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!