Go Deeper

Lights, camera, PUNCHKAPOW

Posted November 11th, 2010

ninja vs robot
“You’ve got to ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” –Dirty Harry… “Say hello to my little friend” –Scarface… “I’m a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. My mission is to protect you” –Terminator 2… “I’ve come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum” –They Live.

These little nuggets come from some of the most awesome (or awesomely bad) action films. Movies and movie franchises like Terminator, Spiderman, Star Wars, and Kung Fu Panda – whose stories and characters aren’t nearly as well-developed as the explosions, fight scenes, and car chases – are hugely successful. The most violent movies tend to break the most blockbuster records. We eat this stuff up, but why do we love it?

To explore this question, and for the part of us who loves to watch Ironman slam that guy in the face, or who sees Bruce Willis walk across the glass in Die Hard and thinks “I could do that,” check out Punchkapow, by Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (LAB Fellow Alex Torra of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Ben Camp, and also LAB Fellow Makoto Hirano). Inspired by action movies, comic books, anime, and video games, Punchkapow is a sweaty, hilarious, and unique look at powerless people in search of their superpower.

It premieres at Underground Arts at the Wolf Building tomorrow, November 12, and runs through November 21.

After the jump, creator/performer Ben Camp answers some thorough questions.

What’s your favorite movie?
Totally depends on the day. I kind of love movies in general. Can I sidestep the question and give you my top superhero movies? I loved Dark Knight and Ironman, I think those are the best recent releases. I have action stars I love. Bruce Willis is a complete badass. If I had to pick one movie that really stuck with me pretty intensely, I’d have to say Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle.

What’s your favorite video game?
The much-maligned Grand Theft Auto series is a pretty fantastic story experience. Plus, you can stand up for the little guy or terrorize the populace essentially without consequence. It really gives you an opportunity to experience in fantasy things you would never, ever do for any reason- and says, ok, yeah, go for it, you’re hardcore, blow up that truck with the missile launcher. Why not? You cant really die, you cant really get hurt, you cant go to prison, there are no consequences.

Punchkapow is about fantasy violence and how much fun it can be, especially as a diversion from everyday reality. Why is fantasy violence such an effective distraction?
I think we don’t get to exert our will in the physical world very often. Our sphere of power and influence is small, rightfully contained by societal expectation and common sense. But Batman isn’t limited that way, he physically extends what he wants into the world by bashing people in the face. Action stars and superheroes get to put their power out there immediately and viscerally, and I think it’s incredibly appealing to imagine having that much power.

What other favorite distractions from reality do you enjoy?
My wife Sarah (who is a dancer, business owner, and artistic director) and I were just talking about how we didn’t have any hobbies… I was a camp counselor and director for a while, and I serve on the board at a summer camp in New Jersey. That feels like a different universe. I also like trying to read all of the Internet instead of sleeping. I would note that I am rarely successful.

Anything else you want to share?
I’m thrilled with the way Punchkapow has turned out as a show, but I’m also excited about the way its been created. Alex and Makoto are fantastic artists, and fantastic people, and the tone of collaboration, consideration, and positivity is one I’m hoping to hold onto for a long time, both for other Team Sunshine projects, and working in performance in general. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to work with them.

Heads will roll
The Wolf Building
340 N. 12th Street (12th and Callowhill)

November 12 – 8pm Opening
November 13 – 8pm
November 14 – 3pm
November 18 – 7pm
November 19 – 10pm *with extra punches
November 20 – 8pm
November 21 – 3pm

“I can promise you that when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento.”… Ok, that is not a movie quote, but the Governator said that, and that’s almost the same thing.

– Dan Comly