We've just added a new photo gallery to the Media section featuring some amazing images from November 2013's run of Aeterno Elementum: A Heavy Metal Opera, courtesy of our friend and incredible photographer, Sandra Buskirk. Click here or on the below photo to check them out!
Thank you making this year the best we've ever had!
Greetings from Ara'Kus, we hope everyone had a truly apocalyptic holiday season. First of all we'd like to thank all 2000 people that came out to the Historic Everett Theatre to see the world's only Heavy Metal Opera. We're incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support and praise we received at our November shows. We've already scheduled a three week run of Aeterno Elementum for November of 2014 and we're in the process of getting ticket sales ready to go. So while you're planning your activities for the New Year, make sure you leave a spot open for the apocalypse of 2014, coming on the 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st and 22nd of November!
We'll be keeping you updated on where to buy tickets, so look for our next newsletter for more information!
Ever wonder what demons look like on their day off? When they're wandering the mortal realm with no apocalypse to unleash? Well come find out at Randy Haines' classical guitar show at the Historic Everett Theatre on February 14th and 15th. Our harbinger of conquest will be performing alongside several other Ara'Kus members, including Jeremiah Johnson (Founder and 2nd Guitar) and Deidre Stinson (The Syren), in a show that will include aerial performances, fire dance, ballet and guitar music ranging from classical to contemporary.
Also, starting this week, we'll be holding a trivia contest on our Facebook Page with prizes including two free tickets to A Night in Barcelona and two tickets to next November's Aeterno Elementum! The questions won't be easy though, so consider yourself warned, only true followers of the Apocalypse will succeed!
In a recent interview members of Ara'Kus were asked about the portrayal of violence toward women in our production.
You can read the full interview here: Ara'Kus Interview
We put this question to Aeterno Elementum stage director, active women's rights spokesperson, and writer, Tori McDonough. This was her response:
The Four Generals
The four generals are representative of the evils of mankind, and chosen or created based on criteria that is not entirely made clear, but presumably the potential for evil in their hearts as well as deeds already committed and potential to lead an army. If we are building a case off of "Who has the most malice in their heart”, I am sure that at least one of the most evil people in the world would be female. But we have to also look at factors such as the era in which Ara'kus takes place, the end-goal of our main protagonist, and of course the use of these characters within the greater scheme of "Aeterno Elementum” as a storytelling device.
In an era in which women are mostly viewed as property, the actions required to even garner the Demoness' attention are more likely to be done by men. Not that women are incapable of evil, but they lacked the access and social power to wield it. The Nobleman is pre-corrupted by wealth and the sin of greed garnered by his station, which for a man of the time holds few restrictions on his behavior, unlike his ‘Siren’, who is modest and ever the lady (as would be fitting for a woman of nobility in the times). The Warrior, whose wife is strong in her own way (but I’ll get to that) is also tainted with the blood of his many conquests, as befits a Viking King. The Assassin and Samurai have implied evils in their past as well, and it is important to note that they are all products of the corruption of man as much as they benefit from being born male, and each receives due punishment for this.
This still leaves us feeling unbalanced, until you take a look at the final battle. This is where we first see women as warriors, and it is important to note that the only women we see fight are on the side of good. There are those who are taken against their will and zombified for battle, but the only seasoned female warriors we see are fighting for good. When we look at the play objectively as a balance (as well as battle) of Good vs Evil, this is only the first of several things that makes me believe women are planted firmly on the side of Good. As with all things, however, there are gray areas.
The Wives and the Violence Against Them
As a feminist, this is the part of the show that bothered me the most. Each General has a wife (with the exception of the Samurai, who has another man’s wife as his lover), and not a single one of these women survives, and three of the four are killed by their own husbands. I struggled with how uncomfortable this made me, until I took a long look at how this seeming "Girl in the Fridge” trope was being presented. Yes, the women are used as devices to help motivate the Generals to join with the Demoness, as we see with the Assassin and Samurai especially. But I think it is important to point out that, in this opera about Good vs Evil, violence against women is placed firmly on the evil side.
There is no good man that strikes a lady, and we make that clear. With the artistic medium of an opera, dialogue is limited and thus the story is conveyed largely with the action of players on stage. How do you show an audience that a character is no good? Have him raise his hand to someone who carries no sword.
