It’s your Dance Correspondent, R. Crap Mariner.
Paramount Grand Theatre and Desire Art Theatre perform on the Hell Lust region on Saturdays at 7:00PM SLT, with two Paramount shows a month and the racier Desire performing twice.
Here’s one of their show announcements:
Paramount Grand Theatre
March 3rd & 10th at 7pm SLT.
Spring Into March! Paramount Grand Theatre’s brand new show for March. Come join us for an evening of classy but sassy entertainment as we the Paramount Players dance for you, March 3rd & 10th at 7pm SLT.
The Players are bringing the Irish, the Scottish, the Leprechauns and the Celts to Paramount. Maybe even some American marching may make an appearance!
That’s the TL;DR, but I want to know more. Who is Paramount Grand Theatre and why do they create in Second Life? What does sassy but classy mean? What sets them apart from other venues and performance groups? I know I want to know. So, let’s go exploring, shall we?
Ascent into Hell Lust
I arrived at the Hell Lust region in the park that separates the Paramount Grand Theatre and the Desire Art Theatre. Both theatres contain art galleries that show highlights of past productions, with a few erotic statues on the grass. (This inspired me to buy one of the Zensual statues, tint it gold, and put it in my own photographic gallery.)
Pathmaker Campbell and Lotta Difference manage this region and these theatres, and Pathmaker met me at a bench by the park to begin the discussion.
The Path of Pathmaker
Where did Pathmaker’s and Lotta’s paths begin? “Lotta and I both have Fine Arts Degrees,” said Path. “ I achieved my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in the 1980’s from the University of Oklahoma and did much work toward an MFA. After using up my GI Bill for Education, the pay for GA’s at OU was just too pitiful, and I went back to work full-time – as a civilian in order to make a living.”
A career pays the bills, but does it nourish the soul? We all have a need for something, and his was the stage. “I was a ‘born performer’ – when I was a child I was somewhat shy – until I got on a stage or other opportunity to perform at which time I would lose all shyness and . . . just ‘perform’. Singing, acting in plays, making presentations to senior navy staff, giving speeches representing the Navy at various events including Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.”
And from a born performer, to the day that they rez into one.
The Journey to the Stage
Now that we know where the urge to perform came from, how did that shape his Second Life? “When I came to SL I had intentions of role-playing as a Barbarian Character – based upon “Conan the Barbarian” That never came to fruition. I did RP for a while as a Gangster in a 1920’s Chicago Gangster Sim – That Sim has a theatre called the “Empire Burlesque” and that was where I first began dancing on stage as an entertainer in SL.”
Barbarity’s loss is Burlesque’s gain, I say.
As Path said, that sim has a theatre called the “Empire Burlesque” and that was where he first began dancing on stage as an entertainer in SL.
“We started out doing things the way I learned at Chicago Empire – drag the animations across the top of the screen, do timing by the amount of time chat emotes were displayed on the bottom of the screen. 20 seconds, all movement was done with the keyboard, so things were – well more like live theatre.”
If you want to see something similar to this traditional style, Ballet Pixelle and a few other groups rely on the hand-triggered animation style instead of the scripted mover tools many other groups use, and Paramount and Desire use as well.
“The choreography tools are wonderful,” said Path.”They allow us to do so much more. And like what Lotta said about being a Learning Theatre, I learned how to use Spot On and I taught Lotta.”
Video by Tristan Lyonesse
The Path to a New Stage
Sometimes, our dreams outgrow our minds, and our plans outgrow our current locations, and it’s time to strike out on our own.
“The Chicago Empire was a great and wonderful training ground and I am eternally grateful to the sim owners for bringing me in to their troupe for the better part of a year. I was, however, champing at the bit to not just perform in others creations, but to create my own productions, I decided to break loose and start a theatre of my own. Our own it turned out because Lotta and LeAnn threw themselves into the project full force and thus, in November 2012 The Paramount opened. Rather shakily – but open.”
Sure, you can build a place, but it takes a little bit more, as Path found out.
“At that time we were totally ignorant of the SL Dance community – we did things as we had been taught ‘in Chicago’ -. By the winter of 2013 we performed our version of the Rocky Horror Show (not the “Picture Show”, the Play) and by word of mouth we were joined in the production by BabyPea and Gunner VonPhoenix and some others affiliated with Guerilla Burlesque. That December The Paramount made enough money to pay the rent – first and only time that has ever happened. (Good thing I don’t measure success in this endeavour by Profit Margin!)”
(I think you need to sell mesh feet and bodies and shoes to do that, right? Oh, sorry, let’s continue…)
“As Paramount began to succeed as in attracting fairly large and consistent audiences, we also became somewhat more “mainstream” and with that, less and less focus on rebellion – pushing the envelope; an attitude of – ‘hey if you don’t want to see what we show then please change the channel’.”
The Source of Ideas
Where do their ideas come from? It’s really hard to find inspiration for things, but Path digs deep and comes up with things that challenge the audience.
“One of my goals in the Paramount was to have a venue where I could create and/or perform – my ‘stuff’ – my interpretation of music, finding music to compliment my creations. My Creations have included plays; as mentioned, Rocky Horror Show which I adapted for SL, and plays which I have written – some one-act plays, and a full Three Act Play, Cleo and the Czar, featuring Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonious and of course the last Pharaoh of Egypt, the Greek Queen Cleopatra. We performed a very brief version in mid 2013, and in the Fall of 2016 we did three showings of the full play. Other goals included the ideal that Paramount would be a place where the human body was celebrated, and for a long time most if not all acts included full nudity both female and male.”
We’ll circle back on the risque and adult nature of the acts, okay?
