Walking in the Dark

Winter Solstace Multi-media performance

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[San Juan Silver Stage |December 2020 | By Art Goodtimes]

Production kudos to Telluride’s Scott Upshur of Starch and ace mountain storyteller Craig Childs for the twelfth annual DARK NIGHT show … INTERRUPTED. This year appropriately distanced on Vimeo.

One misses the intimacy of live performance. A couple years back I had a part in an earlier Dark Night production at Paonia’s smalltown mainstreet movie and performance icon, the Paradise Theatre. Fun to do. And even greater fun to watch, from all accounts.

But in this Covid gap year, the producers had to make do with a video. Multiple camera angles. Creative editing. Mostly spot on dubbing. It felt like it was, a virtual walk in the forest dark, with Childs as our guide, on our way to a community campfire.

Indeed, the core of the performance was Childs’ outrageous bear story sandwiched between the unearthly aethereal ululations of gypsy guitar chanteuse Beth Quist — sitting on a drum box singing an Aegean folksong to the dancing flames and Childs’ fire stick. I watched it twice, just to hear her hit high notes that could put a martin to shame.

Craig is more than just a reporter, although his adventure books and essays attest to a fearless persistence and informed curiosity. He’s a word man. He wears the abalone pendants of his exploits on his chest and spins circles for us around our shared flames with his storytelling tongue.

His other guest musician, Emily Scott Robinson, is equally impressive. She gives us the Dylanesque anthem for the Chthulucene, as paradigm-changing researcher Donna Haraway has dubbed this geologic era during the planet’s Sixth Great Extinction. It’s called “The Time for Flowers.”

Some of us still wear flowers in our hair. But the dangers are real. Robinson has “lived long enough to know, the time for flowers will come again … witnessed funerals & wars … empty stores … gonna find out you’re stronger than you know … maybe one year, maybe ten … the time for flowers will come again.”

Finally, let me just free associate some of Childs’ lines that caught my ear: “This is the winter to hunker … Shake the dust off the rafters … Winter trance’s deep dive into the dark … Like following knots on a rope … Where stars cover the sky … Back into the beginning … The dark place you leave behind … The place where the old gods reside.”

He takes us with him, crawling into a refrigerator-size hole in a hillside to take shelter from a raging snowstorm, on all fours, nosing into an awakening bear. “It’s something I do,” he tells us. “Crawling into spaces.”

And virtually, massaged by his wild vision and madness, he takes us with him. Into the underground.

More about performance.  Friday-Saturday, Dec 20-21 8pm
Tickets: $25 – available at the Theatre, Cirque Cyclery and Brown Paper Tickets.