For this week's Mahal, I journeyed to the dark crevices of Billy's Backyard, a literal backyard in Bushwick, where a bunch of art kids were rehearsing for a production of the Ancient Greek tragedy, Electra. Instead of charging admission for the play, which runs this weekend, the artists are requiring audiences members to offer a sacrifice of some kind. This includes—but is not limited to—fruit, meat, wine, cigarettes, art, and socks. (You're not allowed to sacrifice virgins, though. That's messed up and illegal, you sicko.) After the play, the audience is encouraged to get drunk and dance like it's 450 BC. I spoke to Ariel Kline, the play's director, to find out why she was sacrificing stuff.
VICE: Why are you having a sacrifice and play in the same night?
Ariel Kline: Electra is the story of a young woman and her estranged brother who think it's their job to avenge their father by killing their mother—it's a Greek tragedy. Another large part of the story is sacrifice. Instead of making it free, I decided to make the price of admission an offering to Apollo. Each audience member is asked to bring something that they'll offer at the altar when they enter the theater. This can be anything from a work of art to a lock of hair. Really, people should just bring anything with which they'd be comfortable parting [with].
Will the sacrifices happen before or after the play?
The audience will commit their sacrifices before the play. They will have to do some physical motion to commune with Apollo and let him know that their sacrifice is totally serious. The actors will end up using some of the sacrifices as props, provided they're suitable for the scenes. At the end of the play, the DJ will take over, and we'll eat all of the edible offerings and drink all of the offered wine.
Have you ever been to a demolition house party? This sounds a lot like a demolition house party.
I’ve never been to one, but it sounds great. There could be a correlation. Getting a group of people together in one place to actually do something [in this case, a sacrifice] always sounds extremely fun. One of the worst things is when I’m at a party and everyone is just talking to the person or people with whom they’ve arrived. Some of the best parties I've attended have involved being baptized in an inflatable kiddie-pool [in Miami].
The play is happening in Bushwick, not Greece. Have you adapted the play for all the Bushwick kids that will be in the audience?
Of course! Aegisthus, the king who kills Agamemnon [the reason everyone is so pissed for the majority of the play], is played by the DJ. He’ll be wearing flannel and sunglasses, as he’s supposed to look a bit like a douche. [That said], we won’t be drinking out of mason jars under Christmas lights.
How have you been promoting the play?
I just go from [subway] car to [subway] car and say my speech and tell people that if they want to, they should take a flyer. One time, this guy was clearly on the subway to ask for money, and I didn’t realize it. I drew a breath and began the first words of my speech just when he started his. There was this moment when we looked at each other, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more confused or offended person in my life. I then proceeded to shut the fuck up—he’s actually homeless. I’m directing an Ancient Greek, expressionist piece in north Brooklyn. [Another time], the guy who is funding this, Charles, was at a P. Diddy concert, and he held up the flyer in front of him. Mr. Diddy seemed to be very enthusiastic about free and relevant site-specific theatre.
I never pegged Diddy as the Bushwick type, but I hope he shows up. Good luck sacrificing old socks and booze, Ariel!
Electra and the sacrifice will be taking place at Billy’s Backyard at 190 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn on Saturday September 21st at 10 PM and Sunday September 22nd at 8:30 PM. The L, J, and M subway trains can get you to Billy's Backyard. Also, if it’s raining, don't worry—the venue will become a tent.