Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Redmoon Winter Pagent

A group of friends and I went to see the Redmoon Winter Pagent in a warehouse at 1463 W Hubbard in Chicago, Redmoon Central, Thursday night, December 3, 2009. It cost about $18, including online service fees.

I had no expectations except that I thought it would be Cirque du Soleilish. Only substantiated thing I heard about Redmoon before the show was that they performed the Winter Pagent at the White House. Even considering that Obama hailed from Chicago as a candidate, I would think having the privilege of performing at the White House, out of all the performers from Chicago, has something to say about Redmoon.

The neighborhood and walk to the warehouse made me a little anxious. That part of Chicago has a lot of warehouses and factory-type spaces with a run down feeling since there's not a lot residential or retail front spaces. It would have made the perfect meeting place for some kind of seedy deal or meet up with someone you would rather not associate with. Not having the warehouse near a main road or even close to a side road didn't help much, either.

They have a sign at the road announcing Redmoon, though. Further into a parking lot, another sign points you down a very short little drive to another sign. This one points you to the front door.

Did I mention there isn't very much light except for around the signs and the dim street lights above the road?

To tell the truth, this darkness and seediness contributed to a segueway from regular, everyday life to the surreality of Redmoon's Winter Pagent. Coming from the sun of the day and the bright lights of downtown Chicago of the evening, this warehouse district and dark parking lot felt like falling down a rabbit hole or some other kind of unsettling, strange experience that dumps a person into a magical world.

And magic the Redmoon Winter Pagent had. The troupe creates a surreal, magical world littered with its own mythos. They likely draw from many traditions that I can't highlight because of my lack of familiarity and not-the-best memory.

They set the stage well with a pre-show faux picnic on the warehouse floor. Some members juggled, others threw harmless soft balls around and another rode an undersized bicycle around the stage floor space. Audience participation was encouraged: the juggler taught the basics of juggling to one member of our party and some audience members sat down on the picnic blanket and chatted with the picnickers. I think it was before this point that the announcer said that if we felt moved, we should feel free to get up and dance.

Things become hard to explain at this point because so many surreal, magical and not-of-this-world events and objects occur. Huge crazy vehicles roll out from backstage. People at a dinner with all types of pastries and cakes having a great time only for a giant baby to come out and silently demand cake from the revelers. A piano that moved around by a motor under the direction of someone pushing around a small foot pedal. People with pretty puppet swans walking around, flapping the wings and look pretty while Eastern-influenced music played. A huge vehicle with multiple drum sets and people playing horns. There was an underwater skit (imaginary underwater, that is) with old-style scuba divers generating bubbles from their oxygen tanks. An ending with a somber shadow puppet performance of an old woman in a rocking chair and stars in the background.

The troupe left the place in quite a mess with all the stuff they flung around. I almost expected them to turn the tables around by requiring the audience to pick up the mess. It would have added to the mindscrew and would have, in my opinion, been worthwhile to feel like our admission wasn't ripping off these really creative performers for their hard work.

Instead of getting us to clean up after their performance, they simply invited the audience to converse with members of the troupe while they cleaned. Good hosts, these performers.

The performance had very little to do with plot and a lot to do with mood, playfulness and sublimity. Even for adults, and possibly especially for adults, the performance projects an exaggerated size that young children face everyday with mundane objects, noises and themes. It also creates levels of nonsensibility and playfulness that adults forget to appreciate when approaching the world.

An exception to the playful nonsensibility occurred during the last part, the shadow puppet old woman rocking in a chair. That part, however, created a sense of bitter sweetness. There's just something peaceful about a life well lived and death from old age accepted.

The show had minimal acrobatics. It was nothing like I would expect of Circus du Soleil. The Redmoon Winter Pagent provided more of a psychedelic tour through the perception of a baby being exposed to the brand new world for the first time, just starting to understand and interact with the world them. With the shadow puppet old woman as a book end, the middle of the performance could also provide some element of an adult who remembers the craziness yet excitement of childhood, and they want to experience those moods during adulthood again.

Overall, though, the Redmoon Winter Pagent could receive multitudes of interpretations. They would all probably prove correct on some level, too. The Pagent doesn't revolve so much about taking meaning away from it. Rather, it injects an hour or so of a fun insensibility and sublime experience into our lives. It's something that we all need every once in awhile, whether child or adult.

Links of interest: Redmoon, Current Redmoon Productions, Redmoon Central, Cirque du Soleil

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