The Onion Cellar
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The Onion Cellar is a play that premiered at the American Repertory Theater's venue, the Zero Arrow Theater (now Club Oberon), in Cambridge, Massachusetts from December 9, 2006 to January 13, 2007. It is a cross between a musical, cabaret show, rock concert and drama. It was the brain child of Amanda Palmer who based the title of the production on a chapter from Günter Grass's The Tin Drum. In the novel, The Onion Cellar is a bar in post-war Germany where people go to share painful memories and cry. While drinking and talking, the clients peel onions, both to make crying easier and to lessen the shame for those afraid to express their feelings openly.
In this production, although the audience members are seated as if they were in a night club, there is no peeling of onions. However, the various characters do speak and sign of pain, death, rejection and loneliness, and also of the relief found in sharing their sadness. The mixture of speech and song is consistent with the genre of the American musical, but style is more reminiscent of cabaret. There are also frequent performances by Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione's duo The Dresden Dolls, who portray the house band of the Onion Cellar, as well as characters in the play.
Throughout the show the cast breaks the fourth wall and often directly address the audience and talk about the process whereby The Onion Cellar came into existence. Both inside the theatre and in the lobby, they have displayed letters and objects by fans, critics and audience members from earlier trial runs of the show. They intentionally mix genres and scenes of dramatic action. "The music, too, has a schizophrenic quality. The songs are sometimes in sync with the action; others feature counterpoint while still others are off in a world of their own."
it was never supposed to be a dark, dismal, sobfest as the article sort of implies: it was supposed to be an interactive environment with lots of confusion, fun, prankery, audience participation and also darker images about Grass himself, the holocaust, guilt, the creation of art in terms of grappling with the past and how we, as humans, try to come to terms with emotions that are difficult to face.
- Amanda Palmer
The Onion Cellar was conceived and written by Amanda Palmer, Johnathan Marc Sherman, Marcus Stern, Christine Jones, Anthony Martignetti, and the cast. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
The cast consists of Remo Airaldi, Merritt Janson, Jeremy Geidt, Karen Macdonald, Kristen Frazier, Neil P. Stewart, Claire Elizabeth Davies, Thomas Derrah, Brian Farish, Brian Viglione and Amanda Palmer.
It was directed by Marcus Stern, stage managed by Jennifer Sturch, with set design by Christine Jones, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Justin Townsend, and sound design by David Remedios.
The set list
The songs are integral to the plot of the show and are sprinkled throughout. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione perform throughout the show, including compositions originally from their previous albums.
- Introductory song (unreleased)
- Necessary Evil (from Yes, Virginia)
- Good Day (from The Dresden Dolls)
- Coin-Operated Boy (from The Dresden Dolls)
- The Gardener (later released on No, Virginia)
- Delilah (from Yes, Virginia)
- Sex Changes (from Yes, Virginia)
- Half Jack (from The Dresden Dolls)
- Sing (from Yes, Virginia)
- Website of The Onion Cellar with photos
- Photos of The Onion Cellar by Sheri Hausey
- Amanda Palmer's Drawings and Photos from the production
- Review on Owlspotting
- Review on Bostonist
- Review in Variety
- Review in Boston Globe
- Review in Patriot Ledger