Barreling across the country with “Destination: Bonnaroo” plugged into their GPS, LA-dwellers and former Wilmington thespians—Thomas Blake and Mitch Eakins—are bringing to life two raucous, high-octane productions. “Point Break” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” will make their debut in Wilmington, off the heels of its Bonnaroo show. Taking place June 21st and 22nd at Ziggy’s, the UNCW graduates attempted a production at City Stage a few years back. Unresolved legal issues with the production hindered their plan.
Years of friendship and history—forged by a shared interest in surf and theatre—showcase strong camaraderie between the friends and now business partners. What’s greater than the Duke/Carolina rivalry and the “Kerr” versus “Carr” Avenue debate combined? Apparently, the Laney and Hoggard high school drama program feud.
“We had the best theatre [program] in the state,” Eakins declares from one corner.
“We were whoopin’ Hoggard’s tail in that stuff, so I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Blake retorts, his voice tinged with Laney support. “We haven’t even hit Bonnaroo yet, and Mitch has lost his mind.”
Though he concedes he’s not a great singer, Blake boasts about 30 musical credits from his youth in Wilmington—a favorite being “Hair,” which he performed at City Stage. Fast forward a decade later and he was named one of LA Weekly’s People of the Year in 2009 for his work on “Point Break Live!” (“PBL”). Written by Jamie Keeling, the production opened in Seattle in 2003. After making its way to New York, Blake became involved as a cast member.
“PBL” comes highly interactive as it asks audience volunteers to come onstage and take on Keanu Reeves’ iconic role, FBI agent Johnny Utah. Participants audition for the role onstage, and execute a series of feats and impressions. Applause determines the night’s lead. Cue cards and the rest of the cast navigate the brazen one-night-only thespian through the cult classic which chronicles presidential mask-wearing surfers and bank robbers, a la Patrick Swayze. “100 percent adrenaline” never packed such a punch.
“It’s about evoking a certain nostalgic time in people’s lives; when [they] didn’t have so much to worry about, and when [they] could go out and have fun,” Blake describes.
As he versed himself with the spirit of the live reiteration, he quickly moved up the ranks to director after a move to LA in 2007. There, “PBL” evolved from performances in a theatre to a bar setting, and created an even more rambunctious vibe. The entirety of the venue became the stage and integrated the audience even more into the action.
The transnational move, too, rendered the inclusion of Eakins, who already resided in LA, as a cast member. When he heard Blake was coming to town, he offered his couch. Blake offered him a role.
“I always thought of [Thomas] as a kid because he’s younger, [and] now he’s my boss,” Eakins quips. “But, whatever—one day he will rook for me!”
Eakins started out playing one of the background surfers. Now, he takes on the lead role of Bodhi. “One of the guys who [formerly played Bodhi] was one of the only guys in our show that wasn’t playing it like a comedy,” Eakins comments. “He played it dead straight, and it was hilarious. I kind of take a note out of his book on that one.”
Eakins faces challenges of honing his improvisational skills, as he leads the unrehearsed audience members through the story. In true “Point Break” fashion, he likens the experience to surfing. “When you’re in the moment and you’re onstage, you surprise yourself with how clear your head is and how focused you can become,” Eakins says.
Part of the focus comes from onstage chemistry. Much like Eakins and Blake, the rest of the cast, too, have become as close as childhood friends. As neighbors, they hang out with each other almost every night. Their connectivity fuels an unmatched energy.
“The bond we have is very unique,” Blake explains. “We could probably do ‘Seaseme Street.’ If we go out there, have fun, and do what we do when we get together, people come.”
The production’s vitality and expansion to San Francisco inspired Blake to cultivate his own screen-to-stage creation: “Terminator Too: Judgement Play” (“T2”). “I remember wanting to have Eddie Furlong hair, and wanting to break into ATM machines,” Blake says. “I thought he was such a cool little bad ass; I was like: ‘Man, I wanna be that kid!’ And then, of course, with Arnold Swartzeneggar, it was just a fun adventure.”
Following the same format, “Terminator Too” debuted in New York during the summer of 2012. Adventurous attendees vie for the part of the Terminator. Eakins portrays Host, Zuckerberg, Doogie, and various other roles. “Terminator Too” has reached bi-coastal success, as well thanks to its landing in California.
Blake’s currently working on bringing another classic film to the stage. “I’ll give you a hint: It’s about vampires in Santa Carla (Santa Cruz),” he teases. (Best start perfecting your Kiefer Sutherland impressions).
Both “T2” and “PBL” are drenched in fake blood and water guns galore. (Courtesy note: Don’t wear nice clothes to the performances.) In order to recreate the skydiving scene in “Point Break,” they hoist up people with wires. They’ll debut the effect with a zip-line during the Ziggy’s performance.
“It’s almost like [when] you were 12 years old, and you [were] in your garage and decided to put on a production of your favorite movie with whatever you could find,” Blake tells. “That’s kind of what our shows are. It’s like Disney World for drunk people!”
Playing Bonnaroo served as a perfect expansion of the productions; Blake always considered the performances akin to a rock concert, meshing his surf-punk tendencies with his theatre background. Ziggy’s rock ‘n’ roll flair seemingly will provide a fitting venue for the rowdy bunch to unleash their explosiveness, too.
“When we leave at the end of the night, it looks like a bomb went off!” Blake mischievously divulges. “We’re going to pull out all the stops for Wilmington, because I can’t come home and not put on the best show. I just hope we just don’t scare all [our] old theatre teachers—’I coached you all this time, and this is what you guys are doing?’”
If things go well, he may even make it a monthly fixture in Wilmington, with hopes of using a local cast. “Let’s laugh, let’s drink some beers, and let’s have fun,” Blake tempts.
Saturday, June 21st
Point Break Live!
Sunday, June 22nd
Ziggy’s By the Sea, 208 Market St.
Doors 7 p.m., Show: 8 p.m.