THE DOPE ELF
Written and Directed by Asher Hartman
Performed by Gawdafful National Theater
Saturday, Sept. 14: Play 1
Sunday, Sept. 15: Play 2
Friday, Sept. 20: Play 1
Saturday, Sept. 21: Play 2
Sunday, Sept. 22: Play 3
Friday, Oct. 11: Play 1
Saturday, Oct. 12: Play 2
Sunday, Oct. 13: Play 3
Friday, Oct. 18: Play 1
Saturday, Oct. 19: Play 2
Sunday, Oct. 20: Play 3
7:30pm doors / 8:00pm performance
The performances begin promptly at 8:00pm, and late entry cannot be guaranteed. Plays 1, 2 and 3 are scripted and sequential but non-narrative. Each play may be enjoyed on its own, and attending all three will result in the most complete experience.
$10 suggested donation
Tickets available HERE
800 SE 10th Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
Michael Bonnabel as Alfred, a man married to John; The Boar, an animal; Michael, an actor
Philip Littell as John, a man married to Alfred; Saxobeat, a mangy wolf dog; The Little Man, death; a Bat
Zut Lorz as Gingy, a troll; The Blue Suit, a spirit
Paul Outlaw as Dirk, an actor; Auntie, a ghost; Cornhen, a spirit; Ken II, a young magician
Joe Seely as The Magician, Ken I, an adult
Jacqueline Wright as The Dope Elf, an elf
Special thanks to Candice Lin, Mark Allen, Mathew Timmons, Haruko Tanaka, Emily Mast, Julia Johnson, Edgar Fabian Frias, John Beer, Roz Crews, Srijohn Chowdhury, Adam Linder, Bryatt Bryant, Douglas Green, Nicholas Hurwitz and Andrew Waddell, Amanda Horowitz, BW Grant Barnes, and the Hartman-Napoli families, and everyone who volunteered or donated to The Dope Elf.
The Dope Elf was commissioned by Yale Union and The Lab with support from The Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, the California Arts Council, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Asher Hartman is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose work centers on the exploration of self through Western histories and ideologies. He is the founder and chief beneficiary of Gawdafful National Theater, a group of artist-actors for whom he has written since 2010. He is also one half of the performative duo Krystal Krunch (with Haruko Tanaka), who teach intuition-building to artists, activists, and interested others. Recent theatrical works include “Lost Privilege Company” in “Archive Fever: Lost Words, Buried Voices” as part of USC’s Visions and Voices series and Pieter Performance Space (2018); “Sorry, Atlantis, Or Eden’s Achin’ Organ Seeks Revenge” at Machine Project, LA (2017); “Mr. Akita,” Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, (2017) and at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2017); the Tang Museum, New York (2015) “The Silver, the Black, the Wicked Dance,” LACMA (2016).
Elves, trolls, magicians, and infectious agents of Europe’s historical disease come to life in the form of ordinary American folk who inhabit a landscape of psychic pain set upon the structures of white supremacy and violence. This is the world of fast food, streaming entertainment, oxycontin, sexual obsessions, and generalized anxiety disorder. It’s a world of strangled desire and misplaced hope. White supremacy is the underlying cause of all ills, loss, boredom, and perilous transformation.
Welcome to The Dope Elf, where Asher Hartman and his company, the Gawdafful National Theater, have set up a makeshift mobile home park/film set in order to stage a series of performances. Their residency is livestreaming to Yale Union’s website (yaleunion.org), so please take note of where the cameras are located if you’d prefer not to be part of the action.
Guardians of young audience members should note that The Dope Elf contains strong language and vigorous (though clothed and entirely absurd) displays of sex. Proceed at your own discretion. Audiences should be aware that this is a play in an expanded sense—in order to be fully realized, it requires your collaboration. Its story unfolds without linearity, and scenes happen in different spaces throughout the gallery. Feel free to walk around following the action or have a seat on the floor or in a chair. We kindly ask that you do not talk or take pictures or video because it distracts the actors. In return, we promise that the actors won’t touch you or call upon you—they may look at you but it’s probably not personal. Please come back as The Dope Elf unfolds with three different performances during Gawdafful National Theater’s stay at Yale Union.
Part live play, part social experiment, part miniseries, The Dope Elf is a live-in art project that challenges the relationship between performer and observer, investigating the presumed safety of white art spaces and corresponding legacies of white supremacy. Bearing aesthetic heritage to 80’s TV hits, Kenny Kingston’s “Sweet Spirits” and Paul Reuben’s “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” this installation/living space/play questions popular culture’s fascination with mystical power as a substitute for political power. Magic of course is a force that suggests agency and power, but caught here in The Dope Elf’s magical sway each character grapples with their own unidentifiable psychic pain. Hartman’s projects exist in a world of their own, and they tackle difficult themes in an entirely different way than we are accustomed to (his is a disarming and affective space).
This is about power. I will sacrifice myself to the impulse for power. As actors do… Oh yes, I am a magical system. An elf is a magical system. I am that. I am a system. I rearrange. People and things. Like that. Oh yes, what you perceive of me is true. Whatever you think. Oh, yes, there will be blood.
—The Dope Elf
Hartman is interested in working with visual and performing artists who challenge the suppositions of the theater and his own authorial control, creating an opportunity for his work to radically change and grow during the course of its production. For The Dope Elf, each actor worked with Hartman, an intuitive, to channel their shadow sides, as well as their collective sense of the American shadow. This resulted in a cast of slippery characters: the Dope Elf, a dangerous trickster of “white light” with no name, no DNA, and a fragmented sense of self; Alfred and John, the contentious and loving couple turned violent elf and hellhound; Gingy, the sad troll; Cornhen, the righteous destroyer of time; Ken the Magician and his paramour, his own auntie’s ghost (who is also his boyhood friend Ken II); Little Man, dealer of death; the actors Michael and Dirk; and above all, “The Grannies” a finger wagging, crude ring of older femininities who rule earthly life (don’t look for them because they never appear). These characters often overlap and inhabit one another, switching, like the language itself, from the naturalistic and familiar to the poetically ambiguous, never quite settling on a stable identity. Channeling his own childhood, Hartman remembers violence and magic as entwined forces, where the longing to construct a more powerful image of self often results in strangled desire, residual fear, and rage.
If you occupy a land, you occupy a history, and that history talks back. Dreams, hauntings, visions are the mediums through which this history is transmitted. Personalities fragment along spiritual fault lines. Inner landscapes are remade gradually or cataclysmically.
—Gawdafful National Theater actor Philip Littell
This stage is a fractious space of spilt language—bodies overwhelmed by words; people caught inside of other people. This gallery is full of images—of psychic pain, of whiteness putting on disguises and trying on identities like avatars and rearranging this, that, and I.
Dena Beard, curator