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An American meets Japanese Horror Story: Temporary Distortion Theatre’s Exploration of 21st Art

What is it about horror films that attract us so much? Is it the fear, the thrill of the suspense, or is it an intrigue into the dark acts committed in this world? Personally, my far too vivid imagination cannot handle scary movies and I  never understood why people enjoy being scared so much! Adrenaline, however, is one hell of a hormone and Temporary Distortion theatre company knows exactly how to get your heart racing in Americana Kamikaze an East meets West Japanese psychological horror story.

While searching for a production to watch on OnTheBoards.tv I am always a little distrustful of filmed or taped versions of live theatrical shows. So much of the experience of theatre is being in the theatre itself. Watching Temporary Distortion’s filmed show of Americana Kamikaze however worked perfectly as a large part of their mission statement is to fuse  music, cinema, visual art and theatre. I had never heard of this theatre company before and found in my research that their work was unlike anything I had come across before. Founded by Kenneth Collins in 2002, all of the work produced by the company is performed in claustrophobic box structures that separates the actor (actors) in the box from the audience by glass and often required actors to whisper their text through a microphone. Americana Kamikaze is part of a trilogy (Welcome to Nowhere & NewYorkLand) that explores popular film genres that have been deconstructed. These performances consisted of “larger boxlike structures built from steel scaffolding, industrial lights, speakers, televisions and video projection surfaces.”(Temporary Distortion).


The play was about 4 people (two couples) experiencing, betrayal, affair, murder, haunting ghosts, and an ever looming evil presence on the streets and in the subway stations of New York City. As someone who is not very familiar with J-Horror as a genre I was unsure of what to expect from the production. Much of J-horror (although it can be bloody and brutal) the genres unique identity lies in its supernatural and suspense filled plot lines. In this production there was one multimedia screen in the center and two actors on either side speaking in a spooky monotone voice detailing their dreams of murder and violence all while trying to express love for one another. The story in itself was an experience that I can only describe as seeing theatrical performance of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City meets Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge. Projections where a large part of this theatrical experience as the images of a train station, a bedroom, and ominous stairwells aided to the suspense of this story. The hauntings that these characters were experiencing very much paralleled their own actions haunting them as they crawled back into bed with their significant other.


As an audience member watching I did not fully understand the story this production was trying to tell. With that being said as an experience it was overwhelmingly effective. I was terrified watching this production on my computer screen as demons, bloody faces, and the ever present fear of the unknown loomed over the entire 70 minute production. I can only imagine how terrifying the experience must have been for someone who was present at the show and am thankful in that regard that I could watch it on my computer screen. The incorporation of musical, cinematic, and visual art forms were extremely present in their body of work and has really changed the way I experience a “theatrical” event. Temporary Distortion is a company that is changing the view on what theatre is by incorporating other expressions of art into one overarching artistic piece of theatre. I began to ask myself why is it easier for me to call their body of work film instead of theatre? Temporary Distortion is a theatre group worth knowing as they continue to expand the theatrical 4th wall and force audience members to experience all of our 21st century art forms at once.



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