Bedroom Theater (3)

By: Gabriel Chad Boyer
July 16, 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.

Zombies in Knoxville

Pilot Light was dark and smelled sweetly of Lysol, half-smoked cigarettes, and spilled liquor. There were a dozen or so tables in the center of the room; along one wall were a series of maroon booths, and the band was currently breaking down their equipment on the small stage adjacent to the front door. The bar was draped in Christmas lights and Regina was there behind it, and her eyes were bright with an everpresent affection. Here y’are, she said.

She introduced each sloppy patron as he or she stumbled up to ask for one more round – awkward solitary beings it was obvious from how they couldn’t make eye contact, all swaths of hair and a momentary mouth. Jill was nestled against me when Regina beckoned as you might to a stray kitten, and we took our seats at the bar. This’s our one home, she said when we sat down, responding to her beaming face with a reflexive smile. Then she held out her hands, as if to embrace the bar itself. This town’s so full o assholes. Pilot Light’s the only place we got left. T. Rex was coming on over the PA system, and Regina had her elbows on the bar.

I was kind o hopin’ you’d perform at the bar, but. We’re just about to close up shop, she said. But. There’s this party at a friend of a friend’’s house. I’m sure you could do this thing whatever it is there. Jill and I simply smiled at each other in silent contemplation, awed that we had actually made it and grateful to be surrounded by our peers, arms draped over shoulders, her head on my lapel. Look at’m. Look at’m, Regina said, pointing to a young man at the end of the bar with a sheepish grin. Ain’t he just the sweetest younger brother any country girl could have? Then Jill made her way round to the bar’s other side to get a peek at the musical library.

I’ve been hearing about Regina for years, mainly through roommates who’ve left their belongings at her home while on some tour or other. She’s a small woman and cheerful, bringing with her the heat and sparkling easy eyes that go so well with wisteria. She is like extended family to me, familiar and alien at the same time.

We all left shortly after that and hurried down the street, our eyes pinned to the few feet of concrete unraveling in front of us for fear of being knocked to the side by a bundle of steroids. We hopped in the van, Regina pointed and we followed; up hills, past row upon row of paint-chipped houses, and on to a place where the vines were wild and the people tame. Tall houses were obscured by a forest of leaves dark as a single gelatinous mass in the late-nite. We parked and opened our doors to the sound of occasional and insistent chirping from a single insomniac sparrow I was sure. Jill and I were pretty burnt by this point, having been up since six.

What time is it, I said, turning my head round to where Charley and Regina were.

Almost two, Charley said.

Then we were climbing a winding staircase to the second floor apartment of a friend of a friend of a friend, and opened the front door to sphincter-popping volume drum & bass. Among those already present and doing whatever it takes to keep their sphincter firmly shut in the face of the gastrointestinal quivering induced by the fingering oscillations of this truly deep-bodied music, some were pressed against walls to hide their chewed faces from the rest, while others were discussing it with each other openly under fluorescents in the kitchen, and many were wagging their legs and shaking their arms and very probably dripping with their own incontinence while they waved it in the air like they just don’t care. I immediately realized that if anything was to occur it would be a quiet zombie flick filmed out back while no one was looking. Jill set up her Juno on the porch.

I forgot about the tall man who had said he would help in whatever form possible and instead got the three guys who’d played at the bar earlier to be the main actors and Charley was in charge of scoring the opening music. I ran about searching for an extension chord, leaping over some sorority girl releasing her lunch on the carpet, sprinting to the utility closet. Shouting, Nothing here, over the heads of all those conversations and the ever present thump of the stereo. We must have seemed like a scourge come down from the north to infect their pleasure. Then the filming began.

We made the film in forty minutes with only one or two plant casualties. The film was called The Lair of the Zombie Trees. The script consisted of lines we’d written on index cards earlier, shuffled randomly, and handed to each of the three principals with a quivering hand. Towards the end the woman whose birthday party it was came out to complain that she wanted to be in the movie too, so we had to make a few last minute changes. The film ends with her coming out of the principal zombie tree and strangling one of the three male characters as opposed to what I had originally intended, i.e. the trees themselves strangling the principal actors with remarkable vigor. Of course, I really hadn’t thought that far in advance, leaving the entire production up to chance as much as possible and therefore content with whatever. And when I looked around at the others I found them satisfied, shaking hands and grinning. A good day’s work all in all.