By James Keller
What if everybody is wearing a mask and no one you know shows you who they really are?
According to C. Adam Leigh of Ground Zero Theatre and University of Calgary alumni Kate Pakarnyk, that is the reality in which we live.
The theme of masks and facades is a major one in U of C’s and Ground Zero’s upcoming joint project, Bobby Supreme. Following the career of shock-jock comic Bobby Supreme, the play explores not only the boundaries of shock entertainment, but also how a character can spill into reality and in some cases take over.
"That’s certainly one of the [themes]: you are what you pretend to be," says Leigh, co-founder of Ground Zero Theatre. "[Supreme] just starts to believe his act."
The play opens as Bobby Supreme nears the peak of his career. Essentially, he’s becoming a megastar with money and pay-per-view popularity. This fame he achieves through an overly offensive stand-up comedy routine slowly begins to take over his real life, along with the stage persona he creates.
"Most actors, when they’re playing a character, a little of that character will spill over," explains Pakarnyk, referring to the parallels between the play and her own life. "You see elements of your character seeping through into everyday life."
Aside from themes of masks, the idea of shock entertainment is also at hand. Since Bobby Supreme’s act focuses largely on profanity, the ideas of how far one can go are examined and tested.
"That’s what the play’s about," says Leigh on the idea of limits. "It’s for the audience to decide: Is that too far? Personally, I think it’s too far but that’s just me."
Again, the idea of shock entertainers and their effect on audiences isn’t confined to this play.
"You can find a lot of examples of comics, or even icons like Madonna, who thrive on hypocrisy and that’s how they become idealized," says Pakarnyk, finding it difficult to find an example who goes quite as far as Bobby Supreme does in the play.
Leigh adds that while some people do get offended along the way, there is a place for this in popular culture.
"I think there’s a place for pretty much everything," he says about shock. "Marilyn Manson is pretty extreme and there’s certainly a spot for him, so I think there’s a spot for everything."
Not only is this the U of C’s first collaboration with Ground Zero, this is also the first U of C alumni show and all of the actors in the production are former U of C graduates. Both groups hope this can become a continuing tradition for future Drama Department seasons. However, the content of this particular show may go a little further than regular subscribers are used to.
"I think a lot of students will enjoy the show, but it’s not for the faint of heart," cautions Leigh, adding that the material in the show, as with all Ground Zero productions, isn’t there just for shock value.
"It won’t be for the usual season subscribers of the university, to put it politely."