Onstage: Feats of Grandeur

Cloven Hoof Theatre leaps out of the gate

Jun 15, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Sara Beiting

Signs of life: Coven Hoof Theatre invades The Mockbee on Saturday.

It's beyond appropriate that the nature of Cloven Hoof Theatre was borne from a demonic Halloween night back in 2004. I speak of Hogscraper's undead bazaar, an experience never to fade in Porkopolis music history. While handlebar-mustachioed Henry McHenry and pig-headed Lariat B. Grim already had their sinister set together, McHenry had a grander gaze for the evening.

"I wanted to put on a grand extravaganza with a giant projection, our own lights and props, an online trailer and the whole nine yards," he says.

With the help of arresting artist J.Cobb, they were able to breathe life into the animations and projections. And with Satan on their side, Hogscraper erected deviant damsels upon the stage and initiated the Barnyard Burlesque to the gangland. Welcome Sweet Hayseed and her bawdy bumpkins!

Barnyard Burlesque hastily harvested heat, fans, impetus and autonomy. Perhaps it was the shake-shake-shimmy roll all over the stage in undulating fits of sexuality. That and the delirium of frenzied feather boas, unguarded garter belts, wicked-whack wigs and electric eyelashes from red to violet.

McHenry and Sweet Hayseed toiled tightly together over the next two years, spawning more gore and smaller seams.

"(She) and I both had this notion that we were working our way toward a full vaudeville review of some sort," McHenry says. "Halloween 2006 saw our closest attempt at pulling that off."

Unfortunately the Hogscraper lights dimmed soon after and McHenry was left in the dark.

"We began looking for a place to experiment with set and room design and gather talent for a regular show," he says. "We found this difficult and cost prohibitive until I spoke with Fred Lane, owner of The Mockbee building in Brighton, who made it possible."

Customization translates to work — a lot of it. McHenry squared away the color scheme and layout of the performance room while J.Cobb flavored the whole motif with striking super-sized paintings and death-defying façades. R.I.P. Cincinnati ... we've got our very own Marquee de Beetlejuice!

The second level houses the whimsical world that is Cloven Hoof Theatre. Walking through the midway lined with park benches and a coming star-scaled sky, you enter the crème de la crème: the performance stage to your right, the VIP bench to your immediate left, the band stage to your next left and the bar, well, just keep walking. You'll find it. You always do.

Let the games begin! Your pleasure appointment at Cloven Hoof Theatre Grand Opening will let loose with risqué business from the Barnyard Burlesque. While the Goombas Rock & Roll your imagination; Father Freddy Freaky Teeth, the MC bard, will tongue-in-cheek you in between a Plastic Surgery performed by naughty nurses; a lusty Sadist-Masochist heave-ho; and a Chicken Dance that leaves you lusting for luck with those funky chicks. And that's just the beginning.

Next up, the main attraction: New York City's Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. Ladies and gentlemen, step right up and see what they bring to the ring! The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus has stitched up with Magic Hat Brewing Company once again to take their vaudeville/sideshow/ cirkus Summer Variety 12 Pack on the road. This is the real deal where swords are swallowed, juxtapositions are juggled, stilts are stepped on and fire is feasted upon.

So what's next, what's to come of Cloven Hoof Theatre? Vision, boundless vision.

"The hope is that the space will serve as a home to experiment and grow and refine this strange and twisted burlesque, vaudeville, carnival world," says McHenry. "Most importantly we hope that talent in various forms, buried throughout the city, will crawl out of the woodwork and experiment with us. Anyone that does anything in a five to 20 minute performance should get on board."

Go on now, you heard the man! Can you dance the fine line between skill and chance? Then you too can join Henry McHenry, the Goombas, Sweet Hayseed and the Barnyard Burlesque and be a part of Cloven Hoof Theatre.

Cloven Hoof Theatre's grand opening, which features Bindlestaff Family Cirkus, is 10 p.m. Saturday at The Mockbee in Brighton.