January 11th, 2003

The Boston Globe

Lofty standard they perform `Bedroom Theater’ in one of JP’s dwindling artist spaces
Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff

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Boyer reads from Dracula

Boyer reads from Dracula

 

A curtain is furled under a pipe that runs just beneath the ceiling, and a spotted cat wanders in. On the makeshift stage there is a ripped couch, a battered metal file cabinet labeled “This Was Your Life,” and a swath of green shag carpet.

 

Sporting long sideburns and blue Chuck Taylor sneakers, Gabriel Boyer takes the stage and launches into a reading of “Dracula.” The spectators arrayed on the performer’s bed are less than comfortable: The slats beneath his mattress aren’t nailed in, so they tend to shift whenever somebody moves too much.

 

This is “Bedroom Theater,” freewheeling performances that take place in Boyer’s Jamaica Plain loft every eight days. Boyer, 26, is a frequent actor and the author of some of the plays and skits that have been staged in his bedroom for the past year. He and a friend have even published a guide, “Seven Short Plays for the Bedroom.”

It turns out to be a surprisingly popular form of underground entertainment that’s as much about the setting as about the play. Bedroom drama may point to a revival of avant-garde theater in Boston – or not – but there are at least some fans willing to watch performances from Boyer’s bed instead of a playhouse seat.

“There are a lot of people who are just excited about the idea,” Boyer said.

Susan Hartnett of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who works to preserve artists’ spaces in Boston’s increasingly expensive real estate market, said Bedroom Theater is a new twist.

“I’ve seen it in the living room, and I’ve seen it in a cemetery, but I’ve never seen it in the bedroom,” Hartnett said.

Boyer, a veteran of performance art “events” in New York City and Boston, shares his loft on Green Street with three roommates: a musician, a sculptor, and a middle-school science teacher. In addition to the bedroom theater, the apartment has music rehearsal space, a darkroom, and a silkscreening center, all for rent so cheap the roommates are reluctant to disclose how much they pay.

It’s the sort of space that is rapidly disappearing from Jamaica Plain and other Boston neighborhoods, as cheap lofts are converted into expensive condos.

Cora Higgins, a 30-year-old singer and painter who skipped last Tuesday night’s Bedroom Theater performance in favor of hanging out in Boyer’s living room, ticked off the addresses of three other lofts she used to frequent; all are now defunct, their artist residents pushed out by high rents or condo conversions.

“It’s not good culturally for the city,” Higgins said.

For now, Bedroom Theater is alive and well. In addition to “Dracula,” last Tuesday’s performance featured a dramatic reading of the “Holy Tablets” of a religious sect that believes human beings are descended from aliens, and a skit Boyer was still polishing as the alien act concluded.

“So are you up for performing tonight? I have a woman character who needs to be performed,” Boyer asked a red-haired woman who was one of the four people watching from his bed. Four other spectators were sitting on chairs, but on other nights, attendance has been as large as 20, he said.

Back in the living room, Boyer’s friend Stacey Rapino was taking his phone calls. “He’s in the middle of `Bedroom Theater,’ ” she told one caller. “Can I take a message?”