Dave Shirley on making the one-of-a-kind theatrical experience ‘Oddville’
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Oddville: A Love Story?’
Where: The Temporary at Willits
When: Friday, May 11, 8 p.m.
How much: $29
Tickets and more info: http://www.tacaw.org
Dave Shirley’s one-man multimedia theatrical experience “Oddville: A Love Story?” is a unique piece of work. The thing is so singular that Shirley — a Denver native, longtime Boulder street performer and one-time “America’s Got Talent” contestant — has a hard time describing it for prospective audiences.
“There is certainly no show like it,” Shirley, who will perform “Oddville” tonight at The Temporary at Willits, said in a recent phone interview. “We always describe it as Blue Man Group meets ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.’ When I tell people that, they look at me like a dog looks at a ceiling fan. Like, ‘What?’ And then they see it and they’re like, ‘Oh, that was Blue Man Group meets ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.’”
It’s primarily a visual show, with no spoken dialogue, much like Blue Man Group. And it tackles awkward romance with a slapstick-y approach that eventually pulls at the heartstrings, like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Toss in a 10-by-10-foot LED video screen and Shirley’s wide and well-honed repertoire of tricks, and you’re on your way to “Oddville.”
“There’s lots of technology, but at its heart it is a love story,” Shirley said. “I’m sometimes concerned that people see the ‘odd’ in ‘Oddville’ and they’re just expecting an evening of weird. It’s not really that. It all works together in an unusual way but it’s accessible for people of all ages, from all walks of life.”
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Shirley plays a man named Lonely 1 who is caught between reality and a digital universe. When he orders some “Happiness” off the internet, it arrives in a cardboard box. What follows is a quirky romance filled with sight gags, prop comedy, miming and playful, impeccably timed interactions between Shirley and characters on the video screen. There’s a “Dirty Dancing” dance sequence with a blow-up doll and there’s audience participation and a succession of headscratching, gee-whiz sleights of hand that have made the show a hit during runs in Denver and beyond.
If Shirley and his integrated video performance sounds familiar, it’s probably because a similar act got him to the quarterfinals of the reality competition show “America’s Got Talent” in 2013.
Shirley auditioned with a video work that wowed the judges. He’s convinced he would have made it further into the competition if he hadn’t been pigeon-holed as the guy who did multimedia performances. He had hoped to bring new tricks to the program for each round, showcasing the routines he’d perfected as a street performer on the Pearl Street Mall.
“My concept was that I would do all these different things and I’d be the guy who, every time I went on, I would do something completely different than the time before,” he said.
But after his initial video piece — in which he appeared to be dancing with judge Howard Stern and others — astounded judges and the nationwide television audience, producers pushed him to make another video rather than a knife-juggling routine he’d perfected for the next round. He finished a new video blending a ballet duet, live action and video. But it fizzled with the judges and knocked him out of the competition, due to the rushed process (“I think that needed a little bit more rehearsal time,” concluded judge Mel B).
“I didn’t get to test it in front of audiences and it was going to be 50-50 if they were going to like it,” Shirley recalled.
The knife-juggling routine that was scrapped from “America’s Got Talent,” however, was resurrected in “Oddville.” It’s one of countless talents he integrated into the show.
“When you’re a street performer, you pick up a lot of useless skills that are only good for making someone laugh,” he explained.
The idea for “Oddville” began as a one-man variety show that would cram all of Shirley’s tricks into one performance, but that concept steadily gave way to the storyline of “Oddville,” which would integrate all of his sundry feats into a narrative: “I developed the story because I wanted it to be something that people would go to and get invested in a story, rather than just ‘Hey, I’m doing a bunch of tricks!’”
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