Below, you will find a link to the video where it all started to go wrong.
You will also find my apology for taking us to a place (emotionally, mentally) we found not easy to escape.
In hindsight, I believe (being one who doesn’t believe in such things) that a minor demon may have actually been summoned, and it was he who took us to that dark place.
We were, I don’t know, 21 hours into our Popalopalots improv marathon for the QEH Foundation. Presented by The Guild, and title sponsor Coldwell Banker Parker Realty. Of course we were all very tired. We were hanging by threads, each of all of us with only one goal – make it to 10pm. Not even. Make it to 8pm and the last two hours would be a breeze. Make it to 8pm.
2 or 3 hours, then. And then 2 more. After already improvising for 20+ hours. We could do it. We would do it.
And then the Gong Demon showed up.
We had just been wonderfully elevated and energized by a guest appearance by 4 of the members of Side Hustle, an all-female improv troupe here in Charlottetown. We all played some games in a competitive type of atmosphere, and it seemed to go quite well. Lots of energy, lots of fun – we could do it.
And then the Gong Demon showed up.
After the wonderfully elevated and energized momentum provided by Side Hustle, came the natural collapse. It wasn’t unexpected, not by me. I was ready for more of that low-energy, let’s-just-survive-until-8pm. Nobody wanted to go out on that stage and make up any more scenes, but we all knew we had to if we were to get to 8pm. And then 2 more.
It was a state of mind where you were so happy when somebody else took the heroic step onto that stage – completely devoid of the expectation of being entertaining – only to step onto that stage to be the body that was on stage to ensure that something was happening on that stage, that the show was still, technically, happening. So happy that someone else took that bullet. So happy you would cry.
But we all knew that in order for the group to survive, we’d each be taking many more bullets. Each would be stepping out onto the stage, being that body – that empty vessel, that technicality – that ensured we were fulfilling our self-imposed 26-hour obligation.
And the Gong Demon was waiting for its moment to pounce.
At this particular moment, both Cameron and I were the takers of bullets. We both had stepped out there onto that stage, allowing the others to be happy it wasn’t them.
We got the suggestion “junkyard”. A perfectly wonderful suggestion. So much potential for something interesting to happen at a junkyard.
And now, before I get to speaking about the video in question – about what transpired in my head – I’d like to make my apologies.
First off, to Cameron, who was the first-hand recipient of my “turn”. I am sorry. It started off as a bit of “is this real or is this a game?” type of theatre that I adore. I learned quite quickly that this can be a dangerous type of theatre when the participants are so bloody tired.
Next, to the rest of the Popalopalots. I am sorry. I am sorry that what transpired took us to a dark place that ended up being almost impossible to climb out of. I always appreciate your willingness to accept my “is this real life” side-tracks. Or maybe it’s not a willingness, but rather an accepting of inevitability. While still appreciative, I now know how quickly my explorations can change the energy, and how difficult it can be to return from the dark energy that such selfish indulgences can be.
To the audience that experienced it first hand. I am truly sorry if I caused you to feel any uncomfortableness. I usually don’t mind making an audience uncomfortable – in fact, I often seek it – but this ended up in a too-ugly place.
To the audience that experienced the dull, lifeless, defeated improv scenes that occurred in the couple of hours immediately after the Gong Demon showed, I am sorry you ended up seeing such shitty entertainment. I place the blame entirely upon myself.
Now, onto an examination of the video, in some attempt to explain how my thought process worked to get us to that ugly situation where I needed to leave the stage and figuratively bath myself in a bottle of demon-exorcising water.
R: what type of model?
C: Oh a three.
This is where the first seeds of negativity started growing. Inside my brain, I was a bit disappointed that Cameron said “a three”. “Don’t you know any models of cars?”, my tired brain thought. I was surprised at which my brain thought this. Somewhere deep in there was likely a disappointment in myself for not teaching him more as his father.
R: A French model?
C: Can you do a Belgian French?
Look at my body language right after Cameron asks for Belgian French. My body is speaking this: Why are you making this so difficult for us? We’re in a junkyard, this should be easy. Alright, let’s just continue.
