Traffic cops, tourists, a policeman, families, bystanders, Fringe goers, Delta Sigma Theta sisters, and Borealis Theatre. This was the cast of performers who created Tickets to an Event spontaneously on Saturday at 7pm.
Starting at the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar with a wedding proposal — Graham Pilato of Borealis asked Pamela Leahigh (also of Borealis) to marry him – the show consisted of a ragtag group of actors, patrons, and a very tall man (Christian Crowley) wearing a blond curly hair wig and playing the bagpipe. There was so much excitement and revelry that as the group left the tent to get to the intersection of H and 7th Streets and party-goers from Lux Lounge stepped away from the club to join the festivities.
Borealis is known for their “fringey” shows but Crosswalk Weddings was something special. It had all the mischievousness and joy of an Improv Everywhere mission.
As the group neared the intersection, one of the Borealis members walked across the street on his hands and did a somersault. Bystanders were not only staring but also joining the procession. Drivers were honking their horns when they saw our group with the bride wearing a veil. Soon the party split into those attending a bachelorette party (females) on one side of 7th street, and those going to the bachelor party (males) on the other.
I heard one of the men shout “We need a stripper!” and a man volunteered. When the parties reconvened there were two men wearing only their underpants, causing a policeman standing nearby to calmly say, “Put your clothes back on.” Then he walked away. The performance continued.
“Gotta see this,” was often heard by passing tourists and Delta sisters in DC for a huge sorority convention. We waited at the corner for the traffic cops to give us a signal (Borealis had some pre-show conversations with these authorities). Around 20 people had congregated to participate. Signs were waved in the air: one said “Crosswalk Weddings,” the title of the show, and the other said “Borealis Theatre.”
On cue from the traffic cop we ran diagonally into the center of the intersection screaming and hollering. An officiate (Steve N. Bradford, another Borealis member) said, “You may now kiss.” More and louder celebrating. Rose petals thrown in the air. Then a mad dash to the other corner as the traffic cop blew her whistle. The crowd of bystanders enlarged.
Borealis members asked people who were passing if they wished to marry. Several couples holding hands paused and said, “Yes.” Another wedding ensued. Then another. Then another. Each bride wore the veil. The atmosphere was a mix of joy and absurdity, with the couples (all combinations of men and women) being assured that it was not a legally binding ceremony. One younger couple who appeared hesitant was told, “We won’t tell your parents.”
About 45 minutes into the show rain started to pour down on the festivities. One Borealis performer shouted: “Think of it as rice falling from the sky!” We waited to see if it would pass. No luck. The show came to a close.
Tickets to an Event
Conceived by: Graham Pilato, Nora Achrati, Steve N. Bradford, Pamela Leahigh, Lisa Blythe and Chris Griffin
at The Streets of Fringe
7th and New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
I asked a member of the Borealis collective what would have happened if the weather coordinated with the frivolity? He said eventually, after about an hour of weddings, the procession would have returned to the tent. Even without this conclusion, Crosswalk Weddings was a great experience.
Each of the Borealis shows, all under the umbrella title of Tickets to an Event, will be different. Another Crosswalk Weddings happened July 14, but next weekend the collective will present Life Size Rock Paper Scissors: We Play, You Play. During the final weekend of the festival, July 28 and 29, the show seems untitled, or titled (!!!!).
“Interactive” is a word that’s tossed around to describe lots of performances today, making me wonder what show isn’t interactive? Even an audience seated in a proscenium theater is interacting with an event, perhaps through visual and acoustic sensations more than physical activity.
But Crosswalk Weddings by Borealis honestly allows a performance to absorb and include anyone who wishes to participate. These participants are not only vital to the event but they also shift its shape and path. There were people running into the intersection every time a wedding occurred on Saturday evening. There were those who stood at the corners and watched, and there were many who kept walking but slowed down and had their eyes glued to the scene at the center of H and 7th.
I heard one fringe-goer say that she saw the event from inside a coffee shop and didn’t think it looked very interesting. Sometimes it’s important – and fun — to remove the walls that separate performer and audience, and be willing to step into the action.