Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Story by Keenan Cawley
“Be Somebody: an Aptly Titled Play by the Dustbox”
Here you are, standing on some steps outside of the Jazz arena in downtown Salt Lake City. Basketballs are not thunking off linoleum, and neither is your heart beating to the sounds of plunking bass bellows nor sizzling snares. You’re in chunky snowboard boots and snowboard pants. It’s 60 and sunny, so you’re also in a tee-shirt. The edge of your snowboard has drawn a faint red line on your forearm. You’re smiling nervously. Your contemporaries soar passed you every 30-or-so seconds. After each 30-or-so seconds, you dawdle up another step. Someone nukes by, ass first, in the air. They slip out right to their tush. The homie in front of you mumbles “damn,” and you respond with an anxious laugh and wide eyes. They return their gaze to the scaffolding emblazoned by cream-colored Callery pear trees. You look, too, and all you see is a pair of legs strapped in; the face is hiding among bushels of sun-tanned canvas blossoms.
It looks like they’re dropping in through an altar. Before you can start your own ascent, the set of back lips will already have swept out the wave of boardslides. Rogue waves pop up sparingly. Gap switch 50s. Erratic pretzels. What was he trying? Mystery moves. You summit. You’ve become the faceless boarder the gathering of some 200 people have their eyes on. They want something from you, Flower Face. Phones line the walls of the makeshift hallway they’ve created. You scoot your toes to the rim. There’s a mogul just shy of the crest. That’s the foam you’ll have to plow through on your descent, preceded imminently by the three waist-high posts initially placed to thwart the faint of heart from taking this ride. They didn’t want you to. But today’s different; they’ll let it slide. If you can—if you want to. So what do you want? You want to plummet? All it takes is five seconds. Five precious seconds and you’ll be at the bottom. The Box is waiting for you down there. But you’re not waiting. The swell hits you and your board dips in. The flower-mask disappears and you’re no longer someone; you’re somebody—and you’re soaring.
Everything about the day was special. Special as in ‘different.’ As in ‘happy.’ As in ‘the kind of day you wish you could live every day.’ But special doesn’t come from nothing; it needs some~thing~. Things have to line up. Oftentimes they seem to happen on a whim, as if baby angels were toying around in the air above you, pulling ~good~ strings your way and ~bad~ ones astray. But truth be told, fate is a fan of planning. Not intricate plans; those are only good for finances and lawyers (I think). It’s the loose plans fate favors. Dreams, ideas, and hopes. Those, paired with ambition and like-minds, tend to speak persuasively to fate. And what is the Dustbox, if not a group of giggling, albeit brilliant and boisterous, little cherubs with crossed fingers roped around the pulleys of snowboarding’s marionette? When offered the platform, they winked at each other and seized the opportunity to write their play. Only they would refrain from a detailed script and, instead, rely on faith in their hand-picked stage, cast, and crew.
Set-up began at 6 o’clock in the morning. Having the vision of the stage in their minds, numerous vehicles were recruited by the crew to gather props. A fleet of trucks adorned with U-Haul trailers met up at Brighton and got filled to capacity with snow. Out of the canyon and back to the theatre they trudged. Home Depot was hit for turf and tarps to help lengthen the harvest, for everyone knew the gorgeous day ahead was eager to diminish the production’s running time. And all the while, Woodward’s finest was refurbishing the rail - the antagonist - for optimal performance. The sun was hardly creeping over the stage and sparks were already flying.
The production was wholly unorthodox. It didn’t take long for the cast to realize that they, too, were a part of the crew. It read so in their costumes: they all had shovels! Just as the producers had banked on, everyone came prepared. And everyone was working. All hands on deck. Hi-ho, hi-ho, the piles of snow got scooped and spread around center stage. Above them, the scaffolding was quickly erected and covered in pristine sheets of snow by the boyishly inspirited workers, just like ants for their queen. What was merely a thought that morning was coming to life, more rapidly than anyone who had the thought had anticipated. There was a moment of preemptive relief as they gazed at the set. And as the lucky critic obliged to participate in the production, I must comment on the photogenic nature of the scene: breathtaking. Both as a result of a sigh and a gasp. I tried acting demure to cover a breeze of sorrow; knowing that this serene image would soon be tarnished dejected me. I had to remind myself of the role balance plays in theatre—as in story, and as in life. To halt the show would be a sore regret. And who was I - who was my character - to interject? I was forced back into my role (I was thinking: pretty tree) when I realized that a queue had already begun congregating.
They were excited. The minimal marketing succeeded in garnering attention. “Is it ~really~ going to happen?” Gossip said that the flyers may have just been a silly April Fool’s joke. But it was evident that the audience was willing to risk getting had over missing out. All it took was one glance at the stage, and another, with focus, at the star-studded cast, and all doubt was wiped clean; the curtains were about to be pulled on the Dustbox’s “Be Somebody” production.
