Don’t miss my autobiographical stand-up tragedy Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS while it’s at the Art Church of West Philadelphia as part of the 2015 SoLow Fest.
Friday 6/19 @9pm
Saturday 6/27 @9pm
Sunday 6/28 @7pm
Don’t miss my stand-up tragedy Boneyards while it’s in NYC at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Friday 2/27 @8pm.
Last chance to book now.
I was delighted last night to hear again from spirit MALA during our Ouija session that was part of my Plays & Players playwright-in-residence presentation. I began with a little shtick I wrote just for the occasion, then called for volunteers, BZ:ABOTD-style, and moved us all across the threshold from the Skinner Studio stage into Quig’s Pub where we all stood around a table watching the two volunteers try their hands at my antique William Fuld original Ouija board. Our goal was to contact one of the theatre’s 3 resident ghosts.
At first, lots of jibberish despite multiple partners and switch-offs and trying to get the board warmed up. There were a few early highlights, like my asking, “Look, is there anyone there who just wants to cut the jibberish and talk to us in plain English using simple words?”
The response was a swift NO.
At one point it blurted out OZ which got lots of oohs and aahs. Later one of the volunteers emailed me that she got home and flipped on the TV only to see that The Wizard of Oz was indeed on that night.
But whenever it was my turn to switch in with a partner it shot back and forth from M to A to L to A to M to A, sweeping a wide arc back and forth across the board nonstop. It wouldn’t answer any other questions. It was, like, in this catatonic state. I’d get up and let a new partner take over, but 10 minutes later when it was my turn again it’d shoot back to M A L A M A L A. As obvious as it seems now (duh) I kept guessing at names…”Are you Mama?…Alam? … Lala?”
Thankfully someone chimed in, “My guess is it’s a child.”
“Are you a child?” I asked the board. At that she finally stopped the chant and went to YES.
“You’ve been trying to talk to me all night. Do you know me?”
“Have we met before?”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh! You’re Mala. From my show!”
“You’re the little girl.”
(to the crowd) “This is a little girl I met during my show. She was killed by her mother. (to Mala) You followed me here from the Blue Grotto to Plays & Players?”
“Are you in the room with us?”
YES NO YES NO YES NO (this indecision was also evident during her previous session with me; the personality and her reluctance or uncertainty with her state seemed consistent, as did her childlike repetitions of “MalaMalaMalaMala” and previously “MomMomMomMom” for emphasis)
“Your mother killed you, right?”
YES NO YES NO YES NO
(In our previous conversation on 9/15/11 her discomfort with discussing the details of her death (stabbed by her mother) and her insistence that she has forgiven her, felt consistent again with her current indecisive answers. Previously her discomfort was indicated by the constant use of the infinity sign when she wasn’t sure how to answer; tonight it was the YES NO YES NO maneuver.)
I got tired of monopolizing the board so I stepped away for a slice of pizza while two others continued the chat. I told them Mala was a lonely little girl who meant no harm and to chat with her for a few minutes. I’m not sure of the outcome but I know their chat with her was brief because the board was soon abandoned. People kept admiring it and discussing it but no one would dare to use it. I offered to use it with someone but no one would take me up on it. Everyone seemed too spooked by the Mala thing.
So, not exactly an earth-shattering session but a good experience overall and I was happy to chat with my otherworldly pal Mala again. Most disappointingly no contact was made by any of Plays & Players’ supposed ghosts. Maybe they’re just a legend…
TO BE CONTINUED.
Egypt and Israel Dominate Talks
The closing night show was so overwhelming it’s taken me an extra day to calm down enough to write about the Ouija session with some clarity. After 7 evenings of supernatural dissatisfaction for me personally during the brief run of the show and having to close every evening using the nuclear option I was about ready to give up on the spirit world as being able to reach out directly to anyone.
M. was an eager audience member in the final show who joined in with audience volunteer S. to person the Ouija board. They were escorted away and left alone for awhile as usual to try their hands at the board, reaching out to the netherworld in the Hell Room before I returned with the rest of the audience to rejoin them and see if they’d tuned into anything. Here is the main highlight that left us all haunted, especially M:
QUESTIONER (M) (to Jeff): I’m really freaked out right now. I have goose bumps and my hair’s standing on end.
JEFF: That’s normal when you’ve brought someone into the room. Something’s here with us. Do you want to quit?
M: No. I’m just letting you know that I’m freaked. My hands are shaking, I’m afraid I’ll mess up with the planchette.
JEFF: Why don’t you stop? I can take your place.
