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Less Miserable

In November of 2011, I mailed 200 hand-letter-pressed invitations (right) to people I had met and venues I had played in over the course of my years touring with the Missoula Oblongata. I mailed them to art collectives, coffee shops, off-grid land projects, friends, and people I'd never met. I invited anyone who came into direct contact with one to come to the woods of Vermont for one month, during which we would mount an illegal production of Les Miserables. We would perform the entire 405 page score, harmonies and all, and take the show on tour for one week. Anyone interested could come participate-- no auditions necessary. All labor was volunteer. The idea was to make real the line sung by the character Enjolras: "Do we fight for the right to a night at the opera now?"

For the month of June, 2012, people began showing up from as far as North Dakota, Los Angeles, Montreal, and New Orleans. Ultimately, 60 people camped on a piece of land with no proper electricity, no indoor buildings, and no cell service or internet. In one month, we had the show on its feet, complete with a 20' revolving stage that turned on roller blade wheels, over 100 costumes, 100 handmade hats (courtesy of Jaco Connelly), an enormous papier-mache proscenium complete with scalloped curtain and articulated cherubs.

I directed (with Sarah Lowry acting as assistant director) and played Madame Thenardier. The show toured to sold-out houses in Glover, Providence, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The touring cast and crew was 55 people who traveled in vegetable-oil powered school buses.  All advertising was done under the radar, so as to avoid legal action by MTI.

By simply pretending as hard as we could that we were capable of putting on a Broadway show, we demonstrated that what we were pretending was, in fact, real.

A video of select moments can be seen here.

Photos by Jori Ketten

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