- Anne Bothwell’s blogging about the original Coppertone show
- Lawson Taitte’s review of the same show for The Dallas Morning News
Matthew Posey is one of the godfathers of alternative theater in North Texas. As a Deep Ellum theater pioneer, Posey — along with the founders of the Undermain and Pegasus Theatre — helped transform the warehouse-and-auto-repair-shop area into North Texas’ own off-off-Broadway. At one point, Deep Ellum had five theater companies within a few blocks of each other — a unique situation in Dallas’ cultural history.
Posey is also the only theater artist in the area to open four theater venues — including one independent movie house. And he’s the only theater artist here who has lived in his theater — from the heyday of the Deep Ellum Theatre Garage in the ’80s and ’90s to his latest storefront venture, the Ochre House, a block from Fair Park.
When you’re in Posey’s theater, you’re a guest in his living room.
Posey has a degree in film directing from the American Film Institute, and during his years acting in Dallas and his thirteen years in LA, he’s appeared in dozens of films and TV shows from Lonesome Dove to No Country for Old Men. But with his stage work, he’s taken a more over-the-top, kamikaze approach, as sort of a downmarket Wooster Group. His funky stage shows have pushed sexual and theatrical boundaries with original scripts, improvised performances, forays into multi-media effects and sometimes-zany, sometimes-ramshackle production values.
Which pretty much describes his new onstage partner and alter ego, Coppertone Jones. Posey, his sister and his mother created the puppet last Christmas, and Jones has since been featured in two original shows, including The Pope of Chili Town. The puppet has proved popular enough that he’s merited a third go-round, but as Posey explains in our Think TV interview (above), he actually developed Coppertone with a trilogy in mind. The third show in the Coppertone Zone, Coppertone 3: Asylum, opens Aug. 29. [Conflict of interest confession: My daughter is stage-managing Asylum. But then, I've watched Posey perform long before she was born.]
Posey insists that when he came up with Coppertone he didn’t really know about — and wasn’t inspired by — the Broadway musical, Avenue Q, which, after all, is designed as an ‘adult’ spoof of Sesame Street. Ditto MTV2′s raunchy cable comedy, Wonder Showzen.
Coppertone inhabits a different universe — shambling, comic and sordid. That universe has been a bar inhabited by prostitutes and sleazy bartenders as well as Coppertone himself, foul-mouthed and slow on the uptake. But Asylum finds our green-skinned hero with the stick through his head in something of One Flew Over the Puppet’s Nest: He wakes up from a blackout to discover he’s ensconced in a psych ward with fellow inmates, the nervous Nickels and Burnie the burn victim.
Creating Coppertone in a deliberately half-baked Japanese bunraku style has meant that Posey and his fellow puppeteers must dress entirely in black (Posey calls them “ninja suits”). Officially, they are “invisible” to the audience, and the focus remains on the puppets and their antics. The veteran actor says during his Think TV interview that being “disguised” like this (and working entirely through the puppet) allows him the freedom to get away with much more on stage than he could otherwise.
Which, considering some of the stuff Posey has pulled in the past without a puppet, can give one pause.
Asylum opens Aug. 20 at the Ochre House, 825 Exposition, and runs through Sept. 19.