Last October, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs co-created a not-quite-musical, not-quite-opera, performance-art spectacle called “Stop The Virgens.” (It was billed as a “psycho-opera.”) While it only ran for 10 days at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn, a making-of documentary about the project has just been released.
Yes, a “performance-art spectacle” in a warehouse in Brooklyn sounds like a Portlandia sketch just waiting to happen, but after watching this documentary, I’m really disappointed that I missed seeing the show live. Karen O described “Stop The Virgens” as “an assault on the tragic joys of youth, fever dreams drenched in visual seduction, a cathartic spell spun through a cycle of nine songs,” and along with co-creator and production designer K.K. Barrett (who worked on Lost in Translation and Where the Wild Things Are), she created more of an aesthetic experience than a linear plot-driven show. It’s worth mentioning that the music the documentary includes, all of which was written by Karen O, is gorgeous. It’s intensely emotional, but the rawness negates any cheesiness.
There’s something so enjoyable about behind-the-scenes accounts of creative projects, and this documentary succeeds in capturing that particular feeling of earnest excitement. It’s nostalgic in a weird way, even if you’ve never been a part of something like it, or if you’ve only experienced it on a small scale (like my stints as no-name characters in high school plays forever ago).
Most of the cast is comprised of women, who play the “virgens,” and in the documentary, Karen O reflects, “That’s when it dawned on me that I’ve spent 10 years surrounded by like, 95% men. And here I am being encircled by like 40 women. It was insane. And it was of my making.”