Enter the world of "Shiva Arms," where a hilarious and eye-opening group of Los Angelenos ride out a hurricane of human emotions and learn a medley of life lessons in an unsuspecting California apartment building. Doug Motel brings his one-man show to Denizen Theatre in New Paltz November 9 and 10.
When tragedy strikes, the residents of Shiva Arms review memories of their late residential manager, offering a window into their personal lives while leaving the audience both pensive and rolling-on-the-floor laughing. During the second half of the show, the audience witnesses a heartwarming yet chaotic funeral filled with love, passion, and a dead seal rolling downhill toward an unaware 91-year-old.
Rosendalian Doug Motel is the writer, creator, and actor who plays the 11 characters of "Shiva Arms," all of whom are addressing an invisible "Doug Motel" as the plot's main mode of movement.
Motel morphs mind and body for each character, changing his breathing, walking, and mannerisms to suit their idiosyncrasies. B-movie actress Bambi—a woman who lives with two cats and longs to be abducted by aliens—is in no way similar to Ronald—a wise, elderly man in a wheelchair who has died, come back to life, and committed himself to running a movie-lending library from his apartment as a way to bring people joy.
Shiva Arms' Australian handyman, Ian, heard the meaning of life while going 50 miles per hour on a surfboard. "You have to let the spirit find you, you have to let inspiration find you," he says, and perhaps this is Motel's way of bringing his own creative methods to light.
Motel woke up one morning and began his daily writing exercise, which is filling three pages to the brim of whatever comes to mind, even if its' nonsense. But before he knew it, Motel was writing "and I am walking into the theater to watch Doug Motel's new show and there are three black boxes on the stage..." and soon enough Motel was talking to himself in different character's voices, recording everything and taking the best material he could find. This natural creative force gave birth to "Shiva Arms" in a way that Ian would approve of.
In 1988, Motel suffered the loss of Lynea Kokes, a friend he continues to admire more than anyone in the world. She was murdered on her first day as manager of a Los Angeles residential building. The tragedy serves as the jumping-off point for "Shiva Arms." "When you have a friend that is murdered, people either use it to affirm a belief that they have about how horrible the world is," says Motel, "or these use it to bring other people with them to a greater place of expansiveness."
The "Shiva Arms" performances at Denizen are a benefit for the Maya Gold Foundation, which promotes teenage mental health and empowering youth. (Maya Gold was a New Paltz teen who took her own life in 2015.)
Doug Motel will perform "Shiva Arms" on November 9 at 8pm and November 10 at 3pm at Denizen Theater in New Paltz. Tickets are $25. VIP admission is $50, which includes meet a greet with board members and an artist's reception.