BWW Blog: Food and Blood in BONNIE & CLYDE
Food and Blood: American Culture in Bonnie and Clyde
Every theatre company is idiosyncratic in its own way; Out of the Box is no different. The Artistic Director's (Samantha Eve) main objective for her company is to bring contemporary Broadway musicals to small-town Santa Barbara. These are not the musicals you saw at the Civic Light Opera in the 90's, or played an incidental character in during a high school production. The shows that Out of the Box produces are gritty and tenacious; they embody a scarcity of the glittering spectacle one might expect from big Broadway shows. They are, instead, infused with scrappy realism, characters clawing their way through situations that may not, in the end, have a realistic potential for absolute resolution. It's just not an Out of the Box show until we give a child a weapon and cover multiple people in globs of stage carnage. Samantha's theatrical battle cry: "More Blood!"
Out of the Box's most recent show, Bonnie and Clyde, is no exception. "Bang, bang, you're dead," sings young Clyde (Dillon Stave), a pint-sized actor wielding a pint-sized rifle. The show opens and closes with blood-I stand back stage with an offering bowl of gore, and instruct the actors to dip and smear. They gleefully grab handfuls of blood to rub on their faces and clothing to simulate the after-effects of a gunshot to the head.
Food, too, is ever-present in OOTB productions. Twinkies are a used frequently, as are pies-two foodstuffs that have an undeniable connection to typical Americana. Of the four shows I've done with the company, all have featured starker aspects of American-ness. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Bonnie and Clyde (both of which featured Twinkie-eating) chronicle the debaucherous, blood-soaked notoriety of three Americans whose stories are firmly planted in our national folklore. Carrie, Stephen King's bloody, bullied high school prom queen, shows American teen-dom gone wrong. While it is a more recent addition to the canon of American storytelling, Carrie has been adopted into cult-classic status, and, with the passage of time, will inevitably be embraced as a traditional American horror story. (As a side-note, the production of Carrie also prominently featured pies.) Next to Normal, the only show I've helped produce that might be accessible in a more cross-cultural environment, still has a plot based in first-world problems. I'm certainly not making the argument that all American conflict is first-world; on the contrary, I'm all too aware of the nation of poverty that struggles among us, even as I write this from my Santa Barbara balcony. Bonnie and Clyde recalls this historical and continuing struggle: "We may be in debt; wake up in a sweat; but let's not forget-we were made in America," is an anthem of the show, a theme we'd do well to acknowledge outside of the theater space.
Bonnie and Clyde are considered American heroes, their crime spree lauded as a fight against the tyranny of a depression that provided a heightened epidemic of hunger and desperation. Out of the Box does a good job of bringing musical theatre to Santa Barbara audiences without forcing the token frivolity often associated with musical shows. Samantha has oft imparted these words of wisdom: "when it's too emotional to talk about, you sing about it. When it's too emotional to sing about, you dance about it." This ethic for storytelling with a significant message is what contemporary musicals literally bring to the stage, and what Out of the Box brings to local audiences. While bread and circuses will pacify society's mutinous rumblings, food and blood will remind a society who's forgotten (or purposefully ignores the need) to rumble that our history, and inevitably our future, is distended with a dearth of food and surfeit of blood.