“Stop Me Because I Can’t Stop Myself” is an interactive, Vegas-themed show about behavioral addictions that recently premiered at Juniata. Ariel Fristoe, director for the show and co-artistic director of Out of Hand Theater, gives some insight into the show:
Q: Why the focus on addictions?
A: This show actually started with this group of artists in Minneapolis that we wanted to work with, and it turned out that one of the leading experts on behavioral addictions is at the university where this friend of ours teaches. That’s how we got into the world of behavioral addictions, and then we realized that it was everywhere around us.
On the political scale, there’s this manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that gets published like once every twenty years, and there’s a new one coming out.They have a new category called behavioral addictions, and they’re drastically changing what’s in and what’s out. It’s still up for debate right now, and things like internet addiction and video game addiction are brand new. These things didn’t even exist 20 years ago. It seems to be a debate that is happening all over the world right now, about which of these illnesses are real and which aren’t and why, and what we should do about them.
Q: Why did you decide to use the Vegas sideshow format?
A: The behavioral addictions we chose are gambling, shopping, sex, and video games. That category of behavior also includes cutting and compulsively pulling your hair out and shoplifting, but what really interested me was that these are four things that are perfectly ordinary pleasures, but for some people they can then take over their lives and destroy them. They’re normal things to do, and yet no one around you knows that it’s destroying you. That’s one of the common threads that we found in our research. So then we thought about the best place for shopping, video games, sex, and gambling, and we thought, “Oh, it has to be Vegas.” We knew that we wanted to have very personal interactions, where you don’t just sit in the theater with 300 people, where you get to be one of ten people who are up close to something and you can even go talk to the performer. There’s actually no dialogue or scenes in the show, which has been a really fun challenge for the students I think.
Q: What are some of the challenges of doing a show like this?
A: This is a workshop production that is part of the development of a professional show that will premiere in Atlanta next fall, so this is one phase in the development, and it’s the biggest, most important one. But since it’s not the full production, everything except the lights was done by the students. They’ve done a great job, and they had no money to do it with. We were given a budget for the whole show of 200 bucks, and we were trying to stretch that to make a grand scale casino. We tweaked the sound levels all week trying to get it so you can hear the act that’s right in front of you and not be distracted by all the other things.
Q: Do you think that the audience-interaction format for plays will become more common?
A: I think it already has become a lot more common, certainly more than it was 50 years ago. If you look at what has been going on in fringe festivals and then you look at the stuff that is really commercially successful, I think it’s happening in both. Twelve or 13 years ago when we started Out of Hand Theater, we knew that we would never have the huge budget and stars that Hollywood has, but we have something that Hollywood can never ever have, which is the live presence of an actor and an audience member in the same room. We like to create moments of what we call mass intimacy. It is a personal experience that you could never have watching a screen.
~Laura Bitely ’14, Juniata Online Journalist