September 8, 2011
Q&A with the folks behind The Ohmies
Ze blog, she ees back!
This week, the creators of The Ohmies hosted a panel Q&A for an enthusiastic audience of WiCM members. The Ohmies is a live musical and theatrical show for the pre-school set. Featuring extensive physical interactivity—audience members must move to advance the plot—the show offers colorful lessons in problem resolution, emotional health, and social development.
The creators of The Ohmies spoke about the humble origins of the show and its long evolution. They shared insights about the casting process, how the show has reached larger and larger audiences, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. They also showed us a few clips.
Three things struck me:
1) The clips revealed a very polished, high-quality, engaging show.
2) The creators were clearly very passionate about their work.
3) The Ohmies has something of a garage band-like story.
Which brings me to Hanson.
I am speaking, of course, of the Tulsa-born bubblegum pop trio of androgynous blond brothers that stole your heart in 1996.
A stroll through the history of American pop culture includes many producer-assembled bands. From the Monkees to the Partridge Family, the boy band swell of the 90s to the march of triple-threat stars today (TV, film, and music), acts constructed under supervision have always occupied much of the bandwidth. When Mmmbop first struck my ears, I figured it was the sound of another producer-assembled gimmick.
But I was wrong. Last week a chance online encounter with a recent Hanson performance led me to spend an entire afternoon lost in a Youtube rabbit hole. There I learned nearly everything I needed to know about Hanson to call myself a functional 32-year-old male.
You see, contrary to popular opinion, Hanson launched itself. Did those three blond angels write their own songs? Based on their Mmmbop, yes, probably, that song was probably written by children. I’ll assume that their record company took over songwriting duties during their heyfifteenminutes, but what people don’t know—and what I didn’t know until last week, when I forgot to eat meals because I was obsessively digging for more Hanson information—is that Hanson has been steadily making music for fifteen years. Despite the stigma of being labeled a one-hit wonder, the Hanson Bros. have continued to do what they like. I think that’s pretty cool. And I have to admit that the recently released song that launched my online adventure is really catchy.
Where am I going with this? The creators of the Ohmies built their live show slowly and organically. I’ve always assumed that live kids’ shows were put together as big ads for licensed properties.*
But who ever heard of a live kids’ show that started as just that and built notoriety over time? There are a few names that come to mind (the Story Pirates, The Elephant Show might count, and I’ve recently heard good things about The Jimmies), but I couldn’t make a long list.
I have a lot of respect for productions like this. Organically built expression tends to maintain its identity despite fluctuations in popularity. One gets the feeling that artists who create without external direction follow the path they were always destined to follow.
I also appreciate the passion that the artists and creators behind these types of shows tend to have. Again, following one’s own vision as opposed to someone else’s generates a certain level of love for the art.
Lastly, when artists (Ohmie-folk and Hanson) keep at it long enough, interesting, cool things result. I’m admittedly less embarrassed about liking a show for 4-year-olds, but I will proudly say that I like both Hanson and the Ohmies.
For those who wish to learn more about The Ohmies, here’s the link.
For those who have hours to spare and thick skin, I present Hanson’s latest.
Until next time,
*Bonus tangent: when I was nine, I saw Thundercats Live. It was BANANAS. There were literally thousands of children pointing glowing plastic swords in the air and just yelling—I mean total lose-yourself-in-the-movement frenzied screaming. I’ve never been to a rave, but I can’t imagine that even hypnotically repetitive music, glowsticks, drugs, and foam could ever hope to approach what I experienced at Thundercats Live. After such a sensory overload at the age of nine, the rest of my life has been dull. at. best.