It’s not every day you see a show where the cast ends up covered in fake blood and has to run to the venue’s backyard to use the outdoor shower (not to be mistaken for the rooftop hot tub) so they can rinse off and run back onstage to finish the show. But exactly this occurs in Slumber, a new slasher-inspired circus and dance show coming to Bushwick’s House of Yes later this week, featuring choreography by the MTV VMA-nominated duo Keone and Mari Madrid, who choreographed and performed in Justin Bieber’s hit video for “Love Yourself.”
Slumber follows a group of girls and one guy on what very well may be the last night of their lives, as one soon reveals themselves to be more murderous than others. It unassumingly begins with an onstage pillow fight, which acts as foreshadowing for the more literal fighting ahead. This pillow fight was one of the first inspirations for the show, as was Kanye’s song “Real Friends,” a chase scene, and the over-the-top nature of The Walking Dead. Throw some in some aerial silks and a Chinese pole, as well as performers from the Broadway revival of Pippin and a healthy dose of electronic and hip-hop tunes, and there you have it. Oh, and let’s not forget “more blood than you could ever imagine.” Um, fake blood, we swear.
The brains behind the operation are Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid, who collaboratively are writing, directing, producing, and costuming the show. They met and formed the company while in grad school at Columbia University. A fitting combination for unconventional circus shows, Lyndsay’s background is in theater and Josh is a longtime circus performer. Though their production company, Hideaway, is almost a year old, Slumber is its first full live production. They also produce a podcast where they interview people from the circus and dance worlds, as well as discuss their own company’s creative pursuits.
And no, you’re not seeing double: this particular show is heavy on the couples. In addition to the married choreographic dream team of Keone and Mari (declared “#goals” by Elle), Josh and Lyndsay are also engaged.
“I think it’s very rare and cool; you’re so comfortable with your significant other, so the dynamic of two couples coming together is really fun,” said Lyndsay. The two pairs have been collaborating now for almost a year. The Hideaway duo reached out to the choreographers about working on Slumber on a whim, and found they meshed incredibly well.
“They live in this dance world so the opportunity to come choreograph circus acts was exciting,” adds Josh. “And they’re really good at it.”
This fusion of dance, theater, and circus makes Slumber unique and quite unlike the average expectation of a circus show, as it’s able to deftly weave in and out of skillful pole and aerial routines, sharp hip-hop dance sequences, and comedic monologues. Even the costumes aren’t at all what you’d think a circus show would have, trading rhinestones and spandex for looks that, per Lyndsay, “feel like girls we know, [who] live in Bushwick and New York.”
“The whole [costume] vibe is ’90s grunge,” explained Lyndsay, who had spent the previous evening painting designs on a jean jacket for one of the dancers. “Casual, not too leotard-y [or] glitzy. The idea of denims and plaids and a more relaxed vibe while you’re doing all these crazy stunts was fun to me.”
There’s also an interactive element, and not just the chance you might get hit by a stray pillow: only one person will live at the end of each show, but it’s up to the audience to decide who it is. While there’s only two potential endings, Josh and Lyndsay tell me they definitely would “kill more people” if they had more rehearsal time.
Still, it’s one of the bigger productions House of Yes has presented recently, with a rehearsal period stretching around two weeks including four days of rehearsal in the venue, as opposed to a one-off variety show. Their sold-out drug-addled hit Ketamine: The Musical acted as a sort of test run for larger-scale shows with longer runs that could happen in the space, and demonstrated that this was indeed a successful formula. House of Yes co-founder Anya Sapozhnikova, who is also performing in Slumber, told me when I spoke with her about Ketamine that longer-form narrative work is “absolutely what [she] wants to do” at the venue, in addition to their other programming and parties. It’s good to see she isn’t sleeping on that promise.
Hideaway’s “Slumber” opens Thursday, October 6 at House of Yes, 2 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick. Performances continue through November 6, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 4 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $45-75.