What is SteamCRUNK?

Company One’s production of SHOCKHEADED PETER is deeply influenced by the aesthetic of our collaborative partners, Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. They call it SteamCRUNK: “one part Steampunk (which we get lumped into because we care what we look like on stage) and Crunk (because we also care about fun and revelry and Walter’s style of music and stage presence cranks it up),” as Edrie, the band’s accordion player, puts it.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring technology based on steam power of the 19th century, but it has also come to define a specific way of dressing. Steampunk fashion is based on a Victorian clothing (corsets, top hats, parasols), but embellished with elements from steampunk fiction, such as goggles and mechanical gadgets.

The attraction to mechanics connects back to the band’s aesthetic. Edrie explains that “the thing that makes SteamCRUNK unique is that we see the inner workings of things.” Walter is a visual artist as well as a musician, and Edrie sees a connection between the two: “Sometimes he draws a song before he really comes up with a tune…Walter’s art is intricate, showing cutouts and internal organs while giving a picture of the whole. It juxtaposes things against each other and combines ideas to make something new.”

Learn more about the Army of Broken Toys here!

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Thoughts on Songs

During our first rehearsal, director Steven Bogart shared these initial thoughts about each of the songs, and their thematic threads.


Read the text of the original Hoffman verses (the inspiration for these songs) in our previous post about the source material.

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  1. OVERTURE: sets up the cautionary tale
  1. AUGUSTUS: the child who refuses to eat

Feeding children with our shame and fears. Trying to control their tastes, their physical needs and emotional needs. We insist on what goes into the minds of children.

The rebellion is we see in Augustus is the rebellion of the ignored and abandoned child. The abandoned child within us crying out for attention.

  1. CRUEL FREDERICK: the violent kid who doesn’t have empathy

A kid we all hate. We hate his rage at us. He is a monster, separate from ourselves, who gets what he deserves.

He is not us, he is outside of us. He’s the child we send away.

The adults sit back and watch Frederick bleed to death. He deserves it. When he dies, we are rid of the monster.

As we watch this child bleed and die, what becomes of us?

  1. HARRIET: the girl who played with matches

Outside:

  • psychological distress
  • curiosity
  • an incomplete understanding of cause and effect
  • a belief in the ability to control the flames

Unconscious:

  • impulsive behavior where creative outlets have been repressed. If you take away our expression we will burn down the house and the schools and die in the process.
  1. THE STORY OF THE MAN WHO WENT OUT SHOOTING: hunting, guns, children

The hunted become the hunters, the hunters become the hunted. The abused become the abusers.

Violence leads to more violence.

The Hare is female. She steals the Hunters gun, kills the hunter, his wife, her own baby and then herself.

We have seen these horrific stories in the news.

This story creates a hopeless world begging for an answer to the question; Can we escape the cycle of emotional and physical abuse that we perform on each other and ourselves. What has happened to us?

  1. CONRAD: the Thumbsucker

How do we nurture?

SHAMING from the parents or the adult regarding the child’s physical and emotional needs creates the monster that disgusts and embarrasses us.

If the child can’t be controlled, they must be die.

Killing the child is the metaphor for repression. But there is no escape from our own fears as the consequence of our adult behavior festers in our unconscious.

7. THE BULLY BOYS: if you do not toe the line you will be killed

At first this may seem like a cautionary tale to children who like to pick on others.

But when we consider of the character of Agrippa, the ruthless Roman General who put down rebellions during the reign of Augustus, the boys become figures that refused to behave as the culture or government demands.

The rebellious spirit must be crushed.

  1. FIDGETY PHIL: the child with the ‘issues” — ADD, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, Aspergers, etc.

The kid who won’t sit still. We see them in the schools, in restaurants, coffee shops, movies, supermarkets.

We bring shame on the ‘bad’ parents who can’t control their little monsters.

  1. JOHNNY HEAD IN AIR: the artist dreamer, the child with their head in the clouds

We must control the artists or they will float away into oblivion and drag us with them.

  1.  FLYING ROBERT: the adventurer

We are drawn to the power of nature. A child’s passion for meaning and a profound connection with nature frightens us. It’s dangerous and should not be encouraged. The lessons passed on from one generation to the next. Don’t be frivolous, don’t risk failure.

The children can not feel the vitality of life and become timid, frightened adults who live in fear of change and death. We obsess about children playing ‘carefully.’ We don’t let them fall or fail because their failure reflects on us.

We hate losing more than we love winning.

11. FINALE: the adult infant reaching out to all of us for help

Summer Band Workshop

In late July and early August, the Band convened with Steve, Ilana, and Josh for a series of workshop rehearsals dedicated to exploring the music of SHOCKHEADED PETER, and creating a shared vocabulary.

(Cast and members of the creative team can access those recordings HERE.)

The music is in early drafts, and will necessarily change when actors join rehearsals, but it’s kicking off this process with a bang!