Young adults, so we are told, don't read, don't vote, don't care -- and don't attend the theater. James Quinn can't fix the world's problems, but he does have a plan to invigorate the theatrical scene in Spokane. It's called multimedia theater, and Quinn and his confreres at High Impact Theatre are betting their money (quite literally) that the high school and college crowd will show up in large numbers for an experience that, well, isn't your father's kind of drama. The troupe's latest production, The Blood's Warmth, plays The Met on Halloween.
"Theater's going to go by the wayside unless theater changes along with society," says the 23-year-old director. He's concerned about dwindling attendance at theaters, both locally and nationwide. Quinn clearly thinks that simultaneous stage action, interactive video, blaring sound and laser lighting will attract a new and younger audience. Indeed, High Impact's financial viability and its capacity to produce future events rest on the ability to draw such an audience.
Quinn's HIT has been one already, with the troupe's debut earlier this month at The Met with a performance of Fahrenheit 451, electrifying a near-capacity crowd with a mix of techno sound, large-screen interactive film and live onstage acting. Ray Bradbury's sci-fi tale about censorship required as many as five different technical directors (lights, soundtrack, stage sound, video and special effects) dispersed around The Met. High Impact promises more of the same in The Blood's Warmth, its Halloween show, including "cinematic sequences, another original techno soundtrack and special effects." In both shows, large-screen film sequences do more than merely cover a few scene changes; at several points, onstage characters "interact" with their counterparts in previously filmed episodes.
As with any first-time venture, there were missed cues, botched effects and dead time onstage. The youthful audience, however, accustomed to SFX at the movies and anticipating more of the same even in live performance, reportedly gave the group an enthusiastic reception. Quinn believes that "younger people respond best to those who don't mince words. They're tired of all the lying." He just wants to entertain and get a reaction, any reaction, from the audience, "even if they think it's cheesy." And he's angry over the charge that the Columbine massacre was caused by Goth culture or by violent video games: "That's so simplistic."
It would appear that Quinn and HIT are deliberately creating entertainment of the cheesy variety, as if to challenge that notion and show that today's youth just want to have fun, and are impervious to supposedly demonic influences. With The Blood's Warmth, the High Impact actors are aiming at an "intentionally campy" style: "We're going for the B-movie effect." The Blood's Warmth, with its premise of serial murders in Portland and the machinations of the undead, seems apt for a Halloween showing. With 20 actors in nine film segments and seven onstage actors, the group again faces some considerable logistical hurdles. Filming takes place on weekends at various isolated locations around Spokane, and includes such local theater veterans as Brad Picard and Ron Varela. Quinn himself is an East Valley High grad, and along with Kasey Kilgore, the lead actor in Warmth, is a veteran of several Interplayers productions. Local actors are working "so that now, even Spokane has something cool." On Halloween night, Kilgore will be joined onstage by Pamela Stark, Leah Masten, Tricia Vanslyke and Scott Kirkingburg.
Quinn, who admits that, "I'm too clever for my budget," nonetheless has plans for future productions with High Impact. December will bring Richard Seltzer's Without a Myth, an uncharacteristically G-rated family show about fairy tales and the imagination. Mindful of parental anxiety as the kids troop off to the latest cutting-edge entertainment, HIT offers its own rating system. The Halloween show is rated red for violence and yellow for both adult situations and language; December's family show checks in with green lights all around. For Valentine's Day, in contrast, Quinn has planned an erotic extravaganza about flirtatious couples at a rave club.
And then there are the midget wrestlers. Despite some scheduling snafus, the group intends to reserve the Bayou Brewing Company sometime in the future for the kind of High Impact that results when little people slam one another into mats. Quinn professes to hate the kind of negative labeling that undermines a lifetime of acceptance just because of a brief, politically incorrect statement. It's all just entertainment, he says, and actually serves as a complement to all participants of small stature. "It's condescending and arrogant of people," he says, "to assume that a show like that is degrading to those guys, when they're going out and having a good time."
Talk about multiple media. If Quinn's goal is to stir up the Spokane theatrical pot, gather some curious onlookers, and fill seats, then vampires and wrestling ought to do it.
& & & lt;i & High Impact Theater presents The Blood's Warmth at The Met on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 8 pm. Tickets: $10. Call: 891-4953. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &