Tag: james merrill
Awesome timing from this week’s New Yorker, a review of a new biography of James Merrill by Langdon Hammer. Merrill’s a major influence to the point that I’ve often made mention of him in my Boneyards and Beautiful Zion playbills and many times here on my blog in reference to those shows. I got a good look at his homemade Ouija board when I was a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College back in 2001 (it’s in the college library’s archive) and I urge all poetry fans or supernatural fans to settle into his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover sometime.
James Merrill’s Supernatural Epic
A trust fund, a Ouija board, and an unprecedented poem
by Dan Chiasson
“…And Ouija boards: Merrill made the most ambitious American poem of the past fifty years, seventeen thousand lines long, in consultation with one. The result, “The Changing Light at Sandover,” was a homemade cosmology as dense as Blake’s…” FULL ARTICLE HERE
The Friday 2/27/15 show marked the New York premiere of Boneyards after my performing it regularly in Philadelphia since its launch in the 2013 Philly Fringe. The concluding séance was my first one at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and the results are in: that sucker’s haunted.
My antique 1917 Ouija board with 1920 planchette was personed by audience volunteers Aaron and Chris while audience volunteer Josie stood aside and served as questioner. The rest of the audience stood in a circle watching the disturbing, heart-breaking events unfold.
They contacted a presence/spirit/demon/subconscious ideomotor impulse (depending on your beliefs) named R U S T Y who was 7 and died In 2 0 1 0. Did he see the show? Y E S. What did he think of it? U 1 which I cheekily interpreted to mean “you’re number 1.”
Was he still in the cellar with us? N O. He was upstairs on the T O P F L O O R of the two-story museum. How did he die? G U N. By whom? D A D.
Later he told us he had wafted back down to us in the cellar and that he was hovering at the C E I L I N G. Previously I had told the audience that from past experiences speaking with children on a Ouija board they tend to indeed talk like children, giving brief answers and also misspelling words. This was borne out when we asked if he could see us he said Y E S, thanks to the M E A R (mirror).
A full-length mirror is part of my set and is used at various times during the show. I also point out just before every séance that it’s there to provide a window for the spirits to see us and the show as, according to James Merrill’s epic supernatural poem The Changing Light at Sandover, ghosts get the best views of the living via reflections. (continue reading…)
Supernatural Skeptics Don’t Know What They’re Missing
by Jeffrey Stanley
I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.
I like Ouija boards. I’ve used them since I was a teenager. More recently I’ve messed around with electric spirit boxes, also known as Frank’s boxes after their inventor Frank Sumption. They’re radio receivers which allow you to listen to and record voices of the dead, also known as EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) or Raudive voices, after one of their early discoverers. Over the past two years I have frequently used Ouija boards and spirit boxes in my performance art, attempting to conjure up the dead as my co-stars before a live audience. At one of the universities where I teach playwriting and screenwriting part-time I am also the faculty adviser for a student-led paranormal investigation club. Friends and fans assume I am a true believer but the truth is that I am not. I am a healthy skeptic. And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there. I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind. (continue reading…)
Please enjoy my 2nd Rep Radio interview. This one happened on 1/7/12 at midnight on the stage of Plays & Players, and it’s the aforementioned live ouija board session in lieu of a traditional interview, in hopes that interviewer Kristen Scatton and I could contact one of Plays & Players’ 3 resident ghosts, and we did with help from my frequent Philly ghost pal Mala. Sadly the recording contains no voices from the dead, aka, electronic voice phenomena. Why does it always work so well on Ghost Hunters?
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]