Archive for the Jobot Coffee & Bar Category

7 Minutes in Hell (10/14/2017)

Posted in 7 Minutes in Hell, Black Hymeneal, Jobot Coffee & Bar, Melt Ice Cream Shop with tags , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Facebook event banner for the 2017 edition of 7 Minutes in Hell.

Saturday night I took part in what is to be the last 7 Minutes in Hell to be performed at the Pierce Street location of Space 55. It had been a while since I had read there, at least a year or more, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to plug my forthcoming book, Black Hymeneal. I went to the theater directly after getting off from work, so I was a bit early and so I decided to go to Jobot, a hip local coffee shop on 5th street & Roosevelt, for a quick snack, but they seemed to be closed for some reason. Moving down a few doors I stumbled upon an ice cream shop called Melt. The flavors were very unusual, pistachio with cherries, churro, horchata, etc. I settled on a single scoop cake cone of horchata and was not disappointed! It even came topped with a fortune cookie; the message within read: “You will lighten another’s heart.”

I don’t know if I did that, but I believe I entertained a few people in the audience at least. I was 3rd in line after a boisterous opening song by host Russ Kazmierczak and a hilarious skit by Ashley Naftule. Russ had what I assume was a karaoke track for Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive over which he sang a lyric about all the wondrous things he’d seen at Space 55. His voice wasn’t always on key, but his heart was in the right place and he got the whole room, myself included, singing the refrain “I saw it at Space 55”.

Ash came on in character as a film critic whose name was a spoof on Cliff Notes, but I cannot recall exactly what it was. His deal was that he was a critic who would do reviews of movies he’d never seen. He asked the audience to shout out some film titles and he would do these brilliantly hilarious reviews. Ash is a master of improv and his broad knowledge of film and pop culture was put to good use here.

Then I came up, plugged Black Hymeneal and my blog, then read 3 poems selected from my book. I started off with Manurog to ease the crowd in, then moved onto Manqueller Manque finally wrapping up with Love Song of the Lugubrious Gondolier. My preamble was a bit rusty, and it soon became apparent, to me at least, just how long it had been since I’d last read in public. I introduced Manurog as a poem about a goblin that takes his grooming tips from Ed Gein and ended by saying it was “one for the kiddies”, which got a chuckle from the audience. My explanation for Manqueller wasn’t anything special, I just explained how the inspiration came from a book on obsolete words and how it was about a would be murderer. My explanation for Love Song… was a bit clunky and when I explained it was inspired by a movie they asked for my review (in reference to Ash’s skit) I replied that I couldn’t do that because I had already seen the movie. The set seemed to go over fairly well, despite my losing place in the middle of Manqueller. The reason for this was that my old book of poems has so many corrections and cross-outs in it that I couldn’t tell where to look for the marginal notations. That being said, I did get a few compliments afterward.

Now, I tend to get antsy after I come off stage and generally only stay for the next act so as not seem ungrateful for a chance to read or non-supportive of my fellow artistes.  I waited for the next act, Steve Marek, a stand-up comedian to do his bit. His set began with a eulogy to Hugh Hefner, which was clever, and ended with a political “horror tale”. He asked the house to dim the lights and he used the light from his gadget (i-Phone, or whatever) like one might put a flashlight under one’s chin to tell a campfire tale, as he regaled us with an explicit piece of horror-otica featuring Sherriff Joe and Jan Brewer engaged in some rather compromising  hi-jinks. It was a bit sophomoric, but it had some poignant political digs thrown in for good measure.

I considered leaving then, but ended up sticking around for the next act. This one was a woman named Dineta Williams-Trigg who I guess is a regular in the scene, I did not know her but she was very personable and even approached me before the show to ask me about my Venom t-shirt. She explained that she was a fan of B-movie Horror and had recognized the Baphomet symbol on it. I returned the compliment by saying that I liked her Glen or Glenda t-shirt. She gave her time up to invite people to come up and talk about their experiences at Space 55 and what it meant to them. First up was Amy Ouzoonian who came up with her precious infant in a make-shift papoose fashioned from of a long swaddling blanket wound around her torso. She told of her experiences there as part of the Arcana Collective and as a cast member in one of the past productions featured at the venue. She would later come back up with her babe to recite a monologue about the questionable joys of mother hood. Then came Marcella Grassa who told a similar tale of working with the Arcana Collective and being in shows, most recently as one of the leads in Ashley Naftule’s play “The Ear”. Lastly, was an audience member who told how seeing some of the wacky skits there gave him the courage to try his hand at performing on stage.

After this heart warming tribute, I began to relax and just enjoy the show and stopped looking for a chance to make my exit. I believe the next act was Marcella and her friend Gullveig (spelling?) who did a skit they’d penned about the legendary water spirit Melusine explaining to the goddess Kali her decision to allow Starbucks to use her image for their brand logo. It was a bit rough in spots (Marcella gave the disclaimer before they began that they had just written it a couple of days before and were under-rehearsed) but very clever and on the money on certain points about cultural appropriation by big corporations. I also dug their costumes, which were simple but effective for featuring identifiable attributes of the entities they portrayed.

Space 55 regular Leslie Barton did a shtick as a brontosaurus comedian called Brontobill Hicks, Bill Brontohicks, or something to that effect.  She basically wore a brontosaurus mask and told  brontosaurus themed jokes in the manner of Bill Hicks. Up next was Paul Kolecki, one of the current Space 55 troupe who played the male lead in “The Ear”. He did a passionate monologue from “Death of a Salesman”.

Following him were the Arcana Collective the fluid line-up of which this time consisted of Ernesto Moncada as the shaman Don Pablo Xibalba (Xibalba, roughly translated as “place of fear”–according to Wikipediais the Mayan word for the Underworld), a character he played in “The Ear” and Allison Dee who was topless, dressed only in skimpy panties and a body-length, diaphanous, black veil which, along with the usual Arcana eye kohl, made her look like a vamp from a Paul Naschy film. She played the theremin and some Eastern-looking variation on a percussion triangle. Don Pablo, also topless but not creating quite the same effect on the beholder (not to disparage Ernesto’s rakish good looks), called for a volunteer from the audience  and a young man came up. Don Pablo made him drink from a glass bottle filled with the “waters of the dead”, I believe he said, then covered him with a red cloth and did some mock ritual over him involving maracas and some amusing mumbo-jumbo. There was more to it, but I cannot recall the detail.  Either way it was very amusing and one of the more accessible things I have seen them do.

Closing the show was comedic singer Scott Gesser, who began with a brief monologue introducing the song he was to play. The intro went a bit too long, but the song, a tale about his misadventures in Nebraska, was fun.

In the end, I stayed for the whole show and not once had the usual anxiety fueled  urgency to bail the premises, which is saying a lot. All the artists and entertainers were fun and unique in their way and I was glad to have been part of the show. I look forward to upcoming events at their new location and even have an invite to participate in a planned Horror themed Christmas show to make up for the last Lovecraft bash in August which had to be postponed for real life stuff. Good times.

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