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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Re: What’s CHAC Got to do With It?

Posted by on March 30 at 9:54 AM

In a swift move to prevent the Capitol Hill murders from stigmatizing CHAC, Stranger theatre critic Brendan Kiley has an editorial in this week’s paper where he details the important programming that happens at CHAC.

Brendan writes:

It’s a dangerous fallacy to conflate the dance with the murder that happened afterwards. Hosting all kinds of music, theater, dance, and visual events—from gritty to haute, scary to sweet—is exactly what our local arts institutions should be doing.

I called artistic director Matthew Kwatinetz to ask how things were going for CHAC in the aftermath of the shootings. “I’ve been better,” he said. “One of my friends got killed. We’re not talking to the press anymore… That’s it.”

So, at the risk of being presumptuous, I’m going to talk for him, to give any anxious and suspicious strangers a tour of the Capitol Hill Arts Center—far from being a dank, druggy rave-hole, CHAC is a for-profit multidisciplinary arts center with a nonprofit, politically active atmosphere and heavy emphasis on theater and social justice.

And so it was that I happened to find myself at CHAC last night. A friend who’s working on what’s shaping up to be a pretty big deal locally produced movie phoned me yesterday evening and invited me to the “wrap” party. Where is it? I asked. CHAC.

The movie, Cthulhu, has been described as Seattle’s environmentalist, anti-Bush, horror movie based on an H.P. Lovecraft story. Tori Spelling is in it! (I’ve seen some of the sets and clips, and it looks creepy.)

Anyway, there I was at CHAC’s lower level—where Friday night’s zombie dance party had been. The place, decorated haphazardly with some of the scary set pieces from Cthulhu, was packed with the film crew and their friends doing karaoke, drinking, and giving heartfelt speeches. (Screen writer Grant Cogswell thanked everyone for helping him put his Pacific Northwest “big middle finger to the President” on film.)

“Can you imagine Grant giving an Academy Award speech?” I overheard a jubilant member of the film crew ask her friend.

Most everyone there seemed unwaware of the potentially uncomfortable irony that CHAC was hosting the wrap up party for their bloody horror movie shoot. Right on. (There was even, reportedly, an afterparty at the production studio, just a few blocks away on 14th, where you could tour the remnants of the creepy set.)

Three cheers to CHAC.

While CHAC has canceled this weekend’s “Underground Existence” party event (CHAC spokeswoman Amy Baranski told the PI “We decided to cancel the event because we thought it was disrespectful and tacky”), the fact that 100 or so local film folks were celebrating the production of their ambitious horror movie there—backed up Brendan’s article, and reassured me that life goes on, especially at CHAC.

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Cthulhu is the spelling the site with trailer

Thanks. I'll correct that pronto.

Kereoke? Fix that too.

Disrespectful and tacky!

Maybe they should just tear down the building and put a memorial fountain there, or something.

Someone in "the local film community" better get their digital camera out and film the inside of the murder location.

Why not have some of the friends of the victims dress up in Zombie make up and interview them in the very house the murders occured?

It's a clever angle to pitch these film people partying in that creepy hole where days ago the murder victims were dancing as "film community reaching out to help heal community, and finger President Bush too!".

However the American Public realized long ago that these Hollywood types would pimp out their own mothers, and strangle their first born if it brought them closer to winning an Oscar.

Many readers may view the spectacle of a bunch of film majors eager to drink chardonnay and eating bits of organic goat cheese in Zombie Rave murder location for what it is, another view of the ulcerated sphincter that is called the American Entertainment Industry.

So I'm not sure the "Academy Award wanna bees really do care about murder victims" story really has legs.

Remember in our post modern age, the reason we love film is because it is made by nasty creatures with a hollow soul hidden somewhere in their bloated festering egos. (see HurlyBurly for a contemporary, or Sweet Smell of Success for a fifty year old view of the fetid heart of American Entertainment)

There was a day long ago when the village called Hollywood still honored ancient superstitions of the artform our Grecian ancestors called Theater.

