March 20, 2014

Yes, you can haz cheezburger: Production brings cat video craze to the stage

Have you ever seen the one where a cat dressed as a shark rides a Roomba? Or the one where two French-speaking felines play patty-cake?

Have you ever seen the one where a cat dressed as a shark rides a Roomba? Or the one where two French-speaking felines play patty-cake?

Since the rise of the Lolcats, zany photos and videos like these have been a way for people to take a momentary break from human life … or from the monotony of a desk job.

Now the phenomenon is coming to the stage in Harbison Theatre’s production, “You Can Haz Cheezburger: The Art of Online Cat Videos.”

Friday night’s one-of-a-kind performance will combine theatrical antics with the now-famous reel from Walker Art Center’s 2012 Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis.

Katie Fox, executive director of Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, has helped organize the event. She says that one explanation for why cat videos have become so popular is because they allow rare glimpses into cats’ personalities.

“The only way to share the greatness, the quirkiness of your cat is through media. It’s a way to share the funny things and sweet things that your cat does when other folks aren’t around.”

While people of all ages enjoy the videos, Fox thinks the craze resonates particularly well with teenagers and college students. She’s hopeful that the randomness of the event, along with the $10 tickets, will bring them in.

“This just seemed like the perfect, ironic, goofy offering that we could make to them, where it’s really ‘come be yourself,’ and we’re going to celebrate what ‘yourself’ looks like.”

So how do you turn cat videos into a theatrical production?

For starters, Fox says they’ve enlisted the help of a cat dance troupe. Local dancers, including Terrance Henderson, will dress as cats and perform to feline-themed songs including “Eye of the Tiger” and “Stray Cat Strut.”

“The dance isn’t going to be some beautiful piece of modern choreography,” said Fox. “It’s going to be ‘how would cats dance to this?’”

There will also be a game show in which participants will have the opportunity to answer cat-related trivia.

As for the videos, Fox says the event will include original “Great Moments in Cat History” segments as well as material from the Internet Cat Video Festival reel.

The fun will kick off in the lobby with cat face-painting and a photo booth sponsored by PetSmart.

“It’s not going to be just everybody sit and watch and leave,” said Fox.

Celebrities like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub won’t be the only ones getting all the on-screen attention. The theater has been gathering photo and video submissions from Midlands-area cat owners, and many of these have been included in advertising and the pre-performance slideshow. They’ll also show photos of cats available for adoption, thanks to a partnership with Pawmetto Lifeline.

For people who don’t appreciate cat videos, the whole thing might seem a bit ridiculous, but Fox says that’s exactly what makes it so much fun.

“It is just silliness, that’s all it is. We think that people need some silliness in their lives.”


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