|The company of Snowball Battlefield.
(Press Photos by Jose Perez IV and Kevin C. Gall)
When I got an invitation from Jose Perez IV a few months ago about a new project he was doing involving stage combat, MP3s, and running around the streets of NYC, I didn’t hesitate to RSVP with a resounding HELL YES (Okay, I didn’t exactly say it like that, but the sentiment was there)! For those unfamiliar with Mr. Perez and his ilk (also known as Fight Theatre), they’re the force behind recent Organs of State production Fighter, a high-flying action-adventure about a kid learning his warrior roots and what it truly means to be a fighter (which I had the privilege of seeing back in October). I loved Fighter, and with this new project sounding a lot like a mix between Improv Everywhere‘s MP3 Experiments and Fighter Theater’s aforementioned work, I couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of witnessing something cool and interactive.
This time around, Perez and Fight Theatre want to take it with you…outside. Sounds serious, huh? Well, it sure is, ’cause the premise behind Snowball Battlefield is that of a team of covert tactical agents called the Blue Team, who are on a mission to stop rival agents — the Red Team, naturally — from not only getting rid of the Winter Season for good, but also making it so that the temperatures don’t drop ALL YEAR ‘ROUND! (While this may seem like a good thing, it may also be wise to add that the Reds want this to happen so that they can turn the world into Baggy-T-Shirt-and-Technicolor-Leggings-Wearing hipsters — oh, the horror!)
Which is where we, the audience, come in — literally. As this is an outdoor MP3 Experiment, those who agreed to come see the show are instructed to download 2 tracks onto their iPods, Zunes (R.I.P.) — and any other mp3 device they may have — prior to meeting up at the starting location on 103rd and Broadway. I have to admit, as I got off the 1 train, I almost panicked, as no one had seemed to gather together at a corner or anything just yet. I caught glimpses of people who looked like they may be part of the show walking around, but was unsure about who was who. It definitely felt like I was summoned by an omniscient agency for a top-secret meeting or hand-over of some sort!
|“BLUE TEAM, ACTIVATE!”|
The actors eventually did end up convening at a corner, and once everyone was there and we were all properly sync’d up, we were ready to go! The first few minutes had us meeting the members of the Blue Team (Darius Homayoun, Giuseppe Maione, Jenny Carlson, Jack de Sanz and Rose Humphrey), led by Agent 1 (Jose Perez IV), a jaded but talented member of the force who reluctantly becomes their leader…and our hero (yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but just go with it okay). Before we ventured down to the park, we were told the long and sordid history of their rivalry with the Red Team (Alex Romania, Jared Wernick, Jon Garrity, Keiran Mulroy, Melanie Glickman and Sam Ogilvie), whose Evil Ways have contributed to every major disaster in history (including sinking the Titanic, apparently). Luckily for us, we’ve got the Blue Team to help end their tyrannical reign over the weather through this mission.
As Agent 1 leads us on down 103rd, dodging bullets from (invisible) snipers and sword-weilding baddies, eventually parting ways with his teammates. I was amused at the quizzical looks a few passersby threw at us, and while following Agent 1 as he rolled, aimed, and ducked his way down to the Riverside Park entrance, I started to feel a creeping sense of anxiety. Where was the Red Team? I looked up above the buildings where Agent 1 was “aiming” his guns at, but there were no Reddies in sight. Admittedly, this frustrated me, and this led me to wonder where this performance was headed.
In terms of geography, the performance itself was obviously, as previously mentioned, headed towards Riverside Park, where Agent 1 reunited with his teammates…and enemies. Yes, the Red Team (comprised of Alex Romania, Jared Wernick, Jon Garrity, Kieran Mulroy, Melody Glickman and Sam Ogilvie) finally pop up, led by leader and Agent 1 nemesis Calamity, also known as Trish (Katie Polin). The Reds eventually reveal the reason behind all their evil-doing, which somehow involves seasonal weather and technicolored tights. From there, the mission hits it’s climax, as the Red Team challenge our guys to an all-out battle in the park — set to some epic music that only we can hear, of course. Ultimately, with clever quick-thinking by Agent 1, the bad guys are duped and the good guys survive — and complete — their mission, saving the day as only one can hope.
Jose Perez’s brand of theater is part experimental performance art and part action-comedy parody. As with Fighter , the choreography seemed at one with the music, making it hard to tell if it was the music that inspired the choreography or vice versa. Either way, it made for effective spectacle, whether or not you had your iPod. An enjoyable send-up of anime, Kung-Fu and action films, Snowball Battlefield felt like going on an adventure with your friends around the city.