Clay McLeod Chapman returns to Richmond from New York this week, promising "new stories, new music, and more perversion." For the uninitiated, Chapman is the creative force behind "The Pumpkin Pie Show," a raw and rollicking piece of performance art that marries theater, music and literature. The Richmond native originally produced the "PPS" in 1995 and has presented it here several times since. With each production, he selects the best of his Southern-gothic short stories to perform and varies his musical accompaniment. This time around, the band One Ring Zero acts as the show's sonic backdrop.
"Each version of the show perfects the format," says Chapman, a seven-time finalist in TheatreVirginia's New Voices for the Theatre playwriting program. "I've learned which stories complement each other so there can be a good balance between light and heavy, serious and funny. Each show gets us closer to the Utopian Pie."
Some of the characters in this latest incarnation include a wandering drifter who is a self-proclaimed "pumpkin-humper," a drunken rodeo clown who discovers his soul has been sold, and an old hag whose husband returns from the sea in pieces.
Chapman will be tuning up the show here before beginning a four-week run at the St. Marks Theatre in New York in April. For this performer, Richmond is the perfect off-off-Broadway location. "There's a comfort in doing it here. There's something in this environment that is conducive to beginnings," says Chapman.
Something new for this production is the backing of the Barksdale Theatre. Even though "PPS" will be running at Fieldens, the Barksdale is producing it because "this show is consistent with the challenging new theater we are trying to develop in Richmond," says Rick St. Peter, an associate artist at the Barksdale. "We're trying to offer shows that appeal to younger and more diverse audiences."
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