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Hey New Yorkers… are you in need of a truly badass superhero? Have no fear: Kapow-i GoGo is here!
She has big blue hair, can shoot fireballs from her hand, and wields a giant sword bigger than her head. In layman's terms, she's awesome, and audiences who want to bask in her glory can enjoy almost five hours of her adventures in Kapow-i GoGo Marathon!, which is being presented by the PIT four times between now and November.
Asked to describe Kapow-i's persona, playwright Matt Cox uses incredibly geek-friendly terms. "She's Ripley [from Aliens], she's Goku [from Dragon Ball], she's Luke Skywalker [from Star Wars]," he says. "She's every major hero you've ever seen."
She also just happens to be a woman. That's because Cox, who worked at Midtown Comics for four years, noticed that when it came to superheroes, there weren't many ladies saving the day.
"There's Miss Marvel and Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, and that's kind of it, in terms of what's mainstream right now," he says. "The goal here is to make a thing that a 12-year-old girl can see – an awesome character that's made for her. There needs to be more of this out there, and I might as well start making it."
A Dallas native and self-defined nerd, Cox first developed Kapow-i when he decided to participate in the Flea Theater's 10-minute play series, #serials@theflea. The superhero genre seemed appropriate not only because he loved the adventurous storytelling style, but also because the episodic nature of #serials (where audiences vote for their favorite 10-minute plays, which then return the following week with a new installment) mirrors the episodic structure of cartoons and comics.
Cox's original concept followed a 14-year-old Kapow-i, who goes on a quest to be crowned the world's greatest fighter. En route, she has to gather a series of magical stones while facing off with a soul-possessing demon and an arch-nemesis called Tuxedo Gary (yes, that's a Sailor Moon reference).
The original Kapow-i GoGo became one of the most popular #serial works ever created, with fans clamoring for more until Cox had almost two hours of material. Eventually, Kevin Laibson, artistic director of the PIT (People's Improv Theater), invited Cox to mount all the pieces as a single show, and when the playwright suggested expanding the story to its current, four-and-a-half hour running time, Laibson didn't balk.
The epic contains what is now three plays: Kapow-i GoGo Gooo!, Kapow-i GoGo Z and Kapow-i GoGo Returns. Though the shows were presented on three separate evenings at the PIT earlier this year, that model has now been replaced by a semi-regular marathon run. (Currently scheduled dates are Sept. 27, Oct. 4, Oct. 11, and Nov. 1).
Audiences who see the entire saga follow Kapow-i from ages 14 to 32. "What always drew me, especially to Dragon Ball and a lot of the fantasy stuff that I grew up loving, was you really get to live with the characters for a really long time, for years and years and years," explains Cox. "It's just so much more fun to see how the big battle changed their lives. And how they moved on past that is really fascinating to me."
To that end, Kapow-i evolves from an idealistic young girl with a love for fighting to a cynical, world-weary woman (with her hair changing from sky blue to, naturally, black). As Cox notes, "A couple of comic writers [have said], 'If this person actually did this all the time, they would either go nuts or they would hate their life.'"
So far, Kapow-i's adventures have been very well received, with some audience members coming to the marathon multiple times. Patrons also enjoy the free breakfast cereal provided in the lobby and the beer and wine on sale at the bar. It's like Saturday morning cartoons, but with Brooklyn Ale.
Cox recalls his favorite memory, from a performance in August, when members from Nerd York City came up to him angry because he had killed off their favorite characters. Laughing, he says, "I'm suddenly George R.R. Martin and that makes me feel awesome!"
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Top photo -- of Madeleine Bundy as Kapow-i -- by Crystal Arnette. Cast photo by Anya Gibian.