Porno Death Cult: Faith and Faithlessness

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By: Tessa Perkins

First published in The Peak.

Everyone believes in something — it’s how we survive life and deal with existence. “We’re all dealing with the same things, we just use different tools to cope,” said Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg.

Whether you’re Christian, Bhuddist, athiest, or none of the above, you’ll find something to relate to in Friedenberg’s new dance-theatre work Porno Death Cult. The show is about faith, what that means, and figuring out what you believe in.

 

Friedenberg, an SFU Contemporary Arts alumna, has been interested in these types of themes for a long time. Her previous work, Highgate, also dealt with death, but in a much different way. This time around she’s more interested in the abstract side of things versus whether or not the coffin will be the right size.

The inspiration for this show came as she was walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, an 800km pilgrimage that is older than Christianity.

She found it very interesting that people have been walking that same route for thousands of years as a means to connect with faith. Of course there are Catholics walking the trail, but Friedenberg said that there were also people of many other religions and nationalities.

“It made me interested in what we do to cope with life and existence,” said Friedenberg. “The show explores the idea of faith and faithlessness — it’s a continuum, and it changes for most of us.”

The title for the work emerged during this pilgrimage, before she’d even thought of creating the piece. She was charmed by the little towns and cathedrals, and noticed that the statues of Jesus along the way began to get better and better lookingw. “They became more muscular and there was this rock star looking guy on a cross.”

They also got bloodier: “The Spanish really go in for that sort of thing,” she laughed. Friedenberg noticed that the majority of the people in the cathedrals were women, and she thought: “This is like a porno death cult,” and the name stuck.

“The central character, Maureen, is lonely,” explained Friedenberg, “she’s going through an archetypal journey to find faith and what she believes; to find salvation and how to act the right way.” Maureen draws on Christianity, yoga, Bhuddism, and revivalist faiths in order to try to find what she believes in.

“It’s comic at times, but it’s a tragic journey,” said Friedenberg. “There are glimpses of the exaggerated Vancouver or California yoga teacher, and there’s a little bit of sexy Jesus,” she laughed.

While some might wonder if this show will offend, Friedenberg assures that she is not making fun of any religion, but exploring the idea of faith in general. “I’m not lampooning, but there is humour,” she said, “you’ve gotta have a sense of humour.”

Along with choreographing the show, Friedenberg also wrote the textual element, and her husband, Marc Stewart is the composer. “He’s pulling from all kinds of spiritual practice and ideas like chanting and spiritual music,” she said.

Another element that adds to the show is the visual art exhibition in the Firehall Arts Centre Gallery. Alice Mansell, the show’s costume designer, and Mickey Meads, the set designer are presenting PDC: In Progress which showcases photos from the show and mixed media. This is a rare occasion when the art in the Firehall Gallery directly relates to the show in the theatre.

As Friedenberg said, “The show starts as you enter the lobby.”

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