Listen to our words. How slurred they are. How difficult it seems just to complete simple sentences. That’s how tired we are. We are both taking multiple bullets, while the others in the group are allowed to disengage and recover enough to be ready to step up next.
C: I thought you were summoning me.
I’ll admit this sudden sharp turn threw me for a loop. It’s a turn that Cameron often employs, taking things into more abstract realms. Usually I am all for them, excited to step up to the challenge. But this time, I was not ready for it. In fact, I was shocked that he took this turn at all. Did he not know how tired I was? I was so shocked, all I could do was repeat his nonsense:
R: You thought I was summoning you?
I think I was hoping my question and its disbelieving, disapproving tone would elicit the following response from Cameron: “No, that would be stupid and unnecessary at this point. Really, I’m just looking for hubcaps for a Renault 330.”
But that’s not what he said next. What he said next was this:
C: I’m a Gong Demon.
Now, to be fair, this normally should be a perfectly acceptable sharp turn to take in an improv scene. But I wasn’t ready for it, and I certainly didn’t want to encourage it. Not at this point in an improv marathon where my immediate need was to find this character some hubcaps for a Renault 330, finish the scene, and get off the stage, sit down and silently weep while somebody else heroically stepped up to the plate.
A great many things went through my brain in the quarter second of silence that followed his utterance of Gong Demon. I now believe that one of those things was the summoning of an actual demon.
I don’t know if it was my character, or me who said:
R: Oh Jesus Christ.
I’m pretty sure it was the demon who forced me to say it though. I also know it was the truest line of dialogue I’ve ever uttered, in that it truly communicated how I (or my character, I don’t know) was feeling.
Okay, yes I know. It was me. It was me who said “Oh Jesus Christ”. My character would never return to that scene. The rest of it was played by a character named Rob MacDonald.
The next second and a half, I just had to move, had to get away from Cameron. Was I afraid I was going to punch him for sharp-turning into “gong demon” at this point in the marathon? Somewhere down deep inside me a character named Rob MacDonald was shouting “well played”, a character named Rob MacDonald was moaning loud curled up in a fetal position, a character named Rob MacDonald was stomping around in fury knocking over breakable objects.
I didn’t know which of these Rob MacDonalds was going to make the next appearance.
It wasn’t until Cameron’s next line, where the decision was made.
C: You got a problem with gong demons?
Only Cameron knows for sure, but Rob MacDonald instantly made the assumption that that question wasn’t being posed by his character, but it was actually Cameron asking me. Rob MacDonald took it as a challenge. Inside his brain Rob MacDonald was screaming “I sure do have a problem with gong demons when they show up at this point in an improv marathon, fucker!!” Maybe there was some sort of “can’t keep up with me, old man?” psychological aspect happening too?
Whatever it was – me being tired, a demon possessing me or the room or the souls of everyone in that room, the possibility that maybe it was just a shitty improv sharp turn – whatever it was revealed itself in my response:
Psychologists, scholars and experts could likely debate for years how to interpret that “huh” and my stillness that followed, but there are emotions and feelings and thoughts and avenues of inevitability in those three letters “h” “u” “h” and that stillness- enough to fill volumes of books – as my next decision was made, or thrust upon me.
R: 25 hours into an improv scene, yeah, I have a problem with gong demons.
It got a laugh. Maybe that was the worst thing. It got a laugh, and that, of course, propelled me onto the next tirade.
The next tirade was the catalyst for the next few hours of awkward emotions and soul searching by all of us. I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another laugh didn’t land in that room for 2 hours.
For that, I apologize.
Was it real? Of course it was real. Of course I was frustrated and angry tired and wanted to go home and go to bed and needed to lash out.
Was it an act? Of course it was an act. Of course I needed explore where this would take us, because somewhere at the beginning of it, there was a laugh and of course it wasn’t real even though it was because it turned into an art piece.
What I should have realized was that because we were all so tired, all so on edge, so fragile, that I had no right to attempt such an experiment at such a time.
Or maybe I can blame it on the gong demon.