Source Festival: ‘Uncle Cory’s Secret Playtime’ (Artistic Blind Dates) by Nicole Cusick

Play dates just aren’t what they used to be at the Artistic Blind Date’s Uncle Cory’s Secret Playtime, part of this year’s Source Festival. Remember the days of Barbies, night lights, Jack in the Boxes, and making new friends at a play date?  Angela Pirko, theatre artist, Quynn Johnson dancer/choreographer, and Cory Oberndorfer, visual artist, took the idea of a play date and turned it upside down by including some of the things people fear most.

Cory Oberndorfer and Angela Pirko. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Cory Oberndorfer and Angela Pirko. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The inspiration for this Artistic Blind Date, was the full length Source Festival play, Perfect Arrangement by Topher Payne. The play tells the story of two gay couples who come up with the “perfect arrangement” to keep their private lives private during the The Lavender Scare of the 1950s in Georgetown.

In the space of the performance the trio has two TV sets with staticy nanny cams, lots of stuffed animals, and some dismembered toys. However the prized toys of the day are two Jack in the Boxes. Pirko tries to share hers with audience members, yet she can’t seem to give it up completely. Her character may be an ‘Indian Giver,’ but she is nothing but committed to her performance.

Oberndorfer, who is the most out of his element, gives up his typical medium of painting to take on the role of a clown, who eerily makes friends with Pirko. The pair circles the room playing the music of their Jack in the Box toys, until Johnson joins the performance.

Johnson’s entrance is quite sneaky, but brings a fresh take to the piece as she tap dances her way through communicating with the pair. She skillfully mimics the melody of the Jack in the Box music through tap.

In the end, no one seems to be punished with a ‘time out,’ as the trio become friends and disappear out the door.

The artists themselves made friends as well as discussed in the talkback following the performance. They all had anxiety about signing up for such a project and having to collaborate with someone from a different discipline whose opinions could vary from their own. However, that fear was squashed by the end of the experience. Johnson shared that she is excited to move on as an artist because she has learned new ways to look at her own projects from Oberndorfer and Pirko.

Cory Oberndorfer and Quynn Johnson. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Cory Oberndorfer and Quynn Johnson. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

A few other fears were faced by the artist in the process. Oberndorfer early on in the creative process confessed his fear of clowns, and naturally that worked its way into the piece, much like Pirko’s fear of the audience not being receptive to participating in the piece. Yet, this audience was willing to play along and answer her calls for applause and other actions.

Uncle Cory’s Secret Playtime is an original theatrical experience that challenges your nerves, while still seeming like a familiar experience.

Running Time: Fifteen minutes, with a fifteen-minute talkback following the performance.


Uncle Cory’s Secret Playtime plays June 16th and June 29th at 3 PM, June 22nd and June 30th at 6 PM at Source Theatre-1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Here is more information about Artistic Blind Dates, and other performances in the Source Festival.


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