My night as a Weeping Angel in a multimedia artist's tribute to Doctor Who
In October I was booked for a one-night performance gig showcasing a Weeping Angel costume for multimedia artist Jenny Shumaker at a Denver RAW Artists event, dedicated to supporting emerging local artists. Based on an award-winning 2007 Doctor Who episode, "Blink," the costume came with a fan base -- which includes Shumaker. "The Weeping Angels are my favorite monsters in Doctor Who," she explains, "and I knew that I would get an opportunity to impress and even scare some people. I'm a prankster at heart and I love seeing the reactions of the viewers."
Melissa Shipley Weeping Angel, Susanna Speier and Multimedia Artist Jenny Shumaker
See also: Prepare for The Day of The Doctor with a crash course on Doctor Who
I like getting reactions, too. I knew the costume had won Best in Show at Comic Con,, but I didn't know about Weeping Angels. So I watched "Blink" in segments on YouTube so I could take screenshots of the angels and choreograph my movements. In the episode, they're still statues so I fleshed out the transitions on my own.
But I soon had help from fans: Melissa Shipley posted photos of the fitting on Facebook, and people started posting comments like, "Oh, that's my favorite episode of Doctor Who" and "that episode touches on some part of the reptilian brain we haven't even discovered yet -- it's just so scary for reasons no one can understand." And then someone posted this link that explains Weeping Angels.
Courtesy of Latin Life Denver
The costume was key, though. "I first started the Weeping Angel because I wanted to make another costume for the upcoming Denver Comic Con," Shumaker recalls. "Secondly, I had a very tight budget at the time and realized that it would not cost much to make a living statue costume. And thirdly, it took about a year to complete the costume. At the time, I was completing my final semester at college and only worked on it during breaks and after my college graduation. I spent roughly $55 to make the costume."
The materials included "cheap gray bedsheets, homemade gesso, paint, air-dry clay, paper mâché, two pairs of gray tights, one plastic mask, elastic, fake fingernail add-ons, and one pair of flip flops," she explains. "The wings were made of cardboard, foamboard, wire hangars, one old backpack, duct tape, gesso, and paint."
And it came out for an encore in October. As Schumaker and her assistant placed each granite-colored, form-fitting layer over my head, arms, legs, fingers and toes, I realized my limbs were now monochromatic stone and this, along with the bulkier layers of the costume, would make navigating a challenge. Wings were fastened with a cushioned backpack strap, granite-colored flip flops were slipped on my feet, a plaster mask was placed over my face and head, and I got to work.
I have been acting on/off for most of my adult life and for a wide range of audiences. My night as a Weeping Angel, however, ranks among the most memorable. I could instantly tell when people mistook me for an inanimate sculpture because of how closely they brushed the edges of my skirt, hands or wings. Then, when I shifted to a demonic stance, I was rewarded with responses ranging from gasps, yelps and shrieks to full-on, blood-curdling screams.
By the end of my night as a Weeping Angel, I had gained an entirely new level of appreciation for horror and a sense of what a large Doctor Who fanbase Denver has.
And that fanbase will be out in force today, Monday, November 25, at several local theaters for The Day of The Doctor , a 3D event for the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. Watch for the Weeping Angel.