Ode to Air Guitar: Let Go and Feel Music

Ode to Air Guitar: Let Go and Feel Music

Air guitar isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind at the phrase "abstract art." But the cast of McLean High School's production of Airness are gleefully singing a different tune.

Airness is a play first produced in Washington DC in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It tells the story of Nina, a woman committed to succeeding in the world of air guitar to get back at her ex-fiance, with whom she parted on less than the best of terms. However, as Nina (portrayed by Jackie Stoll) learns about air guitar and the people who play it, she learns about what makes it meaningful, and what "air-ness" really is. Her teachers are a motley bunch, comprised of Shreddy Eddie (Charlotte Carson), Golden Thunder (Arielle Else), Facebender (Jack Abba), and Cannibal Queen (Idil Erdogan). The five of them often cross paths with national air guitar champion, D Vicious (Kate Fontaine), who has connections with both Cannibal Queen and Nina.

Each character had a strength in playing the air guitar, with Carson as Shreddy Eddie conveying his charisma beautifully, to Else putting on a brilliant show with Golden Thunder's distinct originality, to Erdogan's technical flawlessness as Cannibal Queen, to Abba as Facebender with the heart he puts into performing. The actors had a strong rapport that shows onstage, and their chemistry was intense. The explosive argument scene at the end of Act I was a testament to the actors' skill, to the point where it felt as though the audience was intruding on something private.

Other technical aspects also contributed to the intimate feel of the show. The play was performed in a Theatre in the Round style, where the audience was seated on all sides of the actors and had an up-close view of the events unfolding. The play was set in a detailed bar, designed and decorated by McLean's crews (lead by Vivian Kreeb, Haidyn Brockelman, and Chris Tillotson), where the characters interacted and played air guitar on the raised stage in the corner of the room. The lighting, executed by a crew lead by Scott Fulkerson, was beautiful. With bold, flashy colors spotlighting the characters, it felt as though they were each truly immersed in the world of rock and roll with each performance. Lights were used to emphasize different characters and their importance in the story.

The cast and crew at McLean High School created a heartwarming ode to air guitar, while maintaining ties to rock and roll. Watching Nina find out more about the people she slowly started to consider her friends is a lovely thing. She learned to take air guitar more seriously and came to embrace it the way her companions showed her, able to play without worrying about looking foolish. As a play, Airness wasn't only about air guitar. It's about connection, to one's friends, to one's art, and to one's self. 

Airness was a callback to days long past, to being a child who felt music deep in their bones, who could jump and dance without a care in the world. It's what draws people to air guitar, that ability to let go and feel music deep in their soul, and it's what Nina learned through the play. It's something we'd all benefit from every once in a while.