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This is where I'm waiting for Liz and Cara to give me back my damn spear. Photos by Michael Thomas. This is where I'm waiting for Liz and Cara to give me back my damn spear. Photos by Michael Thomas.

NCRT's Das Barbecü, 2016

I did lots of broad comedies in high school, then I took a few Meisner-centric courses in college that scared me the hell off the stage for 20 years. I finally talked myself into jumping back up there, feeling the itch after watching some local musical productions in which my eldest son played in the pit band.

The project was NCRT’s 2016 production of Das Barbecü, a ridiculous Texas re-telling of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. The musical is written for five actors, each of whom play multiple parts, but I only played one: Wotan, a part the director carved off for me from the task list of another actor who was a bit stretched, splitting his time with another production.

As it happens in the theater, a family pops up made out of cast and crew, then suddenly disappears. I stay in contact with most of them, except that rat bastard Warren of course: never has a soul more vile walked the earth. I mean, his wife seems nice and his kids are super cute, but he’s truly a terribly monstrous human being, rotten to the core. The rest of them though? Awesome folks.

I did a great deal of research into the mythology and especially iconography of Wotan/Odin, during which I discovered that several white supremacist movements over the years have attempted to co-opt Odin's symbology in a failed attempt to make themselves feel like they aren't lame idiots. Wagner himself has a shady past and an occasionally notorious fan base. But lame idiots don't get to own history that's way bigger than they are, and I have no problem taking some of these symbols back and putting them to better use.

So I ended up contributing a lot to Wotan's costuming and props: his belt buckle had an image of his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, his hatband sported a Valknut, and his bolo tie was the Horns of Odin. I tried a conventional eyepatch but quickly realized that it obstructed my right eyebrow which is where most of my personality is stored, so I abandoned that for one made from a wire clothes hanger and a lens from a broken pair of sunglasses, which provided a slight steampunk vibe and even a little protection from the glare of the footlights. But the most involved item was Wotan’s spear (or “Gungnir” to be specific).

In Wagner's original Ring Cycle, Wotan breaks his spear and basically slinks away never to be seen again. But in this show Wotan comes back, and while there’s no mention of a spear, he does at one point wield a fishing pole. But because spears are cool, I decided I wanted one for the show and pitched the idea to the director – what about a spear that turns into a fishing pole? That way I could have all kinds of fun carrying the spear around, but still go fishing when required. Originally I thought about the Japanese art of Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, depending on who you ask), which highlights the beauty of broken things by repairing them with gold, but I couldn’t get that idea to read convincingly on the spear from a distance. So instead I settled on the idea of a repaired artifact one might find in a museum, where only a few parts of an item were recovered, the rest filled in with plaster or resin. I hollowed pieces of ash and slid them over black-painted PVC pipe, topping it off with a spearhead made of wood and plaster. I hid a section of fishing pole in the PVC pipe and carved runes into the wooden surfaces. A big rubber foot on the bottom allowed me to stomp with it across the stage, making a nice imposing thump, and after one particularly delicious moment of suspense, I was able to “break” the spear over my knee to reveal the fishing pole, and cast my line offstage.

On closing night the cast and crew signed the spear using silver ink and we gave it to the director Chris Hamby, who I’m told mounted it on his wall. And I think that’s pretty great.

I'll never forget the experience, or the people. Except maybe Warren.

MikeCraghead

Haley threatening  Jeremy, Cara threatening that bastard Warren.
Haley threatening Jeremy, Cara threatening that bastard Warren.

This is the stuff of which nightmares are made.
This is the stuff of which nightmares are made.

Wotan props.
Wotan props.
Everybody was mean to me during the opening number.
Everybody was mean to me during the opening number.

Haley vs. Cara in an Epic Barbecue Smackdown.
Haley vs. Cara in an Epic Barbecue Smackdown.






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