Sunday, July 05, 2009

MIDNIGHT MASS 2009—The Evening Class Interview With Joshua Grannell

Joshua Grannell (aka Peaches Christ) and I met up at the Duboce Park Café the Monday after Pride Weekend. As Peaches, Joshua had survived his Pilsner pork pull; an event he agreed to in support of his beloved BLT community. "Every year," Joshua admitted, "Peaches seems to do less and less [at Pride] in an attempt to reserve energy for the next eight weeks [of Midnight Mass]." Being that it's now official that this is the last year of Midnight Mass at the Bridge Theatre ("Peaches Christ: R.I.P."), I felt it compulsory to find out what's up. Although our conversation was primarily to serve my upcoming Fangoria article on Joshua's recently completed first feature All About Evil (I'll let you know when that hits the newsstands), I took time to probe about the summer swan song of the 12th season of Midnight Mass.

* * *

Michael Guillén: As Midnight Mass launches into its 12th Summer season, will there be any preferential glimpses into All About Evil?

Joshua Grannell: There is a trailer being made for All About Evil. It's going to be cool! The first people to see the trailer will be at one of the Midnight Mass shows this summer. We'll show it there before we even put it on line. The first look at the trailer will happen at one of the shows, though I can't say exactly when yet because that depends on the delivery. But during the finale of this year's Midnight Mass, it seems so appropriate to have Elvira and Peaches present the world, our world, the Midnight Mass world, with a sneak peek of at least one scene from the movie.

Guillén: What I find intriguing is your professional awareness of a measure of scale. The artistic project of Midnight Mass has its unique and appropriate scale; but, the scale of the film All About Evil is much larger and cannot be contained by Midnight Mass. Thus, it only makes sense to me that—though it might seem that All About Evil should premiere at Midnight Mass—it somehow is not appropriate to scale. A trailer at Midnight Mass, however, sounds just right.

Grannell: Being a cult film aficionado and someone who champions cult movies, we've not yet even released the film and people refer to it as something cult. That drives me nuts because we don't deserve that yet. We aren't a cult film. We're attempting to someday hopefully be a true cult movie—that would be wonderful—but, you can't make a cult movie; it becomes a cult movie. If the fans decide to embrace All About Evil and put it up on a pedestal and watch it over and over again, then maybe sometime down the line we can refer to it as a cult movie. But it's not a cult movie yet. It's brand-new and it needs to find its audience. The movies that we screen at Midnight Mass are tried and true, beloved films; but, as a segue into this feature film, you're right, yes, a trailer seems wholly appropriate. Maybe someday we'll be able to create a Midnight Mass presentation out of All About Evil; but, I would much rather have that be after people have embraced the film and decided to love it and understand it, y'know?

Guillén: I have to ask the obvious question because some people were upset when they heard the news that this is the last year of Midnight Mass at The Bridge. Was it your decision to discontinue Midnight Mass? Was it the theater's? What's happened that Midnight Mass is now shifting away from The Bridge?

Grannell: Yes, it was my decision, along with the group of people who created Midnight Mass 12 years ago. While making All About Evil, we had to start prep for this season and had to table everything until we were done shooting the film. Usually, we would have been booking movies, powwowing, creating a marketing campaign, prepping for the summer; but, we didn't have time because we were working on All About Evil. When we finally sat down to do it, there was this sense of exhaustion, a feeling of frustration, and the heaviness of having done something for 11 years, and racking our brains to keep it fresh, new, exciting and interesting and relevant not just for the fans but one another. I always said that once it stopped being fun, we would figure out a way to rechallenge, repurpose, redo it, revamp it.

We all looked at each other and I said, "There's something about this season that feels like maybe this is the last one?" Everyone nodded in agreement. It has nothing to do with anything other than that we've done it for 12 seasons of 7 to 8 weeks of back to back shows. It's been amazing. We still love it. I think this Summer's going to be so special because we know this is the last. Part of it is that—in order to rechallenge and repurpose Midnight Mass—we've gone on the road, and we loved that; but, we want to do something new for San Francisco. All I can say is the plan is to create bigger and better shows with all that work and energy that goes into the pre-show, instead of tearing it down after one or two nights and having to do something new the next week; to really enjoy it, to savor it, to let as many audiences come to see it as possible, and to not feel so rushed and hurried. Lately, we've been hitting this wall with Midnight Mass in the Summer season where we can extend all this energy on a show like Barebarella and try to create this fun, theatrical experience, we do it for one night, and then those costumes get put away and I have to wake up on Sunday morning and start thinking about the next five shows.

What it's become really is that the shows have become so special and important to us that we want to take them to the next level; but—in order to do that—we have to give ourselves instead of a week to get ready for the shows, let's give ourselves four or five weeks and do the show for two weeks. That's what's really going on. We're not abandoning Midnight Mass, we're not walking away from Midnight Mass, we're strengthening it through rechallenging ourselves, trying something new.

Guillén: In its current incarnation, Midnight Mass is kicking off in style with your opening weekend Linda Blair doublebill! Rollerboogie on Friday, July 12 and The Exorcist on Saturday, July 13. With Blair there for both screenings! How did that all come about?

Grannell: Linda Blair has been on my list of dream guests for years. In the world of cult movies and the kinds of films that we love and celebrate at Midnight Mass, I have to say that's a very short list these days. So many of the fantastic people we would have liked to bring over the years are no longer with us and we've brought John Waters, Tura Satana, Mink Stole.... Linda Blair's a household name. She was so young when she started making movies. She's so vital and fabulous and made all these amazing incredible films that we love and she's just someone who's been on that list. We actually approached her about coming last year and she expressed interest. Unfortunately, we had a schedule conflict. The weekend I had open, she was on the East Coast. So we tabled the idea to see if we couldn't make it work this year and I was super-thrilled to find out that—not only are we going to be able to do it—but, she's excited about it.

Guillén: Have you met her?

Grannell: I have not. But she is friends with Cassandra Peterson and I'm pretty sure that Mink knows her too. That helps, y'know. It's funny how in this world of show business there are pockets of it that are quite small. When you're interested in certain kinds of movies, people know each other. I was able to get a good recommendation from Cassandra. Perhaps! [Laughter.]

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1 comment:

Michael Hawley said...

Josh is always such a great interviewee. It's reassuring to know that Midnight Mass won't be disappearing forever. And of course, I can't wait for this coming weekend's EXORCIST pre-show!