Rock music mantra “free your head,” echoed across the late 60’s-early 70’s, when our nation’s repressive government pitted a frightening arsenal of mind control techniques against the drug and free spirit ideology-induced revolutionary paradigm shift of a rebellious generation.
SDS, the Weathermen, Socialist Workers Party members, Earth First-ers and the artists and musicians who crystallized their diverse, anarchy-leaning thought into bumper sticker slogans and catchy acoustic tunes found themselves arrested, interrogated, imprisoned, fined, black-listed, blackmailed and sometimes killed off for real or perceived nefarious infractions. True civil disobedience was met with harsh retribution, as it would be today. Snitches and CIA operatives infiltrated naïve, idealistic “focus groups” and cells of dissent with ease. The clashes of the forces of ordered control and those who seek to undermine them provide stage worthy fodder to fill the mind.
“Lots of people do a lot of horrible things in the name of right.”
Or so thinks Kevin Grammer, local actor, creative persona and regular member of Matt Posey’s The Ochre House acting company, THE PIONEERS OF THE SUAVANTE-GARDE. With Empty Room, running at The Ochre House through November 21, Grammer dips his peripatetic big toe into the play-writing pond and disturbs the still, deep waters with quicksilver ripples that make you wonder what unplumbed tsunami of thought may lurk behind.
Empty Room is a short five-character play, with four of them on stage. It takes place in a blank room, a timeless lock-down holding cell. Two TV monitors, facing the house, are mounted above the cell, where on-going interrogation can be viewed in counterpoint to the scenes progressing main stage. On stage characters lament, berate one another, cling tight and deal with the waiting limbo madness with various degrees of resignation, distrust or paranoia. It could be now; it could be 1969. Catalyst for much of the interaction, spoken of sadly by all, is a sister, killed accidentally when a bomb goes off in her hands. Civil action gone awry. Each stage character disintegrates as the interrogation torture begins, delivered by a crisp, courtly doctor in bowtie and suspenders played with firm but polite reserve by Grammer, himself. How does the mental torture of regret affect the mind? Does physical torture affect the mind less? After they return from individual ‘sessions’, does the room the characters occupy seem emptier? You decide.
The solid cast of Empty Room includes Laurel Whitsett, Mitchell Parrack, Brian Witkowicz and Kevin Grammer. Grammer wrote and directed the play; Matthew Posey designed the set, lighting and sound. Roll up your pants legs, Mr. Grammer, and wade on into the oceanic possibilities of crafting plays. The water’s fine.
As is Empty Room.
The play runs through November 21, Wednesdays through Saturdays, at 8:15 pm. The Ochre House is located at 825 Exposition Avenue, in the same block as the Amsterdam Bar. Plenty of accessible, FREE parking.
RESERVATIONS: (214) 826-6273
“How do you stop terrorism? Quit participating in it.” Noam Chomsky
PHOTO: left to right, Kevin Grammer (Doctor), Brian Witkowicz (Man 2), Laurel Whitsett (Woman), Mitchell Parrack (Man 1)