It is also of note that, in the case of the Warrior and the Nobleman, the slaying of their women comes at the Demoness’ order. This is mostly an exercise of power and is meant to show how detached these men have become from their former selves, destroying that which they loved most. It can also be said that the Demoness herself feels threatened by the potential power of love, wanting to destroy the women and preserve them as objects rather than let them live and possibly sway her new men away from the dark. She is looking to snuff out all light, including the one that she uses to tempt them in with.
The women themselves are varied - to be honest, I trust the shogun’s wife less than the Samurai, and the Viking Queen appears to be more of a stable leader than (either of) her husband(s), all while being the only wife ready to defend herself. The women are definitely pawns in the Demonesses game, just as every other character, but I feel that they were not entirely two-dimensional. The violence against them was used with a purpose to help progress the story rather than for the sake of violence, and only to demonstrate how evil men could become.
"The Demon Seductress” trope is as old as any monster story for a reason. Any time you have a female character who is any combination of intelligent, powerful, and/or sexy, chances are good she will be the villain of the story. The first time I saw Ara'kus, that was exactly what the Demoness character was, and while that was fine at first glance, it was not overly satisfying. Speaking with the creators of the show, it was clear they felt the same way and wanted to bring substance to this creature of fire that all else revolves around.
Looking at the initial seduction - that of the Priest - there is a definitely ‘Madonna and Child’ feel. She approaches the Priest in his hour of need and lays over him a feeling of comfort. Since he is a trusting soul, we watch as he falls for this trap and thinks his prayers have been answered without ever thinking to open his eyes and look (both literally and figuratively). Just as the Demoness is an embodiment of evil, the Priest stands at the opposite end of the spectrum in his goodness. There is room for an argument to be made about the male, chaste, religious figurehead being used as a representation for all things pure, but it is important to remember that this character is an exception to many rules. Among his own priestly brethren, there is greed and corruption, and he stands apart as the purest in the land. It’s exactly this purity and honest innocence that both draws the Demoness to him, and slowly opens her eyes.
Through the aerialist act we are meant to learn that the Demoness was an Angel who has since fallen, and while she is probably ingrained with a cynicism towards all men of the cloth or otherwise religious gestures, she finds such a sincerity in the Priest that she has trouble maintaining it. The Demoness is a conflicted character - she is clearly intelligent and attractive, but she struggles with the idea that this automatically makes her evil. When shown genuine affection from the Priest, she reacts like a child, and continues to play this game of "I want it, but I don’t want them to know I do”. She is conflicted even at the end, and I think that helps make this not just the story of the Wars and earth’s cleansing, but also a tale of her own path back towards redemption. The Demoness is not entirely deceptive in her role as mother - she gives each general a rebirth, cradles them in their final moments once they have fulfilled their duties, and while thus far in the telling of Aeterno Elementum the baby stolen from the Nobleman and his wife has been eaten, it is possible that she instead fosters this child until the end is nigh and returns her to the priest as a final act of repentance and the first of rebuilding. It is important to note, however, that the world’s last beacon of light is a female child, which seems to be the final clue that the women of Ara'kus are used as a symbol of good.
Hard to believe it's been eighteen months since first I was snared by the dastardly demons of heavy metal known as Ara'Kus. Eighteen months and I have had the privilege of watching this group grow more focused, more professional and more awesome than it already was when I first saw it in August of 2011. There have been countless changes to the show since that time: new performers, new equipment, and new scenes. That is all just so much stage-dressing though. The greater change is more profound, and infinitely more important.
When I first saw Aeterno Elementum I was obviously incredibly impressed, they managed to put on a show that was more powerful and intense than most movies, on what was obviously a very limited budget. The sheer amount of talent on display was more than I expected to find, especially since I'd stumbled onto their show entirely by chance. There were no billboards, newspaper ads, or TV commercials announcing the appearance of such a terrific show. I found out about it because a friend was taking guitar lessons from Randy Haines, who told my friend about the show, who then told me when we were discussing our plans for the weekend. So while their passion for Aeterno Elementum was clear, they also seemed to lack a sense of direction and organization.
