Friends and fans of the late and greatly lamented MARS Artspace -- one of the pioneers of Phoenix alt-art and a precursor of today's downtown scene -- will witness MARS' last gasp at "Wasteland Circus: The Final Curtain" on Saturday, August 27, at the Paper Heart -- appropriate given that the Grand Avenue space is one of the spiritual descendants of MARS.
The main goals of the Wasteland events were 1) to challenge audiences with what the Wasteland honchos termed a "mutated vaudevillian style . . . echoing the Dadas," and 2) to provide the contributing artists with as much free rein as they needed to hang themselves, which they frequently did. It was all very Moulin Rouge, and also relatively successful for such a beyond-the-pale endeavor. So why throw in the towel?
"Well, when we started it, there was a conventional wisdom that there was nothing going on downtown, especially in the summer," says Wasteland's Jeff Falk. "But Phoenix isn't a wasteland anymore, so why continue?"
Falk says "Wasteland Circus: The Final Curtain" will provide a sort of "greatest hits" compendium of Wastelands past. Featured "acts" will include performance artists Falk, Annie Lopez, Leslie Barton, and Peter Petrisko, Phoenix "godfather of poetry" Jack Evans, over-the-top slam poet The Klute, videographers Steve Gompf, Scott Massey, and Jose Gonzalez, and the band Last Wave, whose music Falk describes as "spooky ancient tribal surf."
"[The Final Curtain] will have a circus-tinged -- or tainted -- theme," Falk says with a chuckle. Falk himself will be hard to miss; he'll be dressed in "a clown suit with some bad face paint" -- sort of a perverted ringmaster.
One of the mustn't-miss highlights of "The Final Curtain" (at least if you haven't eaten prior to the show) will be the screening of Steve Gompf's Damascan Ocularia, a short film based on a performance piece by Falk, Lopez, and the filmmaker, and featuring Gompf's mother undergoing radical eye surgery. In the film, Falk is a "priest with welding glasses walking on broken glass," Annie Lopez a virginal bride in a "white wedding dress with an S&M mask," and Gompf's mom playing herself -- with a knife blade stuck in her eye. Ouchy mama.
Says Falk about the final Wasteland Circus, "We're going to kick out the jams and [then] take it down the primrose path."