M: No, I want to keep going.
JEFF (to Ouija board): What’s your name?
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): KHEF
JEFF: Khef? I bet that turns out to be Arabic or Hindi (why I thought so). I’ve seen a lot this week so let’s assume it’s a real language and not gibberish. Are you Khef?
JEFF: Oh. Well, do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo?
M: Do you know anyone here?
SPIRIT: M—- (spelling out M’s name)
M: Oh wow. Do you want to tell me something?
At that the planchette shot down at breakneck speed to GOODBYE and refused to budge for anyone. Game over. We ended the session and all returned to the Blue Grotto and I wrapped up the show as usual, using the nuclear option — a personal disappointment for me but a fun way to end a show about Ouija boards.
Afterward M. stuck around as I began to strike the set for the last time, eager to talk to me at length about her first mind-blowing experience on a Ouija board this evening. She needed to unburden herself; I’ve been there, I know what that’s like so I stopped my work and listened. She was highly unsettled. She explained to me that she’s Jewish and said that in the Jewish tradition it’s strictly forbidden to contact the dead. I asked why she did it and — bless her heart — she said she did it to help me find the closure that I need. That was selfless of her but I hated that the experience had left her freaked out. In the end it’s only a show and not worth the trauma.
She said she has immediate ancestors who died tortuous deaths in the Holocaust and that she’d always been afraid to think about how they’d perished. Facing their cruel fate is her worst nightmare, and the thought of hearing directly from them about how they suffered has always been more than she could bear.
“Maybe it appeared to let you know they’re there, but went to Goodbye so quickly to avoid having to tell you what it knows you don’t want to hear, ” I suggested, “to spare you the pain.”
M: That’s exactly what it did. That’s what I’m telling you.
Then I get home and find out that KHEF isn’t Arabic, Hindi or even Urdu. It’s Egyptian. It’s the name of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph that means “to be laid waste or destroyed.” A reference to the Holocaust in our case? And this hieroglyph appears on the Israel Stele of all things, so-called by archaeologists because it’s the only ancient Egyptian document mentioning Israel by name. And if you don’t know, a stele is a monument to the dead… Yeah. You tell me.
Good luck, everyone, with your own nightmares and ghosts, and thank you for your support for Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead.
WORST OUIJA CHAT EVER. Very little action last night. I’m not even going to bother alerting my press list on this one, especially not SR at The Daily Pennsylvanian despite her colleagues’ apparent love for my show, for which we are grateful. The only highlight if you want to call it that was –
JEFF: Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo?
JEFF: What is it?
JEFF: Um, no. There is not a “habib” taped to the back of the photo (boy was I wrong; see below). Is Habib your name?
Mind you I’m not touching the board during these conversations. It’s always being operated by two audience volunteers other than at a few brief times between chats when I get on the board to warm it up, if you will. I know of course that Habib is an Arabic male name but I looked up its actual meaning and it’s “beloved” or “loved one” which in that case makes it similar to the 9/10 transcript when DAVID told us that HOME was taped to the back and it put a lump in my throat.
Had I known last night that a habib was a loved one and that the board was again speaking to me in Arabic I’d have been a little less dismissive. This would mark the 4th time out of 7 sessions that a directly Islamic or at least South Asian presence has been on the board — there was also the 9/14 session when it kept telling us NAMAZ, NAMAZ (pray, pray in Arabic), then there was the South Asian 5-year-old girl named MALA on 9/15 and SHALEE on 9/8.
All fascinating but surprising because given our geographical locus I was expecting a lot of old Philadelphia Quakers with names like Rachel or Zebulon or Nehemiah or at least some Johns or Williams or Marys. Yes there was David but he died in 1976 and lives in LA so he doesn’t count.
Lesson learned: never make assumptions about the spirit world/human subconscious.
Only 1 show left and it’s tonight and it’s the final Paranormal Psaturday – the first three ticket holders to show me a convincing photograph or smartphone video clip of authentic-looking paranormal activity in their homes will be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Full details and ticket info.
During the final days of the festival BZ:ABOTD has made the Daily Pennsylvanian’s Must-See list, and that includes the curated Live Arts shows, which is extremely flattering. You haven’t seen the show yet? Only 2 chances left, and remember tonight is Freemasonry Fridays – the first three ticket holders to discretely wear their Masonic rings or other authentic Masonic logo jewelry and show it to me in secret before the show will secretly be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Don’t try to pull a fast one— I know my Masonic jewelry.
