The student voice of American River College since 1955

The American River Current

The student voice of American River College since 1955

The American River Current

The student voice of American River College since 1955

The American River Current

ARC’s production of “Airness” peeks into the lives of competitive air guitarists

“Airness” captures the unbridled energy that defines air guitar
Marco Tabayoyon and Alec Hudson get ready for a final dress rehearsal on February 15, 2024. “Airness” will run from Feb. 16 until Feb. 25 in the ARC main theater. (Photo by William Forseth)

Aspirations of grandeur is a tune we could all rock out to. The American River College theater department’s rendition of “Airness,” playing in the ARC main theater until Feb. 25, was written by American playwright Chelsea Marcantel and is directed by Jason Long, a professor of theater, film and English at ARC. The production is a testimonial to, and an example of, aspirations of grandeur on the cusp of achieving that goal.

In “Airness,” the protagonist Nina, played by Berney Arrogancia, is a timid yet talented guitarist who expected to walk away with an easy win, but finds out the hard way that charisma and spectacle score more points than talent and precision. With assistance from an array of personalities and their respective stage personas, she discovers the liberation that the art form offers. 

“We wanted something modern, we wanted something with a relatively small cast that would be fun to costume,” Long said about the choice of script. “It’s been fun to learn about the air guitar world.”

For those unfamiliar with the intangible instrument, air guitar became a staple showpiece to the full length mirrors or teenagers around the time rock & roll became a staple of the American zeitgeist. Unbeknownst to the uninitiated, air guitar has achieved unexpected levels of legitimacy.

“With regional qualifiers, all the way to the national championships and the world championship is being held in Oulu, Finland,” Long says about the air guitar community. “It’s a really big deal.”

Long’s choice for a performance piece was as pragmatic as it was enthusiastic. February is the lean period for ARC theater production, as compared to April when the theater department performs its annual magnum opus. 

“This is the smallest cast I’ve ever been a part of,” Alec Hudson, who plays the part of Facebender, says. “I really felt connected to everybody in a more personal way.”

Characters like Facebender, Shreddy Eddie, played by Hovsep Galoyan, and Golden Thunder, played by John Cablao, deliver their performances with the kind of impeccable comedic timing that comes from experience in the theater, but lacked the depth that is required to perform the drama side of a comedy/drama and have it land with the same magnitude as the comedic side. 

Haley McKnight, who plays Cannibal Queen, was dripping with sass as she navigated the boy’s club of air guitar with contempt. McKnight supplied the most profanity that earned the mature rating of the play, executed with exceptional snark.

Norah DeMello offered her own installment of characters in playing both a soft drink executive as well as every announcer, each of her characters with their own signature regional dialects. With every cast member making their attempts to steal the show, DeMello’s performance was like a supportive sprinkling of jimmies upon a sundae with many competing flavors.

D Vicious, played by Marco Tabayoyon, delivers the most complex performance of the show, highlighting the moral decay of a star that burns too bright. Where character development is a strength for Tabayoyon, it was the transformation into an air guitarist that he struggled with the most.

“These air guitar numbers are almost like monologues,” Tabayoyon said about the difficulty of character development as it pertains to air guitar performance. “To speak with your body is harder than learning the lines. Every single minute detail plays into it.”

Arrongancia produced a strong performance as the protagonist with the air guitarist moniker, “The Nina.” Her character arc shows the audience a journey towards independence of spirit through the juxtaposing route of friendship.

“There’s so many things that tell you to live in a box or act a certain way, it sheds all of those things and asks me to be myself,” Arrongancia says about both acting and air guitar.

If an audience member is looking to be overwhelmed with emotion by the complexity of human emotion, that audience member may be left wanting. If that same audience member is looking for a fun romp with a myriad of petty personalities, zany costumes and shredding simulacra, then this is the performance to go see.

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