Without a doubt, the Bedlam Theatre will have the hottest show in town this weekend.
Its new play, "The Burning Ones: Origin of the Flame," features swords, costumes and stiltwalkers, all set ablaze, plus performers eating and breathing fire. The show takes place in Bedlam's parking lot -- for obvious reasons.
The offbeat West Bank playhouse has been on a roll with its peculiar combination of avant-garde theater and popular DJ dance parties. This performance should push its boundaries once again.
The show's director, Rah Kojis, is one of the Twin Cities' top fire artists. With its mix of fantasy and action, she says the play is " 'Road Warrior' meets Dr. Frankenstein meets 'The Princess Bride.' "
The story concerns a mad scientist, his reality-altering machine and a whole lotta fire. Plus, ninjas, fairies and a giant flaming battle ax.
Safe to say, the narrative is secondary to the pyrotechnics.
The centerpiece of the play is a real-life Tesla coil -- a high-voltage device (often seen in sci-fi B-movies) that looks like a giant metal mushroom and emits crackling bolts of electricity.
Kojis' partner and fellow fire artist Tony Biele built the mini-Tesla coil. In the play, the doohickey stands in for the crazy machine that explodes, introducing the fire people to the narrative.
"It looks super cool," Kojis said.
The show features about 10 performers, most of them from Kojis' fire troupe, the Infiammati. The Twin Cities area is home to several fire crews. Many of the artists (or "spinners," as some like to be called) perform in nightclubs and at outdoor concerts.
At Bedlam, Kojis' crew will perform to a soundtrack that includes everything from gypsy music to metal. They'll set their skirts, wings, collars and even the outdoor set on fire. The show will run for two weekends, going through about 20 gallons of kerosene, white gas and ultra-pure paraffin lamp oil.
Of course, there are safety risks.
"When you play with fire, you will get burned at some point," Kojis said.
Lucky for her, Kojis has only suffered minor injuries. She's burned a lip or two during routine fire eating. The show will have a paramedic on hand, and plenty of fire extinguishers, she said.
Kojis became a fire artist 11 years ago, after a friend performed in her back yard.
"I was hooked," she said. "I knew right then that that's what I needed to do."
Today, she divides her time between the Bedlam and her private practice as a natural therapeutic specialist. Her children, ages 9 and 12, will perform in "The Burning Ones," too.
Like many fire artists, Kojis describes a very elemental attachment to fire performance. She's mostly drawn to the sound -- that intense whoosh that emanates from swirling flames. "It seems really cleansing," she said.
But what if it rains this weekend? A show like "The Burning Ones" can't simply move inside. Kojis entertained the very thought of a rainout just as you'd expect, saying, "We're always at the mercy of the elements."
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