While watching films isn’t typically an interactive sport, the governing body of Cucalorians continuously seek to remedy that each year with the addition of more dance, theatre, storytelling, and engaging live performances. Enter: “Campefireball.”
Self-described as “sandcastles by nature,” “Campfireball” live is a unique interactive theatrical experience that combines storytelling, comedy, film, music, dance, lecture, poetry, and anything in between. As “Campfireball” host Cory Howard’s role in all of this is part ringmaster, part guide, and part “foil.”
“I recently described my participation in ‘Campfireball’ to a friend as being like Andy Kaufman,” he tells. “But instead of throwing the audience under the bus, I throw myself under the bus. Aside from that, ‘Campfireball’ is a little tricky to adequately describe unless you’ve seen it.”
In a nutshell, since its inception in 2011, every experience/show has been different because of varying guest artists, themes and audiences. And everyone who comes out to “Campfireball,” as part of 2017’s Cucalorus Festival on November 9, is taking a chance on its unpredictability. However, Howard’s job is to make sure to reward that chance and make sure everyone’s “in on the joke” in an inclusive environment.
Cuc-fanatics may remember Howard from Cucalorus 13 with Superkiiiiids! Part comedy routine, part performance art, part “wackfest,” Howard partnered with actor/artistic director Jonathan Guggenheim (who has his own short, “Pilgrims,” adapted from local author Brad Land’s famed novel, “Goat,” showing in the Mickey Moles Shorts: Love & Romance block on Sun., Nov. 12, 10:15 a.m.).
“I am really, really excited and honored to be bringing the show to Wilmington and Cucalorus—two entities that have been enormously important in my growth and development as a human being,” Howard tells. “I haven’t performed in town since the time when Jonathan Guggenheim and I were ping-ponging around with The Superkiiiiiiids! And I am so thirsty to put some work in front of everyone again as a 35-year-old. It’s really funny and weirdly profound for me to look at ‘Campfireball’ and notice the ways I still tap into that Superkiiiiid!-DNA and the other ways I’ve pushed myself into a space of real-life emotional stakes.”
Howard’s been based in Los Angeles, where he started the series. He has hosted shows revolving around themes from Mars Rovers to birthdays. “One show was set inside a giant inflatable bubble,” he continues, “and all of the performers and acts correspond with that experience, which happens only once and then disappears into the primordial ooze.”
Howard’s dream is for “Campfireball” to be an umbrella for a specfiic style of storytelling that includes his live show, an immersive social-media presence he calls “micro-storytelling,” as well as a television show … sort of.
“I’m using the word ‘television show’ liberally,” he clarifies. “What it really is: Something I am going to film in a garage and put online—but, hey, dress for the job you want. Before I left for the tour I’m currently on, I wrote a talk show I describe as (sort of) an unironic ‘Mr. Rogers’ for adults. The way it works is, each season has a grand over-arching existential problem we explore, and every episode in that season has its own capsule or niche that, while standing on its own, also works to push forward the larger idea of the season. The goal was to film it before I left, but, ya know, failure is cool sometimes, too. Gonna pick it up where it left off when I get back to Los Angeles in the winter.”
In order to take his live show on the road, Howard had to create something that could be spontaneous and unpredictable. It also needed to be repeated and replicated.
“I’m doing about 12 shows on tour, and couldn’t fathom creating an entirely new show each time,” he explains. “So the way it works now are three possible ‘Campfireball’ experiences: the mind show, the heart show and the body show. The audience chooses which journey we’re going to take. Within the framework of that particular show, the audience’s reactions and contributions are always unique, and help to steer the event in a direction that is fully owned by only us that night.”
Though, fun isn’t forced upon anyone, there are plenty of unique participation opportunities throughout the course of the event. Folks can engage on their terms, within their comfort zones.
“I never want the audience to feel like they have to do me a favor by participating,’” Howard says. “Without giving too much away about the Cucalorus show— depending on which out of the three possibilities is chosen—there are handheld, physical relics to interact with and take away from the event; there’s some moments that reach outside of the ‘Campfireball’ space; there’s something that is begun at the show and completed a week later; there’s opportunities to connect with important people in my life; and we all may or may not form a band at one point.”
Wilmington comic and WWAY contributor Wills Maxwell is secured as one of Howard’s guest entertainers for the Cucalorus “Campfireball.” However, there is still a lot coming together.
“I’m having several conversations with an awesome array of contributors,” he adds. “Come out everybody! Let’s dance!”