Vinyl-wearing lesbians and community theater reach a new echelon of coexistence this weekend with the opening of “Vamp,” the collaborative effort of two of Madison’s notable local theater production companies, StageQ and Mercury Players Theatre.
“Vamp” is the story of a frustrated writer who is employed as a slush-pile reader and suffers the presence of imaginary characters in her apartment drawn from the immense number of bad plays she reads at work. A bathrobe-wearing Jesus of Nazareth, a spunky old lady with lots of vim and a choir of Irishmen suffering from the potato famine of 1740 are all inhabitants of the overcrowded would-be writer’s apartment. Handling the spectre of hallucination is not too much of a problem for the writer, as she remains mentally competent enough to meet a goth astrophysicist named Angela. Eventually, the two fall in love, but the not-so-classic girl-meets-girl story experiences conflict with a greater twist when the back story of the writer’s counterpart is developed. It just so happens that Angela is a vampire.
“Vamp” is the first play coproduced by StageQ and Mercury Players Theatre. Both organizations have been in Madison for several years, and StageQ was actually founded by Mercury Players Theatre. Tara Ayres, the artistic director of StageQ and the show director for “Vamp,” remarked on the co-operative effort of working with another production company, among other things.
“[StageQ and Mercury] are learning a lot from each other. It’s great. The whole set design teams are basically one unit, and the whole thing is working out phenomenally,” Ayres said.
Synergistic benefit aside, Ayres also noted the talent involved in bringing a production to fruition.
“I’ve been blessed with some really talented people. It’s a wonderful cast,” Ayres said.
Surrealism is used to develop the characters’ relationship with a surprisingly traditional sensibility. Each character has their own secrets that are kept from their partner, and those secrets lead the audience to question what or who is truly a monster in such an outlandish tale of supernaturalism.
“The story plays on the distorted reality we create for a prospective partner before we know anything about them. There are all these things they could be, but we only imagine them to be one of them. In this story it turns out that one is a vampire and the other has imaginary friends, which makes the whole thing really funny, too,” Ayres said.
As an active member of the LGBT community in Madison, Ayres is keyed in to LGBT culture. Though not specifically catered to an LGBT audience, Ayres also recognizes the pitfalls of a gay or lesbian oriented script and show, and described the appeal to both heterosexual and gay members of the audience.
“StageQ is about telling good stories, and the lesbian and gay members of the audience can also feel at home in the theater simply because there are representations of people like them on stage. Though there are these aspects of lesbian relationships that aren’t new to me, it’s still a pretty universal love story,” Ayres said.
“Vamp” opens at the Bartell Theatre Friday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. and runs until Saturday, March 28.