- Erik Castro
Corny Fun The Imaginists skewer current politics while adapting an ancient play for this year's 'Art is Medicine' tour.
If you happen to see a corncob-headed loudmouth in a red jacket gallivanting around your local parks this summer, you may have come across the Imaginists, Santa Rosa's most out-there theater troupe, who are bringing their Art is Medicine Show to Santa Rosa parks through July for the 11th year in a row.
Originally inspired as a response to the 2008 market crash, the Art is Medicine Show gives the community a new production each summer.
"We've always been fans of the theater that took place during the Federal Projects of the Roosevelt Administration and the Federal Theatre Project," says Imaginists co-founding artistic director Brent Lindsay. "It was keeping actors and technicians at work (during the Great Depression), but it also made theater available to communities, and not just cities, but small towns across the United States."
This Friday, July 5, the Imaginists ride into Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa for the first show of the season. Other scheduled performances include July 12 at Bayer Farm, July 14 at Andy's Unity Park and July 19 back at Juilliard Park. Lindsay notes that the community should double-check times on the Imaginists' website.
In addition to performing their shows for free, the Imaginists also make their shows bilingual, a component that Lindsay calls a no-brainer. "We want to make sure the invitation is felt across communities," he says.
As for the bicycles, which the company exclusively uses to transport actors, costumes, props and staging, Lindsay points to theater traditions that go way back. "We're fans of the circus coming to town and thought the bikes parading through the streets would attract attention. Also, obviously we were thinking of our environmental footprint," he says. "But, it's also something that's not using anything but what the ancient Greeks would use."
Speaking of the Greeks, this year's show is another new production, Peace: the Redacted Version, that is a loose adaptation of Greek playwright Aristophanes' ancient comedy, Peace.
'I would say it's hardly an adaptation at all," says Lindsay. "We've adapted Peace in the past. Aristophanes is a very political satirist, and pieces of the play leapt out at us for this. But, if you're coming to see Aristophanes you're going to be sorely disappointed, or maybe not, I don't know."
Peace: the Redacted Version features a president who resembles maize; the personifications of Peace, Liberty and Democracy; and an overcrowded field of superheroes.
"We live strictly in the fantasy realm here, we never mention Trump by name," laughs Lindsay. Instead, it's President Corn and Senator Cracker, two reoccurring characters who this time imprison Peace, Liberty and Democracy while the wannabe superhero candidates fight each other over the chance to rescue the prisoners.
With 15 actors taking on over 20 characters in the show, this is the Imaginists biggest Art is Medicine Show yet.
"It's doubled in size," says Lindsay. "We always have amazing new people, along with old veterans, at these shows."