“Ghost Bike”: A mythical tale of loss and adventure, premieres tonight

In its first foray into co-production, the DMACC Ankeny Theater Department has teamed up with Grandview University to present “Ghost Bike.”

This play begins with two best friends; Ora and Eddie. They ride their bikes all over Chicago together, until one fateful day while Eddie is out on his bike, he is hit by a car and dies.

Overcome by her grief, the king of the underworld, Yama, appears to Ora in disguise and convinces her she can bring Eddie back if she treks through the underworld.

Co-director Carl Lindberg said the play is “a modern adaptation of the Orpheus and Eurydice story,” from Greek mythology. In fact, as the play delves deeper, it displays mythological characters and stories from Norse, Buddhist and Japanese cultures.

The playwright, Laura Jacqmin, was inspired by Chicago’s diverse ethnic neighborhoods, and used the mythologies to create underworld versions of them, according to Lindberg.

Ora travels through these invented neighborhoods encountering obstacles, such as a biker gang and a hotel full of mythological beings. Throughout the adventure she’s dealing with the painful loss of her best friend.

“It’s very much about the stages of grief,” Lindberg said.

Meanwhile, Eddie, played by Brocklund Larson, 24, peers in and out of the story through flashbacks and befriends Cady, played by Katie Huck, 19, in the underworld. Lindberg said the ending will be evident to viewers who are familiar with mythology, but “it’s about the process of dealing with the grief more than the product.”

But how does ‘ghost bike’ fit into all of this?

The term actually refers to a bike that has been painted all-white and is a memorial to someone who died while riding their bike. Jacqmin saw one in Chicago, and it became, quite literally, the vehicle of the play.

Leader of the underworld biker gang, Tiffany Liechty, 22, said there is a scene in the underworld where “all the characters who have died on their bikes come out riding their white ghost bikes,” and for her personally it’s the part of the play where the ghost bike concept and the mythology connect.

“Ghost Bike” is not an action story, but Lindberg and the cast assure viewers this play will frequently be in motion. The show will feature live bike riding on stage and portable set pieces.

The bikes are what is called ‘fixed gear,’ in bike culture, according to Lindberg, and they are provided by local business, Des Moines Bike Collective. Lindberg said the bikes have no brakes, they are completely controlled by the speed the rider is pedaling at.

From tandem bikes and transportable scaffolding, to Ora’s movement through the underworld, at any given point, something is in motion during this play. Lindberg said this theme also has symbolic meaning.

“[There is] strong use of imagery in terms of things spinning, and the cycle of life and the stages of grief. You’ve got to keep on rolling,” Lindberg said.

DMACC is rolling with something new in this co-production with Grandview and it spells new experiences for directors and actors alike.

Liechty and David Korkow, 20, who portrays King Yama, have acted in previous DMACC plays. They said working with Grandview has brought in new resources such as costume designers and a set department. The larger scale of the play as a whole has meant more collaboration and hands-on work for the 20 cast members.

“It’s an ensemble piece so while you’re off-stage everyone is doing something. It’s a lot of teamwork,” Liechty said.

“It feels like a real production in the sense that you have all these different moving parts coming together, which is how I picture it being done in the real world,” Korkow, said. In addition, actors were working with two directors instead of one.

Larson, a first-time actor, said, “It’s been a big challenge as an actor to find a happy medium for both of [the directors] and get the story across properly.”

He has been an assistant director and stage manager for past DMACC productions and said it will be interesting to see how this collaboration influences the department moving forward.

Lindberg is co-directing with Kristin Larson, of Grandview’s theatre department, and he said there are differences in ideas but the collaboration overall “will make the play stronger.”

One reason for presenting the play at both schools is that it is entered as a participating production in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). Two respondents will adjudicate the play, and if it is selected to go to the regional festival, the whole play: set, costumes, actors, will travel to South Dakota, Lindberg said. The directors decided to get one step ahead and show the respondents that the play is already portable.

The “Ghost Bike” set was packed into a truck and left Grandview on Sunday, and opens at DMACC Wednesday (or tonight), and the cast say they’re looking forward to the energy of the night among other things.

“I’m just excited to see everyone in their costumes and make-up and to see everything put together. Right now you just see half of the story,” Liechty said. Larson said he is excited to perform his first show ever.

“I hope I don’t fall flat on my face on the bike,” Huck said.

There will be five performances of “Ghost Bike” at DMACC. Showings at DMACC are free, and are at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 31-Nov. 3, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 4 in the Black Box Theatre.

For reservations, email theatre@dmacc.edu.

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