Periscope Depth

what horrors hide in blood-red tides like demons of the deep?

Spotted on the walk to the train this morning: a street sweeper the size of a golf cart. Stickers on the back and sides proudly advertised its environmentally friendly bio-diesel engine. A city employee sat in the driver’s seat, reading a Metro. The engine idled noisily. The cart continued to idle, not moving anywhere, as I passed it and then cleared its line of sight.

Technology can make people greener, but it certainly can’t make them smarter.

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Let me walk you through a typical night of Gorefest (a few seats are still available for the 10:00 tonight, I’ve been told).

6:40: I arrive in Central Square and grab a fast, hot dinner. Usually Wendy’s.
6:50: I reach the theater. Bobby and the crew test-fire the effect cannons in the stage – high-pressure air pumps connected to PVC piping. After some dry fires and a few runs with water, these pipes get filled with fake blood – among other things – for a few key effects.
7:05: After greeting other castmates and settling in, I rifle through the laundry bag for my costume. We have to do a full run of laundry every night to get the gore out of our costumes. A little Greased Lightning and a pre-wash gets out even the toughest stains. My shirt and jeans feel a little stiff, having been laundered seven times in ten days, but I probably have one of the more comfortable costumes.
7:20: Musical warm-up. We all assemble in front of Steve G. and the band, cloistered into a corner of the theater behind a shield of painter’s plastic. He leads us through warm-ups to tune our voices, loosen our jaws and percolate our enunciation. It’s also good silly fun, which helps.
7:30: “Place your props!”, Bobby tells us. “I’m opening the house in two minutes.” Other players scurry around, concealing severed limbs or disgusting puppets back- or under-stage. I don’t have anything that demanding, but I do snake a length of plastic tubing down my shirt for a later effect.
7:55: The cast assembles in a tight circle in the green room, hands in the middle, for a final pre-show pep talk. “A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it to Regionals,” Paul D. observes. “Let’s hustle out there, Squad Team. Let’s give it our all.”
8:05: Bobby delivers the pre-show speech to the audience – where the exits are, ImprovBoston’s other shows and classes, check out the website, etc. – before kicking off Gorefest proper. The lights dim and Mike and Lindsay enter for the show’s first number.
8:20: From here on out I have to speak indirectly to avoid spoilers. The stage divides into two halves – a ship’s deck, with a high railing, and a ship’s interior on the opposite side. While a scene wraps up on the “interior” side, I sneak onto the “deck,” concealed by darkness and the railing. I remove the tube from my shirt and affix it to a pump near my feet. One of the effects crew checks the fixture for watertightness, then primes the pump. I remove the first of three gore packs from my pocket, fingering the gross plastic wad, and wait. The scene ends; the stage goes black; I stand and wait.
8:35: Lany and I wait in the green room, peeking through the door to the main theater. We have an entrance in 90 seconds. “I’ve got some friends on your side of the audience tonight,” she says, pointing discreetly. “If you want to scare the crap out of them, go ahead.”
8:45: The first on-stage surgery of the night. I don’t have to do anything for this one except stand behind the patient and get covered in ancillary spatter. Oh, and sing.
8:55: I slip to the green room to grab my next two props – a blood-soaked book bound in glue and a damp handkerchief. I also grab a swig of water: this is my big duet.
9:15: My last scene on stage before the finale. I grab another gore pack and some rope and clamber onto the deck under cover of darkness. We’ve hit the stage with several torrents of blood and goop since my last time here, so the floor sticks to my hands and the soles of my shoes. I crouch in the dark and try to control my breathing.
9:30: Big finish! Lights, dancing, explosions! Audience cheers wildly.
9:32: I blurt out thanks and apologies to everyone who saw the show and got sprayed. Lany brings out a bucket of warm water and several rags; she, Bryce and I grab each puppet and prop from under the stage and give it a cursory wipedown. There’s only so much we can do, as most of these puppets have steeped in blood, brains and vomit for the past hour and a half. Misch and Maile bob and weave around us, wiping the ocean clean of gore.
9:40: “Fire in the hole!” I cover my head as a pneumatic cannon goes off above me, spraying water with a loud PFTHUNK. Every cannon gets two to three test fires with water to clean the gunk out.
9:45: “Finish what you’re doing!” Bobby yells. Most of the stage is still vaguely pink, but the ten o’clock audience has already packed the lobby. “We’re done cleaning! Reset your props; we’re opening the house.”
9:46: I sprint backstage, shuck my bloodsoaked costume and jump into the backup. I rinse the worst of the blood off my face and hands. The mirror tells me I’m sunburnt from fake blood soaking into my pores; can’t be helped.
10:08: Bobby gives the pre-show speech. The lights dim, the back door opens, and we do it all over again.