The term “enchanting” may not even be the right word. Perhaps “enthralled” or “captivated” are more appropriate. On the second floor of a typical brownstone on 22nd Street in the Chelsea part of Manhattan, was a not-so-typical, one-woman performance that completely blew away the audience of less than 25…maybe 30. Too few for sure, but that was what the room held. The lucky two dozen or so bore witness to the performance of St. Kilda, the suspense thriller written and performed by Jody Christopherson.
“Performed” is the optimum word here because from start to its sinister finish, Christopherson was both the character on a quest, but also a master multi-tasker as the creator of the ambient soundtrack recorded live, as the story unfolds! Imagine this: the character is headed to an obscure island off the coast of Scotland to fulfill a mission encouraged by her recently deceased grandmother only to discover a chilling family secret. With the lights down low, not a lick of scenery — heck, not even a costume — Christopherson masterfully creates the eerie background sounds utilizing the foley-looping method where sound is recorded and layered for repetitive playback or “looping.”
Christopherson records the sound of seagulls, lapping seawater, grave digging, even a rush of a sudden and ominous fog while telling the story. At any one time, she is controlling foot pedals: one for recording the sound, the other to play it back, while keeping the level of suspense high. This “monoconcert,” as she describes it, is an amazing sight for the senses. When asked about the inspiration for this story, Christopherson who is part-Scottish explains, “I’d been researching the archipelago of St. Kilda for years. I’m fascinated by abandoned places and lost civilizations. Why people leave, what scares them. The St. Kildans survived brutal conditions for thousands of years and only left after the mysterious death of a young woman. I like writing about women doing hard things, re-discovering themselves and their power.”
Directed by Isaac Byrne, with the foley-looping designed by Andy Evan Cohen, St. Kilda was co-produced and performed on the second floor of Torn Page, the historic home of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. The show is one of seven being offered as part of the so-fi festival which runs through January 6, 2019. Additional performances of St. Kilda are scheduled for December 19 and 21 at 8 p.m.; January 5 at 8:30 p.m., and January 6 at 3:30 p.m.
Wine and chocolate are available for purchase between shows and if you’re lucky, you may meet Lady Brewster, the hostess from days gone by who may or may not be a witch. Watch in amazement as Erika Phoebus brings this character to life, however fleetingly, while waiting for the next show to start.
Top and middle photo by Michael Niederman