As we talked, he told me that his dance inspirations were Gene Kelly and Gary Cooper, from the golden era of cinema and performance. But other inspirations went further back in time;“The only thing I could call ‘inspiration’ was my love of history, which includes pre-Columbian Central America and Nueva Mexico, which is where I did most of my growing up.
“One act inspired from this time was Aztec Pyramid… I didn’t have the opportunity to see it myself, but Path describes it as an executioner and a high priestess having sex on an altar, and guards drag two victims for sacrifice. One victim is dragged up, and the executioner spears her in the chest… here, let me let Path describe it further in the gruesome details:
I’m the executioner – Ariel is the High priestess – it starts off with those two having sex on an altar. There are two victims and two “Guards” – female guards – they drag one victim up – and she’s all serene and happy. I spear her in the chest on the altar and the two guards or “attendants” throw her body into the pit that is in the foreground. Well, someone forgot to give the second victim her Happy Juice, and she is terrified, trembling, etc – the attendants go to get her – she struggles, they get nasty with her and start beating on her.
That pisses me off, and as they drag her toward the table I swing my weapon around and knock the guards down, and the Victim runs away – right into to the pit. And the High Priestess summons a demon who comes out and kills me in a very bloody way, and I’m thrown into the pit…
How often do you see that in Second Life?
Path emphasizes that it’s not from a desire to sacrifice anyone, but having integrity to his art, and it’s a statement on the dangers of just following orders. He says that his art is a rebellion against that danger.
The freedom to think and create for himself results in some wild journeys, which are shared on the stage at Paramount, as well as Desire.
The Start of Desire
Since the adult acts weren’t to everyone’s taste, and I’ll admit at first when I saw them they weren’t to mine, the group started a rebranding effort to separate the edgier and uncensored acts:
“In early 2015 I decided to try to fulfil a “creative wish” from back in the 80’s during Art School Days – and incorporate sex into some of my acts. By sex I don’t mean “Sexy” I mean actual sex as part of the act. Since then most, but not all, of my creativity has been focused on sex as part of Art, and also Sex as Entertainment. The Desire Theatre – which was originally called “Night Players” grew from my … desire to have a Venue with no censorship. The main thing I love about SL is the lack of censorship. People are able to build and operate places – well there is a lot that I don’t care to frequent but I totally support Anyone and Everyone being able to build and operate whatever kind of place they wish.”
If you go to Hell Lust, yes, you’ll see the “A” rating there in the Location Bar, and it’s there for a reason. But what differentiates simple sex acts from art?
“Desire has standards – quality? Artistic merit? Nah. but to toss a couple of poseballs out on stage and have people climb aboard – – No. That’s substandard. Perhaps the standard is “Choreographic Merit.”
“I don’t consider everything I do to be “Art..” Some things I definitely do consider to be Art – – not for me to say whether they are Good Art, or Mediocre Art, or Bad Art. Some things are intended to be for Entertainment from the germ of an idea – but. NOTHING that I have done, am doing, intending to do fits the definition of Pornography. Neither the accepted “legal” definition of Porn nor my own.”
This is where I call back to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and his definition of Pornography: “I know it when I see it.” And it’s up to each individual to decide where the line is, but from art comes an opportunity for analysis and discussion, right?
Which is what drew me to talk to Path and Lotta in the first place, to get to know more about the inspiration, instead of just judging and shutting down. To challenge my own values and judgements, and to explore the meaning with the artists.
I mean, I don’t just write George the Pirate stories, you know… and some of them… well… eh, this is about Paramount, not me. Let’s look more at Paramount as a community.
Keep It Together By Keeping Them Together
Even though I’ve only been in the audience of Second Life dance performances since mid-2016, I’ve seen a lot of changes and shuffling of line-ups, a few venues appear, and a few venues host only cobwebs and… okay, that’s being overly dramatic, since we all know places just vanish from the grid or end up fossilized in unclaimed Mainland.
Beside that point, how does Paramount and Desire stay together? One word: respect.
“I’m not in SL to hurt other people,” says Pathmaker. “Not here to piss anybody off.”
Which I found fascinating, since one of the goals a lot of artists have is to challenge the audience, which does piss some people off… but it’s not the art, but how you treat your collaborators as you create it, and respecting the audience to choose to be a part of it. How do you balance that, where’s the difference.
“Not here to be hurt, pissed off or pissed on. I mentioned earlier we had to create rules about the Filler act sets, and that I loathe Rules. We do this for pleasure, and neither of us takes any pleasure in being some kind of dancing Captain Bligh.”
I just gotta say, when Lotta emphasized this with “Arrgh” I was smiling. Those two.
“And – really – (laughs) he wasn’t a pirate,” continues Path, “I’ve come to the conclusion that when we have dancers who – – in whatever way or whatever reason, inspire us to create rules, like rules of behaviour during shows/rehearsals for example, instead of creating new rules because some person behaves outside of courtesy and respect, we get rid of the dancer.”
“Not without warning of course,” added Lotta. Which is fair, I agree.
Path continues, “And generally we are told that people like to dance here with us because we are laid back, don’t yell.”
“Which makes us feel good :)” says Lotta.
One of the things I find unique about Paramount and Desire is that unlike most groups, who have music intros and buffers between acts, both Desire and Paramount have content in between the main acts, whether its solos or Annie working the crowd. It’s those kind of touches that make a place unique and special, and build a connection between the performers and the audience to form a community.
Thank you, Pathmaker and Lotta, it was wonderful to talk to you and learn more about you and what your group does. And I hope that the readers keep their Saturday nights open so they can drop by Paramount and Desire to learn more for themselves.