SOUTH CAPITOL PLAYERS X-MAS: THE MUSICAL OLYMPIA 1990’s
Today I was listening to an interview with Carrie Brownstein on Marc Maron’s wonderful WTF Podcast. When Maron asked her about her experiences in acting and comedy prior to her work on Portlandia she mentioned a few high school classes and summer camp productions she was a part of before picking up the guitar but she failed to mention her first (very) semi-professional comedic acting experience after she started rocking. That would be her time as a member of The South Capitol Players in Olympia in the 90’s.
Her time with the SCP’s may have simply slipped her mind or it could be that she was hoping to forget the image of herself dressed as the quintessential suburban holiday housewife the night the troupe staged X-Mas:The Musical at the Midnight Sun in downtown Olympia. I personally thought she looked amazing and hilarious with her bob haircut, stirrup pants, patent leather shoes and applique Christmas sweatshirt. A comedic star was born!
The South Capitol Players troupe was the brainchild of Lois Maffeo, Star Seifert, Calvin Johnson , Carrie, and myself. We’d have additional actors from the community join us to round out the cast here and there. On this particular production we were joined by our friends Steve Dore, Brian Boswell, Pete Chramiec, Sarah Dougher, and Pat Castaldo.
I can’t recall exactly how the troupe came to be or even how many shows we did as the SCP’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lois was the ringleader of the whole thing as she always had a special ability to wrangle together the elements that needed wrangling in order to make good things happen in town at that time.
It’s worth noting that these kinds of D.I.Y comedy, musicals, and performance art events were not an uncommon part of the scene back then. Though that era in Olympia is defined in many people’s minds by the music it produced and exported to the world, I think the thing that made that place and time so vital was that it was such a well-rounded creative community that produced and nurtured all sorts of creative modes and producers.
It was not unusual in that era to see a performance art experience by Miranda July one week, a Riot Grrrl-centric show with bands, political ranters, and poetry readings the next, followed by a film festival, a punk-rock triple bill, or a sketch comedy show by The South Capitol Players! Looking back I feel like these sorts of community made events might have reached an apex with the ultra-realized, futuristic, gender f-cked, out-queer, heavy-metal punk-rock musical blow-out The Transfused written by Nomy Lamm, starring The Need and a cast far too big to name. When The Transfused hit the stage at The Capitol Theater in front of a packed house everyone knew they were seeing something really special produced by a scene that was really special. It was mind-blowing!
(Where’s the Wikipedia for The Transfused? Maybe it’ll be my first foray into writing one!?)
We may not have been the apex of anything, but oh well… back to The South Capitol Players…
Judging by the program I’d say we did at least three productions, maybe more. I do recall putting on a sketch show one time upstairs at the Capitol Theater that was quite amusing. At that show I did a heavy metal clinic as guitar god Lazer St. Germain where I taught the audience the “funda-metals” of playing histrionic solos while Sean Kelly made my guitar sounds with mouth noises into a mic from offstage.
I remember that among the thirty or so people there that night was Ad-Rock from The Beasties who was in town visiting his then girlfriend, now wife Kathleen Hanna. I probably only remember that detail because, well…he’s Ad-Rock from The Beasties for f’s sake…
…and because he was cracking up hard at the South Capitol Players.
South Capitol Players Present X-Mas: The Musical Program from my personal archives.