The planchette on the Ouija board was flying all over the place last night. I mean it would shoot off the edge of the board sometimes and the volunteers would have to put it back on and reposition their fingers before it took off again like a little sportscar making hairpin turns all across the alphabet. Transcript highlights:
QUESTIONER: How old are you?
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): 5 AND A HALF
QUESTIONER: What’s your name?
SPIRIT: MALA (turns out it’s a Hindu name meaning garland of flowers)
QUESTIONER: When did you die?
(here it swept a broad ellipse around the board and then swooped into a sideways figure 8 pattern — the symbol for infinity — over and over again in the center of the board)
QUESTIONER: When were you born?
(infinity pattern in response)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did you die?
SPIRIT: MOM MOM MOM MOM
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did she kill you?
QUESTIONER: Do you resent her for it?
JEFF: Are you in the room with us?
JEFF: Where are you standing in relation to me?
JEFF: (indicating with hand) Right here?
(back to the infinity pattern)
QUESTIONER: She’s everywhere in the room.
JEFF: Do you know anyone here?
JEFF: Do you live here at the CEC?
JEFF: Do you know any of the other spirits we’ve talked to throughout the run of the show who also say they live here?
JEFF: Do you know initials FRA?
JEFF: Tell FRA I said hi. Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo hanging in the other room?
JEFF: Okay, what is it?
SPIRIT: MNMNMNMN (which I took to mean “mmmm…”, thinking; remember we’re dealing with a 5 year old)
JEFF: It’s okay if you don’t know.
JEFF: Okay, no worries. Big hand for Mala.
OH. No wonder we were confused. It was speaking Arabic (or Hindi or Urdu). I started out wanting to tell you how uneventful the Ouija session was last night. We had an erascible sort. Lots of apparent gibberish and lots of NOs. As one of the Ouija volunteers said, you could just see this angry old man shaking his cane at us saying, “Get out of my yard!” But in short it was telling us to stop trying to contact the dead and go pray.
The transcript ran about like this: can you tell us your name? NO. Do you know you’re in a show? NO. Do you have any advice for Jeff? NO. Do you know the other spirits we’ve contacted so far with this show? YES. Can we talk to one of them instead of you? NO. Can you tell us where you are? NO. Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo? NO.
So then I get home and Google NAMAZ and find out it’s Arabic (also Hindi and Urdu) for “pray,” as in Namaz-e-tawbah, a Muslim prayer meaning Prayer of Repentance. I think it was trying to tell us something… Now I wish I could remember some of the other “gibberish” it was telling us because it probably meant something, too.
Powerful stuff but I was once again left unfulfilled because You Don’t Know Who didn’t bother making an appearance and I was again left with only the nuclear option. Only 3 shows left… Full details and ticket info here.
BEST OUIJA SESSION EVER. Last night was intense. A packed house of enthusiastic Fringe goers provided no shortage of folks eager to get in on the act. I was also flattered and surprised that 2 of my former NYU Tisch students from 4 years previous made the trek, one driving all the way down to Philly from Cambridge, MA where he is now in a graduate Voodoo program at Harvard. I met with them and their friend for a quick drink at a UPenn/Drexel hangout afterward not far from the Blue Grotto.
Suffice it to say, hands shot up when I asked for 3 volunteers and got them rolling on the Ouija board at the show’s climax. The Ouija session was the most intense so far, with a unique and active personality at work. The session could have gone on much longer but alas we had to break it off and bring the show in for a landing. Here’s the transcript. The questioner here is a split between myself and an outstanding audience volunteer named R.
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): DAVID
QUESTIONER: When were you born?
QUESTIONER: Do you know you’re part of a show?
QUESTIONER (Jeff): It was R.’s idea.
QUESTIONER: We’re just seeking enlightenment tonight about our lives and about what happens where you are. Where are you now?
SPIRIT: LOS ANGELES
(A clever play on words? He’s with “the angels.”)
QUESTIONER: Do you know anyone in the room tonight?
QUESTIONER (Jeff): Cute answer. We do have a roomful of people here. I hate to break this off but we need to sadly wrap this up and continue the show. Maybe a few will want to come back and chat with you more in a few minutes when we’re done. Final question: do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo hanging in the other room?
(Let me point out that this was a first. For the past 3 nights in a row since the show opened the response to this question was NO. I was caught off guard by this seemingly miraculous answer and remained skeptical.)
QUESTIONER (Jeff): You do? Okay, what is it?
(This actually put a lump in my throat and brought a tear to my eye. It gave me pause. It was an astute, even clever answer.)