As stated in the intro, the Callery pear trees (not to be confused with the less pungent, more cheery, cherry blossom tree) were in full bloom. They were actively placating the setting. In addition to their visual kindness, they acted as a secondary veil to the initial curtain. As the first act opened, we discovered that each character was masked at their introduction. The spotlight would single them out and all we could see was their minute comfort-habits—slight twitches or psych-up methods—all faceless. Once prepared, abiding by freestyle cues, they would peel off their pearly petals with an unabashed display of their true identity, a straight-shooting revelation barreling down towards the front row. The mystique only kept the audience more rapt in the performance. Upon reprise, certain characters, including, but not limited to, Ricky Thizz, Caleb Flowers, and Miss Egan Wint, all possessed subtleties that, to the distinguished eye, gave slight tips to the imminent action. And with the help of these roles and beyond, the show was unsurprisingly action packed without sacrificing even a sliver of integrity; it was excellently nuanced thanks to the set design and casting decisions.
In yet a further study of the self-awareness the spectacle owned was by way of score. The Maestros, Jonas Harris and Ryan Collins, curated a near-antithetical program of ballads which fit the bill seamlessly. And as we continue trickling down the imaginary spine of this body, the MCs, Tommy Towns and Cody Warble, tipped their hats with a modern rendition of fellow thespian-hecklers Statler and Waldorf of Muppet fame. Truly sublime.
And the sublimity multiplied by the flesh! Amid the extracurricular feelings were tangible humans. We cawed, engrossed by the performances, jonesing over their own palpable desires. Dylan Okurowski hammered home multiple choreographies, each distinct and decisive. I, personally, was drawn to his hardway 180 to switch 50, which he later stripped the 180 out of with a bare gap switch bs 50. In similar ~outlier~ fashion, though driven by something of a separate realm, was Mike Liddle, who’s unique placement of a front board (going flat, down) caused an eruption from both the audience and from back-stage. Miss Egan, as well, caused multiple calamities with her constant boardslide variations, almost as if she was digging deeper into her character as the show progressed.
An intermission was called to tidy up the set. The players breathed, hydrated, reapplied make-up (fuck, I’m taking it too far; they reapplied sunscreen!) and called for the second act prematurely. They just started bombarding the stage. And it was with such authority and demand that the props could hardly keep up. Their gateway through the altar shed snow, bore turf and then its own metal core. The rail shivered nervously. The whole time, if ever we questioned something, it was the decision of the performers. But after a stoic act thus far, we finally saw that the rail, too, had humanity. And how much abuse can one soul take? Tragic, without a doubt, but this is theatre, after all! We didn’t come to watch, we came to ache! We came to laugh and scream and sweat and long for some feeling to attach ourselves to! The rail’s struggle was our own. And it was like a lull. More so than the intermission. Try after try, the boarders couldn’t keep up; they had put forth such an exceptional show already but it seemed that at any moment the curtain was going to close anticlimactically. But some would not let that happen.
Austin Visintainer grabbed melon on a fs 270 and rode out valiantly. Sam Anderson, damned if the rail wasn’t going to just finally plop over dead on stage, finally delivered his cab 270 through the kink. The blue-dyed, 802 duo of Derek Conti and Micah Coville continued backing each other up, both backwards, forwards—whichever way—for better or worse, throughout the duration of the show. And although Lauren Derminio and Sierra Forchheimer both tasted the boardslide at peak-wobble of the rail, it was eventually the hardware that prevailed. Ah, sweet drama; we adore the strife you deliver.
At last, the curtain closed on the swath. The lights grew slowly and reality slithered back upon us. The sea was calming, though still vibrant with adrenaline and buds. Breathing regulated inside the day’s collective chest.
It was no surprise seeing Egan Wint reappear on stage. I recall watching her plant a bushel of the white blossoms in a snowball and placing it on the center post atop the rail as a peace offering. That compassion collided head-on with her fearlessness; she devoured the role of female protagonist. Whether or not her boardslide to 5050 to switch was ad-libbed does not matter—to me, nor the Box, apparently. She was then joined by Savannah Shinske, who received applause for Best Solo (I think that’s what it was…). It was her composure amidst a belting gap to front lip that had us all reeling.
Next on stage was Norm Schoff. His absence thus far is due entirely to excellency. His poise in the face of conflict embodied his authentically audacious originality. It was that complex character-driven narrative that was the cause of numerous—not to mention ‘helpless’—outcries. None of which was quite as riotous nor righteous as when he took his bow. Shortly after, Caleb Kinnear bashfully accepted his roses for blasting a switch bs 270 at the antagonist. We delivered these four a grateful standing O.
The cast transformed back to crew for take-down. Characters dissolved, the audience dispersed, and the snow, deleted. I took a moment between spreading the remnants of shredded ice to look around. All of my favorite performers were busy at work; shovel in hand, smile on face. I wondered if perhaps this was the actual denouement. The climax was undoubtedly the appraisal for Egan, Norm, Savannah, and Caleb, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that this was the resolution.
The message was clear as melted snow; apt as a single, dull-white flower shaken off the ornamental pear tree: if you care strongly about something, create your stage and dance upon it. Be Somebody. The little angels are there; they’re circling above, so high on their precious wings and laughter, making sure you don’t get tangled in string.
And to those silly babies, I say “Bravo.”
Photos by Ian Boll and Colton Morgan