Then someone on the production crew would have had the sense to fear what gods, what spirits of creativity you were invoking by gathering your cast and crew onto a dark space where the very breath of a murderer and his victims still hovered, the sweat of their body still clinging to the floors and walls. What are the sensitivities of a director who would expose his cast and crew to such and environment?

Dionysus who presided over so many a murderous orgy, where the dancing and the drugs were meant to heighten the blood lust of the participants until the climax of glorious bloody destruction - after all is also the god of theatre.

Is it not possible that Dionysus already held his final wrap party in that space, and wants us to be contemplating his spectacular performance? Here we are three thousand years later and the human race is still fascinated by a drunken dance orgy that ends in a ritual slaughter.

Dionysus gave you a nice play with a drug party first act and some fine murders in the finale. Wasn't that spectacle enough, are Capitol Hill entertainment consumers so dessicated that even the drugged wine of Dionysus no longer sates their craving for novelty?

Apparently the murders were not enough and less than a week later, even the followers of Dionysus are demanding more dancing, more wine, at the very location the dark ritual occured. Not only that they're demanding the god thespis bless them with an Oscar!

Shouldn't a real director of actors be stunned to merely walk onto the alter of this recent murderous sacrifice?

So yes it is news that todays Directors and Actors are so willing to dance and party on a murder altar - and many will be watching for what occurs next in that space.

It'd be interested to see if any group is willing to host a party in the murder house this weekend? Knowing our contemporary society, there are likely scores of willing party goers out there, and once again there are no doubt film makers who'd be eager for the publicity coop of filming on a murder location while the blood was still damp on the walls.

Long ago the townspeople would have demanded such a dark altar be immediately incinerated to cleanse the space and our theatre priests would have lead the ritual.

Today we have "local film makers" high-fiveing and popping boners thinking about an Oscar. That really is news.

I give Cogswell a lot of flak, but congratulations to him and the producers of Cthulhu: The Movie. I wish them distributive success.

Wow! Ann "Filmfan" Coulter reads the SLOG? That's the big time for sure!

Just kidding. We all know it's you, Camille Paglia.

"Filmfan": put down the crack pipe, dude. 'Cthulhu' is a supernatural, psychological suspense movie, not the blood-and-guts type of picture that too often these days goes under the rubric of 'horror'. It's a local, independent production, so none of your right wing paranoid fantasies about Hollywood cognoscenti apply here. I knew two of the victims of the Hess shooting, from being a customer at Madison Market, and was shocked and horrified. None of us on the crew were personally close to the victims, so we went on with our lives as normal. We needed to find a place to hold our wrap party, and fast, when we got back from our shoot in Astoria on Tuesday night. We had our first auditions at CHAC almost two years ago. We recognized that one of the worst unneccessary things that could happen as a result of this tragedy would be for a great community resource to be penalized for what happened, and so we went ahead with the party at that location. The killings did not happen at CHAC: the victims had come from a party there. They'd probably also been to QFC that day, or walked on Pine Street. The world does go on. The person who thinks CHAC should be razed for a memorial speaks from their own convenience. Even the owners of the house where the killings took place are preparing it for rent again. I don't take this stuff lightly. I have a great deal more experience with the deaths of loved ones than most people. But the world goes on, and should. Our celebration on Wednesday night was one of love, amongst people who shared a transformative experience together. It was not a party that worked on a theme that had anything to do with what happened. Not that the recent events should ever stop anyone from having a zombie-themed party, or from making bloody movies. These rituals are our dream life, and any of the notions that we should no longer have raves, or patronize CHAC or make them suffer by waiting a 'respectful amount of time' before using their facility, or that no one should have after parties, or talk to strangers, are completely ridiculous. A terrible thing happened. Its only lesson is that the world is cruel, and life is short, and we only have one another for solace. Your offense is to use this occasion for your crazy grandstanding.

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