Performance Report: The Rapture Project

Lo, the angel Susan Sontag appeared, and she had a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Devil, and it was good.

For my first field report of the New Year for Culturebot, I attended the opening of The Rapture Project at HERE, created by the award-winning company Great Small Works. Taking inspiration from the classic Sicilian puppet theater’s Orlando Furioso cycles, which performed the epic clash of Christians and Muslims in the 1800’s, the company explores the effects of fundamentalism on contemporary American politics.

Blending music, narration, and the occasional borscht belt punch line, the show seeks to understand the effects of evangelism on our national anxiety, and those that exploit that anxiety for their own ends. With characters ranging from a born-again tour guide at the Grand Canyon, to a punk Muslim woman from Buffalo, to a hot–tempered CEO supplying body armor to soldiers in Iraq, as well as the aforementioned Susan Sontag, the puppet protagonists effectively enact the rationale used to gin up the neo-Imperialist American agenda, culminating in a glorious mass of puppet carnage in the Middle East.

Though the piece labors in the between-scene narration, there’s plenty of inventive storytelling and stagecraft (with a nod to the popular “Left Behind” series). If it feels a tad pedantic, with a whiff of 60’s agit-prop, well, it’s a tale that needs repeating, if only to controvert the reigning hysteria.

THE RAPTURE PROJECT is created and performed by Great Small Works members John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin and Jenny Romaine, with performers Shane Baker, Andrea Lomanto and Jessica Lorence. The piece features original music composed and performed by saxophonist Jessica Lurie.

For tickets and further info, visit

Full disclosure: I have to admit a soft spot for the fatalistic fervor gripping our increasingly unsettled times. Growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s under the threat of Nuclear winter, I believed in the back of my mind there was a good chance I wouldn’t be alive to type this post right now. As a kid, of my favorite movies was Red Dawn. That’s seriously fucked.

As much as I enjoyed the collective prosperity, I was uneasy during that relative oasis of peace that marked the Clinton administration. Now that Apocalypse fever has replaced the omnipresent threat of a nuclear WWIII, I’m oddly comforted. Global annihilation being a cold comfort, but still. Even with the Democrats in control of Congress, and the revelation that Rove manipulated the good intentions of Evangelical Christians to get their votes, the Biblical End Times is still occupying our national attention. A recent poll said one in four Americans believes Jesus may return in 2007. Which means what I’m not quite sure; that a quarter of this country expects to turn on CBS evening news one night and see Katie Couric Interviewing one of the Four Horsemen? (Famine, is it? How does one train to be a harbinger of the Apocalypse? )

But sadly, for all this End Times talk, it’s starting to feel like more of the same escalation rhetoric: the 21st century boogeyman. Goodbye arms race, hello rapture race. It’s no longer who has the bigger missile (read: dick), rather who has the bigger, badder god. Meh. If I don’t see some portentous, inexplicable, otherworldly phenomenon soon, I’m just going to have to focus my existential angst on global warming. Unless that is a sign?

%d bloggers like this: