And the Winner Is ... 

Emerald Rain Productions awards itself an ERPie.

The glitz, the glamor, the big stars treading a red carpet: Emerald Rain Productions' ERPies, an awards ceremony/rock show at Oakland Metro on July 16, was just like the Oscars. Except that there was no glitz, glamor, or red carpet. And the actors -- all Emerald Rain Productions veterans -- aren't big stars. Yet. And ERP impresario and MC Dominic Mah won't ever be mistaken for Billy Crystal. Wearing a T-shirt and pausing often to poke at the recalcitrant VCR entrusted with the video clips from Emerald Rain's ten-year history of creating high-quality, low-budget rock opera, the diffident Mah seemed constantly surprised by the audience's presence. "We'll be testing the limits of self-referential humor tonight," he warned the sixty or so people gamely squeezed into the bleachers and snacking on sweets provided by Rick and Ann's.

The award categories owed more to MTV than the Academy, including "Best Supporting Character Who Far Upstaged the Main Character," "Outstanding Achievement in Evil Threat," and "Best Saving of Universe by Star-Crossed Couple." Oddly enough, amidst all the ERP productions, the Kurt Russell stinker Big Trouble in Little China also had entries in every category. Once opened, all the envelopes were tossed on the floor. The awards, pulled unceremoniously from a Trader Joe's bag, were thrift-store trophies with new handwritten labels and oversized gold paper hats stuck on. When honorees went over their time giving thanks (not often, as many of the honorees were too busy chatting with their adoring public at the bar to realize that they'd been chosen), ERP's composer Gaby Alter would play a few bars of "Jesus Christ Superstar" on his keyboard.

The real point of the evening, besides being a sort of family reunion, was the music. Alter led ERP's house band and varying combinations of eight skilled vocalists through several of the songs that enlivened shows like "Vapor Tales" and "Young Zombies in Love," often accompanied from the audience by other actors and ERP fans. Elusive rapper MC Frontalot (ERP writer Damian Hess) appeared to drop wack science with his tunes "Indier than Thou" ("Next you know I'm meeting pop stars in stretched cars/Doing the soundtrack for the Wendy's tie-in with Jar Jar/Paying rent on time, owning things/Suing Napster with my best friend Sting") and "Nerdcore Hip-Hop." The evening was plagued by technical problems, the bottled water ran out, at one point Mah was laying on his back on the floor while people moshed in the doorway, and my choice for "Best Motivation for a Lengthy Monologue" (Lu's speech to the Yummy Mummy cereal box) didn't win. But the ERPies were still a fitting tribute to a theater collective that, flying under radar and red-carpetless, has managed to produce original, whimsical shows for ten years while keeping its sense of humor.


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