By Lauren Cibene
This 90-minute show by Chelsea Marcantel takes audience members into the very real world of competitive air guitar. We follow Nina, who decides to compete so she can beat her ex, the reigning air guitar champ, but quickly discovers a community within a delightfully eccentric group of people.
This show is for anyone ages 16+ and is perfect for music lovers of all stripes. If you enjoy a good revenge story, there’s something here for you too. And yes, there will be air guitar performances in the course of those 90 minutes.
“The cast is six people,” says Airness director Joseph Arrigo, “and they all will be doing at least one air guitar performance.”
Creating these air guitar performances has been simultaneously one of the highlights and hurdles of producing this show, says Arrigo.
“There are actually rules to air guitar. You only have 60 seconds to perform…and crafting a perfect performance in that amount of time can be difficult. Because air guitar is so personal, I’m trying to let each cast member have input into what their character performs, from the snippet of song they use, to how they’re costumed, to how they’re lit.”
Fortunately, the cast has been able to benefit from professional consultation.
“One of the actual Air Guitar champions lives in Atlanta, and she came in…and she taught us air guitar. I watched [the cast] slowly become more comfortable with it. It was one of the coolest things I got to witness as a director.”
Finding that ease and individuality in your air guitar performance is critical to putting on a great show.
“You can’t pretend to be someone else when you do air guitar. You have to be authentically you in order to sell it,” says Arrigo. “People buy into an air guitar performance because of the magnetic persona on stage and how authentically they are enjoying what they’re doing. There’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to an air guitar performance. [Competitors] take this very seriously and this play is a love letter to that.”
So, just like the character of Nina, the cast has learned that to put on a great air guitar performance, “your goal has to be to stand up, tune everything else out, and just rock out!”
While this show is an exuberant exploration into a competition most of us know little about, Arrigo says, “My goal for this show is not for people to come away understanding the world of air guitar.”
Arrigo says that air guitar in Airness is a “metaphor that will be unique to each person in the audience.” In an age when we beat people into conformity, “we all have one thing that we love that might seem extremely stupid to other people.”
He says his goal with Airness is for audience members to “have fun with the show and walk away feeling and appreciating the power that comes from a community centered around a shared niche interest.”