Gonzo: No More Than a Praying Mantis and a Baby in a Jar

Gonzo Theatre is the only independent, completely student run theater production at Eastern Mennonite University. Along with this unique position comes something that many students at EMU find interesting: an uncensored, peer run, and peer reviewed outlet for all things from praying mantises to Lord of the Rings.

Prior to each production, Gonzo comes up with a theme for the show and sets it in a public place for all to see. Those who feel moved are encouraged to write something relating to the theme and submit it—often under a pseudonym—for the chance that it be one of the few pieces performed live for the audience.

This combination of anonymous student writers, lack of strict censor- ship, and actors who are only there for their love of acting and love for Gonzo, never ceases to leave attendees with an unforgettable experience.

This past month, Gonzo, with no more inspiration than a praying mantis and a plastic baby stuck in a jar, put on its final show of the semester. Many of the pieces submitted for the show were, not surprisingly, a bit dark —maybe even creepy—yet somehow managed to be surprisingly deep, evoking thoughts and emotions that betrayed the seemingly playful, loose structure of Gonzo Theatre.

One such creepy, yet deep piece was a performance starring what seemed to be a husband, wife, and little girl. From how the actors were performing their roles, it was clear to the audience that the act took place in a world strikingly familiar to the set- ting of a zombie apocalypse. The writer and actors used this piece as a means of drawing in the audience through a familiar story line—people fleeing from zombies, one getting bitten, and no one knowing what to do. The story took an interesting, albeit slightly confusing, twist when the party member bitten acted with mercy toward another survivor within the fallen world and, by doing such, assured the safety of his wife and young child.

By far the best performance of the night in both writing style and acting sense went by the name “Ghost Child” and covered a terribly grim topic: the rape of a young woman, and how she dealt with the subsequent mixture of guilt, terror, and love she felt whenever she looked into the eyes of her young daughter, who had the sad fate of being born to such a tragedy.

The mother sat, sullen and tired, on a chair in the middle of the stage. The daughter, in her sweetest voice, pranced around her mother, pestering her with questions about bedtime and when her mother would come to tuck her in. While the mother, in breaking the fourth wall, told the audience how she had come to be raped and how she was talked into keeping the child born of the act, her daughter periodically took on the voice of her mother’s rapist. In doing so, the audience was given a window into the damaged psyche of the mother and into the hateful, insulting personality of the man who attacked her. The significance in this piece comes from how it highlighted and delved into an already taboo aspect of conversation, yet did not hesitate to dive even further in, bringing to light subjects almost too sensitive to speak about.

Gonzo so far this year has, unfortunately, been a bit disappointing. With this last performance of the semester, however, it was revealed to all those that did not already know just how awesome Gonzo can be. All those interested in catching the next Gonzo should pay close attention to their email inbox and keep an eye out for the harbinger of Gonzo, Heidi Winters Vogel.

-Kevin Treichel, News Editor


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