That became even more evident when I volunteered as a stagehand during the November 2011 performance at the Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle. Once again, their passion and drive to make Aeterno Elementum a great show was on full display, and while I was proud to call myself a member of the team, I could see there were troubles in the actual execution of that pursuit. There was no director per se, Jeremiah served as an ad-hoc director and producer, but of course he was also one of the lead performers so he had to be part of the rehearsal too. The new venue also had a terrible case of a disease I like to call "too many goddamn stairs." Forcing the actors to go rushing up and down the stairs during the different scenes, and some of those actors were wearing nearly a hundred pounds of armor and weaponry. Then of course, there was marketing, or the lack thereof. Our marketing efforts this time consisted of shoving a handful of pamphlets into my hand and shoving me into the street to try and cobble up an audience. And the amazing part? The show still turned out to be a great performance. Unfortunately most of the actors had some pretty frayed nerves by the end, and Ara'Kus was nearly bankrupted because no one showed up to watch it because no one knew it existed.
Cut to a year later and the change I've had the privilege of witnessing is extraordinary. When we began to discuss the possibility of another show, the first thing on the agenda was coordinating a new marketing plan in order to raise awareness about the show. We had a great show, we all knew that, the trouble was in letting people know it was out there waiting to be seen. We hired some professional media gurus, got some wonderful help from our social networking cast members, and put out press releases and freelance news articles in preparation for the show. We also had the privilege of having some very talented stage veterans come in and help organize us. Morgue Anne came in as director, bring her thirteen years of stage experience and giving direction to our sometimes directionless passion. We were also treated to a brand new demoness, Carrole Johnson, who absolutely nailed the performance and gave the whole show a unique flair and style.
It was these major changes, along with a thousand tiny changes, that made November 2012's performance of Aeterno Elementum the greatest we've ever put on. Due to time constraints I wasn't able to reprise my roll as a stagehand this time, but I did stop by to wish everyone luck and enjoy the show during Friday night's show. That was when I really saw it. On the surface, nothing was really different, and yet everything had changed. I walked in and saw a completely different side of Ara'Kus Productions. Gone was the frenetic chaos that I'd seen a year prior in Seattle, and the air of nervous exhaustion among the actors was replaced by a calm anticipation and excitement. And the theater? Well the theater was so packed I could barely find myself a seat!
I've had the great privilege of working with this group on many different projects, from writing press releases and blog posts to working on the script for our new production, and I've seen and heard some amazing things. Yet they all pale in comparison to that great moment when I walked into that green room and saw a renewed sense of joy and passion for Aeterno Elementum. Ara'Kus Productions has a new sense of direction and purpose, and if the packed theater and applause are anything to go by, 2013 might well be our greatest year yet. So thank you Ara'Kus, for letting me be part of such an amazing journey and here's hoping for many more years of great performances! And thank you dear Ara'Kus fans for making all of this possible, and for supporting the one and only heavy metal opera!
Coming from some small and unknown town called San Francisco, Razz was contacted by Ara'Kus Productions co-founder Randy, whose bald head you might remember from the show, reflecting the stage lights like the moon reflecting the sun. At first she merely showed up for a few recording sessions, but after hearing her it didn't take long for us to ask her to become part of the show.
She's been playing the violin for a mind boggling seventeen years, and though many of those years were spent playing your standard acoustic violin, once she discovered the electric violin in high school, she never went back. Rock and heavy metal have always been her favorite to play, and she says that playing for Ara'Kus is the first chance to challenge herself she's had in a long time. The more she plays, she says, the better she gets, and as a result she's always up for anything. Apparently she once even played for a mariachi band!
Of course a mariachi band doesn't have multiple electric guitars or drums so loud they require their own special holding cell to contain the sound, so I asked how she can keep her place in the music while the audio equivalent of a nuclear bomb is going off next to her.
"Competing with guitars and drums is definitely difficult. Violinists rely on ear and muscle memory to tell if we are playing the right notes. I get to cheat a bit because my violin has frets like a guitar. I can feel and see where my notes are. I still would rather be able to hear myself but if I get lost, I can see exactly where my hands are."
Having never heard of a fret before, I went to Wikipedia which told me that frets "are metal strips [...] embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula." I zoned out after the word math suddenly appeared, which always sends my mind reeling in fear. I may not understand how it works, but I can certainly respect, and be amazed at the fact Razz can tell exactly where she is in the music simply by looking at where her hands are on the violin. Then again, everything about Razz is amazing, so this probably shouldn't surprise me.
This is one Demon I hope will continue to fiddle for us for a long time to come! Make sure you don't miss her at the upcoming Ara'Kus Laser Show!