen Scatton of Philadelphia’s Rep Radio, who had already interviewed me several months ago for my 2011 Philly Fringe show, BZ:ABOTD, interviewed me again, this time in the context of my being one of this year’s 3 PDC@Plays&Players playwrights-in-residence (along with playwrights Brian Grace-Duff and Jeremy Gable).
She didn’t want a repeat of my first interview in August so I suggested something different — how about meeting me at midnight on the mainstage of Play & Players on the set of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (which opens January 19th and which is not to be missed) to see if we can contact the ghost of the Small Boy who has been spotted on the stage over the years. He’s one of 3 spirits said to haunt the hundred-year-old building.
You can soon hear the full Rep Radio interview and the complete audio of our Ouija session so I won’t go into full detail here. In summary, MALA showed up again in her usual insistent way (MALAMALAMALAMALA) and confirmed that she indeed knew me and had last spoken to me upstairs in Quig’s Pub on 11/6/11. I asked her if she was doing okay and she said NO. I told her I wanted her to try and be happier in 2012 because she always seemed sad, and she said OK.
We asked Mala if she knew the Small Boy and whether he was hanging around onstage with us. He was. In fact he was standing directly to my right, upstage center, according to Mala. The Small Boy’s initials are AE and he talked about PLAYS and that he was in a play on that stage in 1945. Does he enjoy living at Plays & Players? NO. Why doesn’t he leave? LALALALA (a frequent Ouija answer in my experience, which I interpret to mean la la la la I’m not listening/can’t discuss it).
In the end, chronically lonely little girl Mala confirmed that she liked the Small Boy and thought he was nice, so I asked if she’d like to stay on at Plays & Players and be friends with him. She said YES, so I felt good about finding her a much-needed playmate. Apparently in the process I’ve also brought another ghost into Plays & Players’ otherworldly fold. I hope Maud and Leon are okay with that and don’t get angry with me for crowding them out. It’s getting downright lousy with ghosts in there.
Proof of a spirit world, or proof of characters from mine and Kristen Scatton’s fevered imaginations conveyed via subconscious ideomotor impulses? Take your pick. I’m equally fascinated by both phenomena. For further reading I highly recommend James Merrill’s epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover.
See you all at Live Arts Scratch Night at the Live Arts Brewery on Thursday 1/12/12 at 7pm. It’s free, there’s cheap beer, and you can RSVP here.
[Maud Skinner photo via findagrave.com]
Last night’s premiere performance of Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead went extremely well but rather than give you a blow by blow of how I think I performed or how I worked the incredibly drunk and disorderly audience member right into the show’s primary theme by getting him drunker with a strong Svedka martini, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what you really want to know: did the 3 audience volunteers contact anyone cool on the Ouija Board in the Blue Grotto’s Entrance to Hell room at the show’s climax?
Here is a transcript of their session:
QUESTIONER: What is your name?
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): FRA
QUESTIONER: Are those your initials?
JEFF: Okay, that’s definitely not who we’re looking for but why don’t you chat with them anyway.
QUESTIONER: Do you know that you’re part of a show?
QUESTIONER: Any advice for Jeff for his show?
SPIRIT: MORE JAM
(note: there is music in my show, so I guess FRA wanted more of it; or they wanted more jelly)
QUESTIONER: Do you live in the CEC building?
QUESTIONER: Are you human?
QUESTIONER: What year did you die?
(no answer, the planchette just wandered; a common response for earthbound spirits who don’t realize yet that they’re dead–or don’t want to realize it)
QUESTIONER: Okay, then when were you born?
QUESTIONER: Any advice for us about how to live, how to die, or how to navigate the afterlife?
(?! no idea; we were stumped by this one; maybe FRA was putting its fingers in its ears and singing so that it couldn’t hear our question? maybe it was telling us just to sing our way through it (it did ask for “more jam” after all). Or maybe it was telling us to go to LA)
QUESTIONER: Are you in the room with us?
QUESTIONER: Do you know what’s taped to back of Jeff’s relative’s grave photo hanging in the Blue Grotto?
Well, the Ouija session was fun but I still didn’t get what I came for, so I had to end the show with the nuclear option. Come tonight and find out what that means. Full details and ticket info.