Juan Ponce de León supposedly hunted the fountain of youth, Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang searched for the elixir of life, and the fictional Gilgamesh tried to stay awake for six days and seven nights — but none obtained immortality.
That's the eternal dilemma of all living things, but also an unending source of inspiration.
On the night of Pueblo's 2011 Christmas parade, friends Shannon Dionese, 45, and Lore' Buswell, 48, sat up until 5 a.m. discussing ways to expand the potential of their 3½-year-old performance troupe, Caretaker and the Graveyard Girlz. The group had generally been doing 10- to 20-minute dances and skits between rock-band performances at bars and music venues, but they knew that wouldn't long sate their appetite for the stage.
"We decided to make this big, and make ourselves immortal, so that we could add sequels," Buswell says.
The product, Immortal Solstice, is an elaborate, sinister work of mixed-media entertainment, using loops of film and stage performance. You'll literally see the film come to life as a carriage moves from screen to stage, and hunted gypsies face stalkers on- and off-screen.
The story begins with a family of gypsies who take refuge in a castle — Bishop Castle in Wetmore, actually — and discover its evil inhabitant. They respond by running into the nearby woods, where they encounter a former "white witch." She once was a witch of healing and goodness, but when villagers discovered her trying to save a dying girl, they asked no questions before burning her alive.
Seeing opportunity, the castle's insidious tenant brings her back and grants her immortality, but also makes her dark and vengeful. When the sorceress encounters Ambrogino, the gypsy leader, she forces him to choose between death and immortality.
He chooses eternal life, not knowing that the bargain requires him to take the souls of every member of his family. He obliges aggressively, and with each death, the gypsies transfer to the immortal dark side, each needing to consume souls of their own.
First shown in Pueblo in November, the production's since been revamped and extended. In addition to an extra 20 minutes of footage, Lori Trejo, chief choreographer, has added two dances that will help the audience get better acquainted with the Graveyard Girlz' voyage — the story of how the group became ... whatever exactly they are.
"The characters that Shannon and I developed for this are very close to who they really are off of the stage," Buswell says. "Someone asked about Shannon's real personality outside of the show ... We all laughed and said, 'The Caretaker' is Shannon's real personality. He does have the leader effect, almost like the Pied Piper. He has a sinister side of humor, but he also takes people under his wing and protects them or anyone in his circle."
Who knew this was a biography, too?