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Holy Banana

Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 15, 1999
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Randy Metcalf
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ned Schaper stands proudly next to his creation "The Bull" at the Matt Bevel Institute.

On April 5, Catalyst reporter Nate Byerley interviewed Tucson's Mat Bevel, a.k.a. Ned Schaper, about his latest production of "surrealistic pop science theater," entitled "The Hostage and the Host." This is an account of what happened.

catalyst : Mat, I've been to one of your shows, but I haven't really seen one of your serious productions. What are they like?

Mat Bevel: Serious? Well yeah, it's more serious [laughs]. But I have control. It's almost like I'm doing a movie. Because that actually allows you to experiment more.

c : Did you have to build new sculptures for this show?

MB: Yeah, I have some new pieces. I got the community vortex done. It's pretty nice - a big hit, I guess 'cause it's my brand new machine. It's always nice to think your best machine is your last machine as opposed to falling apart, losing any ability you ever had.

c : How would you briefly describe the theme of "The Hostage and the Host?"

MB: Well, it's sort of - I hate to say it - anybody who knows me knows it's pretty autobiographical. What I do for my living is basically why I do in my art. My whole thing is, I give this message and now I have a venue where I can promote that. So it's very hard to draw the line between what's reality and what's an illusion, what's theater, what's the real thing. There is no real thing you know. Where were we?

Ned Schaper sits on his creation "Riding on Wind Drawn Horsy" at the Matt Bevel Institute. Schaper's performance includes him riding in this work of art while saying a poem as being dressed up as the Political Bozo.
c : Summary. A brief summary.

MB: Oh, it's the idea of being in this space. There is this thing, in my heart, which is what the work's about and the character, the political bozo, the main character of the show. They're not thought out logically, how they converged together, but this whole idea of being the host: when you host something, you're not just hosting something in your place, the idea of making something happen holds you hostage to making that thing happen.

c : So how do work with the soundtrack and all of these various elements because I guess I'm having trouble picturing how it all comes together.

MB: At the beginning of the show, somebody presses play and so there's a soundtrack, and I just do a lot of stuff along with it. Then there are times when the soundtrack goes off and I do my own improvised stuff. There's music in the background during the live stuff. It used to be, when I was on my own, I'd just turn it on, and that's my show. And then I'd have to make these big empty gaps where I would do live stuff, it's so much nicer when you don't have a tape, 'cause there's that same hostage thing, you're hostage to the tape.

c : Are you going to have someone back here helping out?

MB: Well, my friend Serena is going to do light and sound, but my 12-year-old daughter is going to back her up the first night. You know she's been doing that for two years, but she doesn't want to do that. Of course, she wants to run the snack bar - where the real money is.

c : You're doing a lot of shows, you're doing six shows.

MB: I always do six shows because shit, it's a lot easier to do this and perform than it is to get ready for another show. All it is is walking people in and walking people out - I know what I'm doing. I'm also videotaping it. To me, it's all economics. That may sound like, you know, Forbes, Steve Forbes, or whatever his name is....

c : What do you mean it's all economics?

MB: I do the six shows because it's good practice and I'm already here and I'm in my space, it's good to do the video that way, because that means I can have a six-camera shot. [Video] is my product. The institute is my place, and I make it exist by all these other things.

c : Other things like shows

MB: Yeah really, in the long term when [people] hear from Mat Bevel, they only hear from these skits. These skits tell the story in these different ways. See, you always get parables and stories and parables of stories that all go together into these little episodes. I put it together that way so I can make it like a song. It's like a meal, really, but that wouldn't be how I sell it. My plan is that there are different ways you can go, there are episodes, and there are routes, fifteen minute things and half an hour things.

c : Can you see a larger structure that ties these things together?

MB: Oh yeah, that's like my simple/complex theory: one beginning and many endings. It's like life. There's a story of the beginning of this whole thing. Well, it becomes the institute and then there's the split, between the Santa and the Jesus, and that's what this show does; it's the Easter theme. It's Santa talking to Jesus Chiquita, Jesus on the cross.

c : Jesus Chiquita?

MB: Yeah, like monkey on the cross. And Jesus Chiquita is cute, I mean really cute. I mean when I do this holy banana thing, kids start crying. And it's got this really good music, it's not us, it's got like some kind of beautiful Haydn, it's got a Haydn symphony that builds up, "Ho-ly banana!" Anyhow, I'm getting sidetracked.