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Hardcore Halloweening Goes Theatrical

Those fingers in my hair, that sly come-hither stare, that strips my conscience bare, it’s witchcraft.
That’s how the song “Witchcraft” goes, as Frank Sinatra’s baritone pivots and dips through the lyrics.
No Sinatra am I, but the words resonated out of my mouth decently as I stood on a small stage on a Saturday night in a cupcake shop full of people wearing Halloween costumes.

I felt as awesome as this looks.

I was kicking off the second act of the Desultory Theatre Club’s “Hardcore Halloweenie” variety show as it turned into a pretty wild night. The show was sold out, the room wall to wall with people hooting and hollering.

My friend and co-host, DTC chief Keith Paul, put together a lot of show to hoot and holler about. Burlesque dancing girls, a magic man, Lovecraftian shadow puppets theater, a soulful singer with steel pedal guitar player tearing up Radiohead and Prince, an all-puppet slasher film, and sideshow freaks walking on broken glass. (No, not Annie Lennox style.)

Food trucks are parked outside with burritos and baked potatoes, a microbrewery pours chocolate porter out of a cooler, and a local coffee company drives up in a hearse.

All of that, plus Halloween cupcakes in a shop with creepy hardcore art on the walls.

Circus Delecti get their hammer & bed of nails on.

What a night! I got to be all over the place: from stage banter and flexing those old improv muscles, to running a party game, to singing a song, to regularly seeing how many sequined bras, feather boas, gloves and fake blood-stained props I could pick up after each burlesque act.

This blerd couldn’t have been happier.

After years of supporting Desultory Theatre Club as a spectator, I made the leap to the stage. But bigger than the nerdy thrill of standing in the lights alongside your fanboy targets, was marking a return to another chapter of my life.

It was a my first time performing after about 13 years.

I did do Pippin in high school, and it looked exactly like this. Yes, exactly like this.

Before I went out into the workaday world, performance art was such a large part of my life and my public identity. You could say it pretty much made my public identity for many years.

I was the nerdy kid who sang, acted, produced, directed. I found community and comrades and joy there. I found teamwork and was empowered by the magical immensity of transforming words on a page into something emotional and real and deeply alive.

Nerds love their fandoms fiercely, and in my ways they seek to embody the experience of their adulation, from cosplay to LARPing to RPGs and MMORPGs.

This is how I felt on opening night before a show.

Live theater, for me, remains the best version of that embodiment, with a script to follow and a crowd cheering. It’s great.

There were so many days and nights of voice rehearsals, modern opera and spoken word; of workshop cabaret and numerous accents; of improv and dance class; of character shoes; and so much greasepaint-gray hair.
Theater and performance showed me how to dance sharper, sing stronger, speak louder, walk taller, smile brighter. In an environment where I felt I had to lock away my emotions, here I could let them out through the mask of another being.
Any desire to build my self-esteem and not be misunderstood was fed by an ability to command reactions from hundreds of people in one room.
On a stage, I was freer than anyplace else.
High-school me liked Pirates of Penzance, and had 25-odd white daughters.

By doing the Halloween show, I got to reveal a piece of myself that so few people in my life now know about me. My wife told me that one of our burlesque pals heard my pre-show sound check and said, “I didn’t know Marvin sang.” Even those who heard me belt my way through some rock and roll karaoke (I was named the goddamn karaoke king, after all) didn’t quite know what I could really do.

It was fun to show off a little and make people happy. The improv with Keith was clicking, the jokes were working, the crowd roared with each call to action.
It was perfect. I forgot how much I missed this.

You intimidate the crowd to tip the burly-q dancers. Those costumes ain’t free!

Sunday morning, as I awaited some brunch, I felt worn and drained, but blissful and crackling with glee after an amazing night. We made them laugh, we made them scream, we were dressed to kill, and this was only the beginning as I turn an old life into a new one.

A real scream.

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