After many months of working hard on and seeing almost exclusively my own plays, I am out and about seeing theatre again. Baby steps. My first step was to see Marya Sea Kaminski’s latest masterwork, “Riddled,” a mash-up of rock music, personal history (fictional, I assume, but I have no idea) and Bonnie and Clyde mytho-history. I took Marya’s solo performance class in January/February, and it was a revelation. But, I’d never seen the woman herself on stage before. I’ve heard tell she’s a genius, but I had to see for myself.
It was pretty damn amazing, indeed.
Some years ago, I directed a play that featured a prop gun. It was a very realistic prop gun – in fact, I think the one we ended up with had actually been a gun in a previous life, but then was mummified (or neutered) with metal sealing the barrel, and the trigger mechanism had been removed so the trigger just wiggled around against one’s finger. It was heavy and shiny and from a distance, very beautiful.
I had to pick it up once to move it offstage while we were setting up a scene, and I am still shaken by that memory. I have an inexplicable phobia of guns. I’ve never seen a real one in person, or handled one, or been threatened with one. Apparently my father owns guns, and I’m glad I didn’t know about that growing up. I have a hard time watching other people handle them in reality, even when they’re fake.
On the other hand, from a cinematic or artistic distance, I adore them.
At the entrance way to the show, there is a prop replica of one of Bonnie Parker’s guns. It’s made of wood, mostly, and has a shoulder rest. An actor takes the round out and shakes it to show us it’s empty, shows us that there’s no bullet loaded inside, and hands it around. I am first. I take the gun cautiously, clearly unsure of how to handle it despite having just watched a demonstration, and set it against my shoulder, respectfully pointing the barrel away from my fellow humans. It feels good, nestled against my shoulder, my finger on the trigger. Adrenaline thrills through me. After a mere few seconds which are burned into my brain, I hand the gun to the next person in line, a woman who fingers it with boredom and passes it on to a man who knows how to load and unload guns, obviously, based on how he checks the round, mounts it against himself, and fake-fires. The next man in the room does the same thing, with an evil glint in his eye.
By the time we enter the theatre itself, cold sweat has started to prick the back of my neck. I know it’s fake and yet the thought is too intense.
I am short, and female, and into yoga, and reading, and theatre, and I have a desk job. I am not a hardcore person by most standards, but there is a vein of thick, dark violence deep in my core that I occasionally revel in. I ride a bike most weeks, usually as part of the commute to work which also involves the light rail, and I get serious road rage in traffic. Because I am so small, and my new road bike makes me smaller than the cars around me, I’ve developed a tendency to yell at drivers when they get too close. Sometimes I yell something specific at them, like “Too close!” and sometimes I just scream. Mini-van drivers are the worst, especially in the middle of the afternoon when they’re obliviously on their way to pick their kids up from school.
A few days ago, I yelled “Asshole!” at a driver who sped past me at a narrow point in the road. Her window was rolled down, though, and she heard me, and slowed down to watch me suspiciously through her rear-view mirror. I peddled more slowly to avoid her.
I also got into a verbal fight with a homeless man who harassed me at a stoplight. My boyfriend, who is picking up my terrible cycling habits, got into a fight with a driver edging too close to us one weekend, when we were biking home from the grocery store.
I take my aggression out on video games, usually. When I play RPG’s, I play melee characters, usually with the heaviest armor and biggest swords possible. In my mind, and in the reality of the game, I am hulking bad-ass who can run headfirst into any swarm of bandits and destroy them. “Skyrim” has a special “power attack” mode that sometimes the player is lucky enough to trigger, and your person cinematically kills the bad guy in front of them in slow motion. It’s thrilling.
Marya’s character in “Riddled” actually has experienced some kind of combat training, in her childhood. She is partly a bad-ass in real life, but mostly lives vicariously through a biography of Bonnie and Clyde. “Oh my goodness, a bank robber with skirts!” she exclaims at one point.
The rock music of the show backs up the Dionysian ecstasy Marya exudes, especially while talking about guns and violence. The symbolic power of the Gun is something she embodies beautifully. But her character also fails to stand up for herself, finds herself shrinking away when reality calls for forwardness.
I so sympathize.
About a year ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to use a gun, but I haven’t done anything about it yet. It’s true, I’ve been intensely busy, and lacking in funds. But also, I’ve been afraid. I like watching the Mythbusters fire guns, or movie characters, but doing it myself? Do I have that in me?
I think I might like it too much.
A few weeks ago, a man shot his way through some patrons at Cafe Racer in Ravenna, then tore downtown to carjack and murder a woman at 8th & Seneca, and finally shoot himself. Everyone in town is still shocked about a shooting at Cafe Racer – there’s little notice of violence when it happens downtown, or in Rainier Valley, or Beacon Hill, or Capitol Hill. But in Ravenna, the Great White North of Seattle? That’s hallowed, quiet, family-friendly ground – no one has guns or violence in their hearts in Ravenna!
Also, some of Seattle’s most influential and brilliant musicians were killed, and that was fucking terrible. They will be missed, but it was incredible to have them here while they were alive. The scene is much better for their existence.
To have violence tangentially affect my life – the musicians were friends of friends – and at the same time, to have a growing interest in shooting guns … is hard, to say the least.
Marya’s show could not have come at a better time in my life, when both the love and fear of violence intersects my life in strange ways. I can see so much of what I feel reflected in her piece – the love of shooting, the love of getting away with something, the paralyzing fear of violence from others, the instinctive reactionary avoidance of violence when it happens to you.
There are things I could say in criticism of the flow of the story, but that would be to say that the story does not flow, and that is untrue. It hits so close to home as to be Everyman, but with a gun and two X chromosomes and a terrifying childhood.
It is an immersive piece of writing, and a beautiful piece of acting, and the music is true rock and roll. It hurts so good – go see it.