“One lady used to come in with a basket of eggs. She’d put one on her head and let it roll down and splatter on the floor. She’d do it again and again for five minutes, egg after egg.” GerRee Hinshaw laughs as she shares the recollection about a former “Freak Train” regular.
Hinshaw is the host of “Freak Train,” a monthly, open stage, miasma of strange at Denver’s Bug Theatre. This month’s installment of the unique night marks its seventh anniversary, and this train is only picking up speed.
“It’s come a long way,” Hinshaw says. “When we first started, the Bug and the Promethian theater company (a kind of sister group to the Bug’s theater company) were all friends, and there was this sort of ‘what do we do with Monday nights?’ which are typically dark for theater.”
From the start, “Freak Train” was more than just an open mic night with a stool and a guy with long hair and an acoustic guitar.
“Lots of actors use the stage to test monologue material. Theaters have sent groups of actors over to do a snippet of a play they’re producing…Now, we see everything—people who use the stage in a true meaning of open format.
Hinshaw says when it started, the audience was pretty much the performers. Now, there’s a line waiting when the door opens. A main reason for the success is likely its accessibility to everyone. “It’s completely open to all kinds of performance,” she says. “There’s 12 slots, five minutes each, to do whatever.”
Dropping eggs on the floor, for instance.
“Recently, there was this guy who showed up in a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles costume. He quickly realized he could only be heard through the screen over the eye holes, so there he was, singing songs with a microphone up to his eye,” Hinshaw says.
Or, there was the guy dressed in a yellow chicken suit who sang Neil Diamond songs. Or the occasional ballerina or wizard. Or something else entirely.
“People who are not in costume, come across just freakin’ weird,” Hinshaw says. “It’s just easier to describe the costume stuff in print, I think.”
Other acts have included musicians, artists, comedians, actors, poets, and storytellers.
“What we found early on is so amazing about ‘Freak Train’ is not just the performers who are willing to try anything, but the audience is willing to try, too. It’s two things, really: a) they like free beer, and b) we’re willing to give you your five minutes to do what you do even if we’re puzzled after you’ve done it. That’s the sort of the spirit that keeps it going.”
At press time, Hinshaw was still hammering out the anniversary celebration details. You can be sure it’ll be a spectacle.
“So much of the ‘freak’ stuff you may hear about is true; you just have to come see it for yourself.”
August 27, 7 p.m. Bug Theatre, Denver