The Royal Frog Ballet recently staged an outdoor event to welcome fall, but according to the lead players, it wasn’t so much a performance for strangers as a gift to new friends. The effect was surreal and entertaining.
Amelia Mason reports at WBUR, “A masked woman in an apron and kerchief jumps up on a picnic table and addresses a crowd.
“ ‘I’m your grandmother, and I’m here to help you throughout this show … The first thing to know is that when I ring this bell it means we’re all going to move to the next thing and you’re going to have to follow my directions, OK?’
“It is the opening night of the Royal Frog Ballet’s ninth-annual ‘Surrealist Cabaret.’ Our guide — Shea Witzo, in the role of the Granny — gives us some more instructions: Watch out for holes. Stick close together. But first — wait. We pause for a moment, unsure of where to look.
“Then, 6-year-old Aiden Bairstow catches sight of something.
“ ‘Oh, I know what’s happening,’ he says. ‘I see it right behind you.’ We turn to see a band — fiddle, accordion and drums — approaching from across the field.
“The farm, it turns out, has many secrets in store. No matter where we look, something strange and surprising is bound to appear: a tall, swaying monster on stilts, for instance, or the pair of scientists who inform us that we are part of their experiment. At one point, our guide delights us with a salty parody of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ The pieces are linked loosely around a theme. …
“ ‘A lot of us are trying to make work that is like a gift, rather than a performance for [the audience],’ says Sophie Wood, one of the founders of the ‘Surrealist Cabaret.’ The project started in 2007, when Wood and a group of artist friends decided to perform some of their works-in-progress at a farm in Amherst. They mounted the production in a big barn and served the audience dinner. …
“The collective goes by the name the Royal Frog Ballet, and it has mounted weird and whimsical performances every year since its founding. … This fall, the theme is ‘hope and joy.’ …
“ ‘It feels like an old tradition,’ says Leah Sakala. … ‘It feels like we’re partaking in something, the kind of art that’s been made for a very long time, but at the same time it manages to be very relevant.’ ”
Photo: Sarah Ledbetter for WBUR
A performance of the “Surrealist Cabaret” in Essex, Mass., in October.