Eosphoros, Durham Organize Villainous Halloween Showcase

Louise Edwards, Arts Editor

During the opening act of Oberlin Musical Theater Association’s Villains Showcase, presented last Friday and Saturday in a Kahn Hall lounge, College junior Julia Redden threw open the doors of the closet she was hiding in and began belting “Miss Baltimore Crabs” from the musical Hairspray. As Velma Von Tussle, a racist and body-shaming producer, Redden introduced the night of villainy to follow.

The Villains Showcase, a revival of a similar event from 2013, was envisioned as a way to get more people involved in musical theater on campus, especially those with little prior experience. Showcase co-director, College junior and the Review’s Online Editor Cyrus Alexander Eosphoros explained how the original Villains Showcase came about. “OMTA used to have a general showcase with the intention of getting first-years and people new to musical theater into the fold,” he said.

“OMTA stopped doing that, did a lot less outreach, a lot less accessibility stuff in that vein. So the first director wanted to fill that gap and thought that the villains theme and going up on Halloween would be a fun thing,” said Eosphorus.

Both Eosphoros and his co-director, College senior Martin Durham, had roles in the original show. They wanted to resurrect the event this year with the same welcoming atmosphere.

Eosphoros said performing in the first showcase helped him to become a confident actor and learn more about his own identity.

“I came into Oberlin really timid, and I also had never been in the position to present male full-time before,” he said. “So I learned to act. I learned what theater looked like, and I learned how to occupy space in a way that wasn’t just trying to hide under anything. It’s weird to say that singing a single song about murdering 12-year-olds gave me a lot of tools that have helped me as an artist and as a person, but it [did]. I want to be able to give that kind of opportunity for growth, and that kind of opportunity for learning to … other people.”

Eosphoros and Durham began visualizing this year’s showcase a year ago as a diverse display of both humorous and dark content. “It’s villains, so we wanted to strike a balance between comedy and horror, basically, which was a place where [a] division of labor happened some, because I did more on the serious side and Martin does more comedy,” Eosphoros said.

The combination of upbeat and mysterious piano accompaniment balanced the humorous but spooky acts Eosphoros and Durham wanted to highlight. College junior and music director Ryan Yates noted how the music enhanced the actors’ communication through inflection of lines and body language. “Music communicates in a different way than vocal language and body language do, and it’s kind of its own language,” he said.

While some of the songs that the directors chose to include were originally sung by villains, the directors adapted others originally sung by heroes or neutral characters to make them evil. Durham was interested in this process, as it showed how characters’ moralities can be called into question when the motivations for their actions change.
“I actually really enjoyed reimagin-ing the circumstances from other songs partially because it feeds into a bit of my philosophy, which is that a lot of the way we view morality is in the way that we see ourselves and our contexts,” Durham said. “So someone who is a hero in one context — if you take a little bit of their self perception and tweak it or make it so that they’re justifying their own actions without really looking at them too hard, it’s easy to make someone who sees themselves as heroic into someone who is clearly, to an audience, villainous.”

A highlight of the show for Durham was “Rita’s Confession” from Lucky Stiff. College senior Walker Griggs played Rita LaPorta, who accidentally shoots her

partner Tony because of her blindness. College junior Jay Shapiro played Rita’s brother Vinnie DiRuzzio. “Walker and Jay were just so utterly and completely perfect for that,” Durham said. “It was wonderful. It was kind of one of the no-brainers of the show. … They came in [as] friends who already did this kind of thing. … They came in having exactly the right dynamic, being super comfortable with each other and easily improvising around each other, … and they also ended up coming up with a lot of beautiful moments that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.”

For Eosphoros, it was most rewarding to see actors gain more confidence in their performance skills.

“There were actors that were really cool to watch, because we got people to coax out of their shell into this more self-assured position as a master of evil,” he said. “It was neat to watch that as an evolution for people who didn’t feel like they’d been given the opportunity to make a statement and occupy space that way before.”

Yates said he enjoyed working with the directors and the actors and seeing his visions materialize.

“It’s the first time I’ve been involved in a production team, and it was really rewarding to see everything come together the way that it did,” he said. “It was a really nice feeling to just watch things fall into place as [the] other directors and I interacted in ways that meshed, how we brought different parts of the music out, how we edited different parts of the music as we went along to bring them out better than we had originally envisioned them to be.”

While Durham will be graduating in the Spring, Eosphoros and Yates are already scheming about what pieces they will include in the showcase next Halloween. “Ryan is already really fervently campaigning for ‘Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf’ to be in the show,” Eosphoros said. “I may have said yes.”