BooTown Takes On Empire Records With Their Damn the Man Production

For the next three weekends around Houston, theater company BooTown is tackling '90s slacker comedy Empire Records for Damn the Man, the third installment of its Benshi-style performances of cult movies.

The movie Empire Records was released on October 20, 1995, making it 17 years old, which should make you feel absolutely old. The film is set inside a record store on the brink of extinction and chronicles the so-dramatic lives of the customers and employees who orbit the store. Starring Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry, Rory Cochrane, Robin Tunney and Brendan Sexton III, it featured some of that year's biggest young actors.

It's also notable for featuring one of Katy-native Renée Zellweger's first major roles. You may remember her scene in just an orange smock, too.

The soundtrack to the film has also endured as a period time capsule, featuring the Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Dishwalla.

For Damn The Man director Hynds, the film has always been a staple.

"Up until we started working on this show, it was one of the films that I would always want to watch when I was sick and just wanted to lay in bed and not move and watch something comfortable," she says. Hynds says she will be taking a long hiatus from the film after this project is over.

What parts of the movie is Hynds most excited about reinterpreting for this show? It's not what you might think.

"The relationships between the girls, namely Corey and Gina, stood out for me a lot because there is so much underlying cattiness between them. I also love the bond that Joe and Lucas have; it reminds me of a lot of the parental relationships I've seen," she says.

Hynds says that her Empire will "be less happily-ever-after and more when-people-stop-being-polite-and-start-getting-real," in regards to the film's sunny, unrealistic ending.

The DTM production will have some of the more extraneous Empire scenes omitted, like the whole "Warren" plot line and Mark's famous weed-stoked Gwar music video.

The cast includes BooTown director Lindsay Burleson, Christopher Oddo of Houston garager-rcokers Mikey and the Drags, Jillian Van Zelfden, Stephen Walker, and David Feil, providing the live soundtrack.

The show will be performed at Rudyard's, home of BooTown's monthly Grown-up Storytime series, Big Star Bar in the Heights, and Cactus Music, arguably Houston's most popular record store.

"That's right! It's a show about a record store in a record store. BooTown is so meta," laughs Hynds. The full DTM schedule can be found on the BooTown Web site.

What is next for BooTown's Benshi-style productions? They seem to be circling around cracks at Tremors and A League of Their Own, but nothing is concrete. A puppet show called Love in the Time of Lasers is coming in December.

The next edition of Grown-up Storytime -- their 52nd -- is also set for November 20.

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