Too Gay To Function just released a self titled EP and it is out now, an emotional woven 4 track release of acoustic pop ballads with a queer punch. This EP has feelings up the wazoo crammed into about 15 minutes of sonic wow. Hamlet Cooper has an impressive vocal range and voice control that makes these pop songs really fit well into their performance. I was incredibly excited to finally hear this EP, as I knew of its forthcoming since I last saw Hamlet perform: their one person, riveting theatre production titled “Childish Things”.
Being late to something makes me nervous. Being late to something that I know I will be the oldest participant at makes me even more nervous: like I am supposed to be better than this, I am supposed to have figured it out by now. Isn’t part of being mature supposed to be getting your shit together? I wonder then, the ramifications of being late to “Childish Things”, a one person play put on by the Archeological Theatre Company within one of the many classrooms of Hampshire College in Amherst MA. The ATC’s founder, Hamlet Cooper, designed this performance as part of their final thesis when they graduated.
Now, they were putting it on one more time for the environment it was crafted inside, in order to raise money to take their homegrown broadway, awkward-yet-powerful critique and retelling of the “coming of age story” trope to Baltimore to participate in the Charm City Fringe Festival, a line up of experimental theater productions that push the boundaries of art and understanding. To be totally honest, I went in expecting something special, but I was totally unprepared for the level of authenticity, genius, and emotional storytelling that “Childish Things” wields.
When I finally arrived outside the door of the performance, I could see the lights were off inside. Hamlet Cooper, the writer and star of this show, was giving some sort of guided meditation to which I missed the intro of. Everyone was seated in front of them like primary schoolers receiving instructions from a teacher. In the darkness I was able to slip in somewhat unnoticed, but I will admit that it was hard for me to drop into the mindframe with the rest of the group.
I am 32 years old. I could feel this cringe feeling building inside of me, not triggered by the play itself, but activated within myself. As if on cue, a short time later, Hamlet even zeroed in on that feeling: a universal shame felt by adults when they feel like they are not adulting right. When I mentioned before, that this story was awkward-yet-powerful, the work put forth here is not powerful in spite of being awkward, but because of it. We as audience members are held accountable to look the cringe in the face instead of shying away from it. Why do we feel so embarrassed by being excited? Enthusiastic? Wanting to learn? Having fun?
The Archeological Theatre Company is a well chosen name to be put behind this play: because the production itself is part archeological dig, part multi media art AIM screenname presentation, part gay acoustic guitar cover compilation, part jungian psychological dive, part gender and queer studies revelation, part broadway play, all earnest and amazing. You would think that with so many moving pieces it would be hard to puzzle together a plot, but it reads very easily: in order to love others you have to love yourself.
All of yourself, even the small parts we hide away in our shadow that we discarded when we “grew up”. There are revelations involved with this I won’t ruin or spoil, you will just need to see the play for yourself. In a world where we don’t give ourselves permission to be as authentically us as we can be, it is almost a jarring spectacle to see a work of art like this: a play where its subject is given the freedom to do whatever the hell they want, make a mess, run with it, and succeed. A play about the struggle of being given that freedom, and what to do with it. A play about what it means to be an adult, what it means to be “immature”, where the two intersect, and why they don’t matter.
“Childish Things” is a transformative viewing experience. I wasn’t expecting help when I went to go see it, and I didn’t even realize I needed help, but I needed this play. “Childish Things” was written and performed by Hamlet Cooper of The Archeological Theater Company, however they had some help:
Director- Kait Rankins
Stage Manager- Isabel Gauthier
Sound Design- Olivia Vasquez
Voiceover- Ben Kiem
They hope to expand the show out past the Pioneer Valley where ATC is currently located, into schools, colleges, community centers, and anywhere else that people might be making the awkward transition into adulthood. Please contact their facebook page for more information!