I spent election night dressed like Ron Burgundy at an Anchorman-themed theatre party
People say that art flourishes in times of crisis: that it can be a mirror of the times, an agent of change and a source of comfort. I don’t know if I believe that, but I do know that on November 8—the night that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (a time of crisis if there ever was one)—I was busy taking part in an immersive theatre experience based on the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
The Movie Experience is the debut production by The Secret Sessions, a company that recreates cult movies—their events are part live theatre, part film screening, part party. Attendees get the address and wardrobe recommendations 24 hours in advance, but they only find out what movie they’re recreating once they arrive. Since I was told to dress in ‘70s newsroom attire (fake moustache encouraged), I had a pretty good idea.
I arrived to find a buffet, a bar (with Anchorman-themed cocktails like “Pleasure Town,” “Stay Classy” and “Whammy”) and a few small sets (a news desk, an office, a “glass case of emotion”). In between re-enactments of famous scenes from the movie, the characters mingled with the crowd, dropping catchphrases and shtick over drinks. When I posed for a picture at the news desk, actors playing the characters Brian Fantana and Champ Kind informed me I was on hallowed ground.
“That’s the Channel 4 News Desk!” said Brian.
“If Ron knew you were sittin’ at his news desk, he’d give you a WHAMMY!” said Champ.
I laughed and checked my phone. In the real world, everyone was worrying that results from Florida were too close. Well, Florida is always close. I struck up a conversation with Champ.
“How long have you worked at Channel 4?” I asked.
“Oh, feels like forever. Probably about 20 years after my baseball career came to an abrupt end.”
I kept going. “What differentiates it from other news networks?”
“The one and only Ron Burgundy! He’s so beautiful. He’s got hair like an angel.”
I asked Champ, a.k.a. actor Matthew Nadeau, to break character and explain how the event differed from regular theatre.
“It’s really different,” he told me. “With regular theatre, you’re just actors on stage and there’s not much interaction. In this, we try to immerse everybody in it as much as possible. It’s more challenging, because there’s more improvising.”
I checked my phone again and saw a picture of Donald Trump at a polling station looking over at Melania’s ballot to check if she voted for him. I moved on to Brian Fantana, played by actor Lars Classington.
“People call me the Bri-Man,” he said. “I’m the stylish one in the group. Now, I know what you’re asking yourself, and the answer is yes: I have a nickname for my penis. It’s called the Octagon. But I also nickname my testes. My left one’s James Westfall, and my right one’s Dr. Kenneth Noisewater.” He leaned into my recorder. “You ladies listening out there play your cards right, you might get to meet the whole gang.”
“How do you prepare for something like this?” I asked. “Can you rehearse?”
“Not really,” said Classington. “I mean, we rehearse the scripted parts for the show, but it’s just having an improv background and having fun and thinking of what your character would be doing. Partying aaaall night loooong.”
I checked in on the election again. There was still a lot of panic about Florida, but only half of the polls had reported. Anyway, all she really needed were Ohio and Michigan.
The lights went down, and the actors playing Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone took their seats behind the news desk. “We currently have some news that we think you will all be excited to hear,” said Veronica.
“Definitely,” said Ron. “This just in. Urgent news from the news desk. I’ve been told, and I have no idea who these people are, somebody named Clinton has 68 electoral votes, and Trump has 48 electoral votes.” A huge cheer from the audience. “Oh, it isn’t Donny Trump, is it?” asked Ron. “I remember Donny from the old country. Him and I used to play water polo together.”
To close the night, they invited us to take our seats for a screening of the real Anchorman. “From all of us here at Channel 4 News,” said Veronica, “I’m Veronica Corningstone, and thank you for stopping by.”
“And I’m Ron Burgundy. You go fuck yourself, Toronto.”
The Movie Experience runs until November 12. thesecretsessions.ca.