QUESTIONER (Jeff): (long pause) That’s extremely close. It’s not literally that but ‘home’ is a really special, poetic way of putting it. It is, underneath, correct.
There was a lot of static on the lines last night. We couldn’t get much of anything from the Ouija board — and especially not That Person — despite switching volunteers. The most we got was MOWNLALN. And it went to the number 8 a lot. If this means anything to anyone let me know.
If you really want to squeeze out an interpretation we can say it was trying to spell MOWN LAWN which had happened an hour earlier upstairs at exactly 8:00pm. That’s precisely when it ended in order to not disturb my show. And for what it’s worth artist and Blue Grotto creator Randy Dalton had “mown” it.
So maybe the spirit was showing off that it indeed lives at the CEC the way FRA said s/he did in the first Ouija session on 9/7 (transcript) by saying “the lawn had been mown by 8.” Maybe that was supposed to impress or frighten us but if so, it failed. Well, let’s see you try and interpret a bunch of gibberish.
Post-crypt: One of the two Ouija volunteers has posted on Facebook that, “My lawn was just mown, and guess how many times I had to empty the bag? That’s right, 8. Coincidence? You be the judge.”
Post Post-crypt: Reminder that tonight is Paranormal Psaturday. The first three ticket holders to show me a convincing photograph or smartphone video clip of authentic-looking paranormal activity in their homes will be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. The other usual prizes will again be given out randomly, including a free inept dream interpretation session with me, and, if you believe your is haunted, a free in-home ouija board session. I am magnet for ghosts, angels and demons so if they’re there I’ll be able to chat them up. DISCLAIMER: please note that I am not an exorcist. Spirits may remain in your home and may become pissed. Objects may spontaneously catch fire and pets may become temporarily possessed. Tickets and full details.
Last night’s performance of Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead went well. The audience was small so I could bring the action to even closer proximity to them, making the show as intimate as possible.
A Facebook message from one of the Ouija volunteers today sez, “Another night, another great Fringe show. Beautiful Zion: Book of the Dead. Funny, emotional, brave, spooky – what more can you ask for?” And as for the entity we contacted on the Ouija board, “I’m curious to know what kind of being it was, if it wasn’t human…” (see below).
A message today from the 2nd Ouija volunteer sed, “Congrats on the success. It was the most entertaining and compelling one man show we’ve seen in a very long time. You created a real event, and it was such an experience. I’m going to cite it to my [undergrad theatre] students in class tomorrow morning. The Ouija board thing did freak me out a bit. ‘Shalee’ meant something to me, as hard as I’m trying not to apply overly convenient interpretations.”
Shalee? Not human? What in Hell are they talking about? Here’s their Ouija transcript:
QUESTIONER: What is your name?
(the planchette was moving extremely slowly; we tried switching in a new volunteer but there was still a lot of static on the lines; in the interest of time I began jokingly hurrying the spirit along — “okay, pick it up, we’ve got a show to do,” etc. – and it seemed to respond by talking in shorthand)
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): SHALEE
JEFF: Okay, that’s definitely not who we’re looking for.
QUESTIONER (to Jeff): Sorry.
JEFF: No worries. Keep talking to Shalee.
QUESTIONER (to Shalee): Unusual name. Are you human?
JEFF: It’s creeping toward NO, definitely not YES, so let’s take that as a NO or we’ll be here all night.
QUESTIONER: What are you?
SPIRIT: DK (then it comes to a full stop)
JEFF: Short for DON’T KNOW.
(the planchette starts moving pointedly toward YES)
JEFF: Okay, so Shalee doesn’t know whether he/she is human. We’d love to know more but we’ve gotta wrap this up. Perhaps we can speak with you more later. Last question: do you know what’s taped to back of the grave photo hanging in the Blue Grotto?
JEFF: Big round of applause for Shalee! You may return to your seats.
BTW a quick Google search this morning showed that Shalee as a girl’s name is a variant of the South Asian name Shaila (Hindi), and the meaning of Shalee is “river”. However, I then received the above message from the Ouija volunteer saying the name had a personal resonance for him but he didn’t elaborate. Perhaps that person will come forward with more info later.
This Ouija session overall was very different than the previous evening’s but I still didn’t get what I came for, so I had to again end the show with the nuclear option. Come tonight and find out what that means. Full details and ticket info. And don’t forget it’s FREEMASONRY FRIDAY. The first three ticket holders to discretely show Jeff their Masonic rings or other authentic Masonic logo jewelry in secret before the show will secretly be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Don’t try to pull a fast one — I know my Masonic jewelry.