Disease and Demons, multimedia comic-style!
Carl Antonowicz brings the multimedia comics experience “Büer’s Kiss” to the New Hazlett Theater
By David Bernabo
Recital continues our partnership with the New Hazlett Theater by publishing a preview, an editorially-independent review, and a video for the five performances in the 2017–18 CSA Performance Series season.
Throughout the season, Recital is meeting with each of the artists to bring you a brief profile of them and their work in the days before their opening performance. We will publish a considered review or a post-show discussion with the artists for each performance, developed from post-show discussions with a consistent panel of local experts in related disciplines.
We are deep in conversation. I’m trying to keep up, trying to resuscitate my knowledge of the occult from skimming Tumblr pages of ritual scenes, ankhs, circled dots, the Rosy cross, and the symbol for chaos — arrows pointing in every direction. Trying to line up my interest in Gnosticism filtered through Philip K. Dick books with all the Aleister Crowley-loving Jimmy Page references from the When Giants Walked the Earth Led Zeppelin biography.
Comic artist Carl Antonowicz is feeding me deep links to his new comic and accompanying performance, Büer’s Kiss. “Buer in the title is a demon from a grimoire called the Ars Goetia,” one of five books that make up the Lesser Key of Solomon. A grimoire is a spellbook, a textbook of magic. Buer is one of 72 demons in the Ars Goetia. The demon is the Great President of Hell, commanding 50 legions of demons, visualized as a lion’s head with goat legs surrounding his body.
We are sitting in Antonowicz’s apartment. He is beginning to draw and later ink 110 pages of comics, a new project created for the New Hazlett Theater’s CSA performance series.
“So, Buer’s Kiss is a live, graphic novel performance,” says Antonowicz. “It’s based on a lot of ideas that I’ve run into through studying medieval history, the occult, the history of epidemiology, and in particular, leprosy.”
As a live performance, the execution will be similar to a radio play. The comic pages projected onto a large screen, and the story brought to life by three actors, Joanna Becker, Ryan Haggerty, and Antonowicz, acting out 10 characters and orchestrating the aural soundscape with a bevy of foley effects. Rounding out the production team is Sound Designer Zach Brown, Lighting Designer Antonio Coroluoato, and Production Supervisor Heidi Nagle.
Büer’s Kiss is inspired by an event in 1321, The Leper’s Plot, an alleged conspiracy by French lepers to spread disease by contaminating well water with poisons. One could be forgiven for thinking the conspiracy was dreamt up by Trump and his conspiracy-nut cohorts — supposedly the torture of a leper led to a confession that the conspiring lepers were carrying out orders from the Jews, who had been bribed by Muslims in Spain, all in an effort to poison Europe’s Christian population. The result: lepers were persecuted, tortured, and burnt at the stake.
But this is all background information. All these ideas are synthesized into Antonowicz’s original story. “There are things that are inspired by history and interesting untruths about history that I used, but this story is a fantasy.”
Felecia, the protagonist, is cast out of her village for contracting a leprosy-like disease. She finds refuge in a leper colony in the woods, “a community that is roughly analogous to the Kingdom of Aragon, northeastern Spain.” A quiet conflict within the town simmers and eventually boils over.
Becker will voice the main character, Felecia. “I tend to use women as the main characters in these books,” says Antonowicz, “partly because life is not great for women in the middle ages, especially not peasant women, and also, there is a preponderance of men’s stories in the middle ages.”