Bedroom Theater (1)

By: Gabriel Chad Boyer
July 2, 2012

We first heard about Gabe Boyer in 2001, when the then-24-year-old gave a series of lectures — at Boston’s Berwick Research Institute performance lab — on romantic love, utopian thought, and causal reasoning, punctuated by his Wurlitzer noodling. In 2002, Boyer founded Bedroom Theater, a weekly happening in his apartment’s bedroom; in 2003, he took his show on a bedroom-to-bedroom tour across America. This series recounts what happened.

Series illustrations selected by the author from John Hilgart’s 4CP archive.

I Met a Girl at the Brendan Behan

I had been performing plays in my bedroom for a year now, a thing I called Bedroom Theater.

Sometimes it’d be four of us on the couch and giggling as we rubbed our thighs together, and sometimes forties romantic comedy would be all the rage, but each time, we would explode into caricatures of the standard emotional palette and would often be goading each other on to the most extreme facial expressions possible, only to then stop for a moment and retire to the kitchen for more refreshments of the highball and lowball variety, perhaps sing a song of sad young men over my bathroom urinal while glancing absent-mindedly at the original poster for Hardcore, the film starring George C. Scott as a concerned parent who has to infiltrate the Vegas porn scene to save his pornstar daughter, returning to find my bedroom full of laughter. We saw it as our duty to push every boundary then, that our cynicism would lead us to the truth. And from this came the Bedroom Theater Tour.

It had all started with a motto: COMING TO BEDROOMS ACROSS AMERICA. I just liked how it sounded, and so every night I went to sleep in a state of agitation, thinking of women coming out to sit with me on a porch in Tennessee or Wisconsin, but only if certain factors could be worked out: I needed to learn how to drive; I needed to convince someone to give up two months of their time; I needed to book the shows; and of course I needed to find a vehicle and a bunch of money to get me there and back. Then what happened? A little miracle that I would later regret immeasurably. Because my good friend Zach was all for it, and because Zach was all for it, he bought a 1971 VW Minibus and said I could borrow it for the summer and gave me a little bit of bread. It’s the least I can do, he said. But it was the beginning of May by this point, and I was having second thoughts on account of I still hadn’t learned how to drive and still hadn’t found a driving companion, and so Zach had decided we needed to go to the Brendan Behan for a little pep talk.

With the swing of the door I let out a momentary sigh of relief. The place was almost completely empty. The wood was varnished a deep brown and the dust was thick on the top shelf of quality liquor behind the bar. There was a cigarette machine in back that hadn’t been used in years and if memory served the bathroom was practically medieval. There was an aquarium inset to the far wall and as far as I could tell I didn’t know a single person here. Zach went straight to the bar to get us each a pint, while I just stood there like a thing that’s been shut off.

After the initial euphoria of anonymity, several faces were coming into focus. I had almost made a terrible mistake with the girl at the table next to us at a Warriors-themed party for example. Then this girl who had come to the most recent Bedroom Theater made a point to come over and say hello. I looked over at her and tried to smile, but I couldn’t remember her name.

She held out her hand with a grin. Her name was Jill. She was wearing a long red and white striped scarf. She was bundled up like a croissant. If I had thought anything at all, it would have been that she was cute, but I wasn’t thinking. You wouldn’t want to go on a cross-country tour with me this summer, would you? It was a joke really, and she took it that way I thought at the time. She giggled. She had a friend waiting back at the bar.

And Zach and I found a free table and resumed our conversation. He felt it was his obligation to remind me once again that I was supposed to be leaving for tour in less than two months. I needed to get myself in gear if I was going to do anything other than sit at home and play pretend that I was driving around the country performing in people’s bedrooms. He was trying to show me what this would be like, this playing pretend I was driving while sitting in my bed by making a complete ass out of himself with an invisible steering wheel and a faulty muffler for a mouth, when Jill and her friend Josh [NOTE: Not HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, though he does turn up later in the narrative] sat down with us.

Over the course of the coming months this Josh friend of hers would prove an irksome fellow, popping out of the shadows with an evil flourish while sporting a cape when Jill and I embraced on the street after her concert at the Berwick Research Institute for example, this possibly also the night Jill said she believed there was something wrong with my heart while the two of us were in the middle of mingling with other attendees in Katya’s spacious loft on the top floor above the Berwick and smack dab in the center of Dudley Square, perhaps while chopping a lemon or slurping on our lemon-enhanced alcoholic beverages near the record player. And Jill wouldn’t definitively decide to come on this tour thing with me until the night a bunch of us came up with the ingenious proposal that we pack my furniture into the back of this here U Haul and climbed in to perform Bedroom Theater while bouncing around Boston, and we all climbed in with only a pocket flashlight to guide us and Jill with her melodica to bring the color to our cheeks. We held hands while reading scripts in the dark like children at a slumber party.