Gumbo: Exploring Gender
2018-02-02, 7:25 a.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
It has occurred to me that I’ve never really clarified the rundown of this Gumbo show. So here’s the program, more or less (now that I actually have one).
The theme was “Exploring Gender.”
Act 1: Genesis:
This started out with most of the cast playing animals (well, not in animal costumes, wearing bright colors), running around in the dark, posing, doing contact improv, and then running to cover the bodies of Adam and Eve on the stage. (This is called “forming a grave.”) After “Let there be light” happens, we all dance around on our own before resting on the edges of the stage. God creates Adam and Eve and they dance together, and then the serpent comes along to do a rather scary dance with Eve to “Praying” by Kesha.*
* I dunno on that particular song choice for that particular activity. “Praying” is about overcoming and this dance was really about getting kinda seduced/abused if you watched it.
After the fall, us animals run around getting cancer (yes, that was the stage direction) and making animal noises in pain before falling to the ground again. Adam and Eve are thrown out of the garden, wearing clothes and carrying a Bible.
Adam and Eve have the funniest scene in the show, in which Adam is all whiny and “What did I dooooooo?” and Eve chucks the Bible at him and tells him to look it up. “Well, I didn’t mean it like THAAAAT.” He keeps snuggling up to her, putting his feet or head in her lap and she keeps smacking him, shoving his feet off, shoving his head off so he rolls down the stairs...it was delightful. There is also the line, “I wouldn’t let you touch me if you were the last man on...oh.” They argue about naming kids/animals (“It sure was peaceful before you came along.” “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”) and eventually Eve decides what to name the kids and says they’ll all be so happy together.
The next thing we see after they walk off is cute little Abel gardening and Cain hitting him on the head. We all get up and form another grave around Abel’s body. After that goes on, everyone goes back to sitting on the side of the stage.
The next section of this is the Navajo creation story, which features First Man and First Woman coming together, having corn, making fires, etc. It’s rather convoluted to recap and lord, the dialogue was painful to say.** Reminded me of this quote. I don’t know where the dialogue came from or who wrote it, it’s billed as “Navajo Legends” in the program.
** There were several Navajo words in this that a linguistics major worked very hard to figure out the pronunciation of, and she said after the show was over that it was annoying that most of the people who had to say them just gave up on trying to do it right. I think it’s a shame she wasn’t cast in the role that had to say the words, when you think about it.
We do another grave scene, which morphs into yet another murder--Cain and Abel scene reenacted again--and everyone moves out to sit on the edges of the stage while several narrators talk about the murder of Fred Martinez, Jr., a “two spirited” teenager with feminine characteristics--a trait that is honorable among Navajo but in our culture...well, you know. This was done as a monologue in the show. After that, everyone sadly leaves the stage.
Act 2, “Yonder.”
This one is the most independent, as it is a bunch of different numbers. Various quotes about gender/trans folks are sprinkled through the numbers.
* A dance to “This Is A Man’s World,” followed by another dance with the same cast to “Who Run The World (Girls) by Beyonce.
The second half is more or less all one story, talking about (a) a young boy struggling with identity, and (b) the feminine element of Water, also struggling with life, and the journey they go on.
The third act, “Salem,” is themed with black/white/gray colors. (I’m not in that one because it rehearsed when I was working.) The fourth act, “Garden,” is garden themed. The fifth act, “Utopia,” is fire themed.
It starts out with Zack’s real life story of seeing a young boy being screamed at in the parking lot by his dad for wanting to wear a pink shirt, and citing a nearby Zack as being appropriately dressed for a man. (Zack’s commentary to this, not in the show, was along the lines of “Little did he know I was heading off to a theater makeup class...”) Zack found the whole thing really disturbing, so he turned it into a dance number with commentary about how he wished he could have made the whole scenario better.
There’s a recurring set of scenes based on Paulo Coehlo’s “The Alchemist,” acted out by the same guy playing the kid as he talks to an old man about personal legends, how the universe comes together to help you achieve what you want to, and how it’s a big ol’ lie to think otherwise. So that’s the boy’s journey, off and on.
I’m going to recap Water’s journey: she falls in love with a koi (uh...I can’t explain this) and then the koi, as per being a fish, keeps appearing and disappearing. She gets manhandled by waves, calls on the element of Air for help and gets swept up in a tornado that takes her into a garden.
There’s a performance to “Lemonade” by Beyonce, and then there is the infamous “Deep Forest” number, which is cool but done by almost everyone and always kept having problems in the middle of it with everyone figuring out where they are going and when and what they are doing, etc. It’s basically plants dancing and the one time where Water gets to have fun. Earth and Air come in and dance together. This is followed by the singing of the song “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish, and us plants join Earth and Air in slow dancing.
Then there are several monologues written by cast members about (a) being told to smile, (b) issues with manhood, and (c) issues with being transgender, while the other folks on stage dance as plants.
At the end of “Garden” is the “Smoke” number that I’m in, in which about nine of us or so, dancing as smoke, surround and harass Water and prevent her, very bodily, from going after Koi. Air eventually comes in, gets our attention, and gets all the smoke to leave her be.
In “Utopia,” we meet Fire, who has a macho chief and all of his villagers are basically trashing everything. Fire is intrigued by the elements and gets on with Air, but not so much with Earth and Water. He has Earth abused by his villagers, so us remaining plants (me included) come out when Water needs us to attempt to assist. There is a very fun/macho/scary haka dance that I wish I was in (again, wasn’t there when they started rehearsing it) that goes on to scare all the plants. The fire villagers and plants get in a war and the plants are totally trounced and killed. Water is upset and drowns the villagers in retaliation, so good for her.
After that, Water and Koi find each other again, yay. We all sing “Rose Golden” and then do the finale dance and bows to “Born This Way.”