An audience member and new volunteer with We Players took time to share some impressions from her HEROMONSTER experience with us. We think this is so thoughtfully composed, that you might like to read it too! Thanks, Geneva!
HEROMONSTER’s only two actors opened the doors to the mead hall in the interior of the Chapel at Fort Mason and welcomed the audience into the space. We Players’ mead hall had food and real mead and ale on offer. The show itself was a mix of battles and fellowship, disjointed attacks and assists. During the show, the actors played both friend and foe, both ally and enemy to the other. With tenderness, brutality, and extreme physicality – framed in the Chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows and the chilly autumn air outside – HEROMONSTER brought forth difficult questions about the practice of kindness and severity in the distant past and the tangible present. Dressed in rags and meeting each eye, the performers laid these questions before every audience member to face if they could. Each moment was either warm or cold or frightening, and no member of the audience was free to leave without the challenge and discomfort of witnessing both loving and abusive intimacy between strangers.
HEROMONSTER pulled the epic Beowulf out of the shadows of space and time and introduced a modern perspective that has the power to change what we understand to be “heroic” or “monstrous.” Heroism as defined by old texts often describes strength and ruthlessness in a time when you would die without them. With the intimacy of the action and the continuity of the setting, We Players makes the epic relatable while still deconstructing the traditional understanding of its meaning.
The rustic mead hall setting, simple costumes, and haunting accompaniment helped revive the sense of wildness and danger beyond the walls of the mead hall, feelings we relate to less in our modern world but that help to remind us of the base moments in which these concepts of “hero” and “monster” were born and given life via story as a means to prepare for and survive in the harsh northern world. With that world as a seamless part of our own HEROMONSTER experience, the advent of heroism and monstrosity are pulled apart from the confusion many of us found in Beowulf. HEROMONSTER asked relevant questions about what our understanding of heroism and monstrosity are today, how each can exist and operate unnoticed by many people. HEROMONSTER came up into my face and asked me, “Have our definitions after all these centuries remained so much the same that we no longer recognize true heroism and monstrosity?”
While HEROMONSTER was indeed a divergence from We Players’ usual large-scale, outdoor performance, it was a show still fully committed to exploring new boundaries for the company and its audience. We Players delivered a grand experience in which the actors participated in exactly what the show asks of their audience: willingness to try something new even when it is uncomfortable, something that values thorough examination of the self and how we choose to behave and treat each other as fellow humans.
– Geneva Redmond