Guest post by Kathryn Glen.
Readers of a certain age and socioeconomic privilege will remember Marc Summers as the host of Nickelodeon’s hit game show Double Dare, where pint-sized contestants competed in physical challenges and hoped to avoid Nickelodeon’s ubiquitous green slime. Anyone who missed the show can catch its reboot on air today, or they can witness the phenomenon live on tour. With ’80s and ’90s nostalgia trending, On Your Marc — a documentary about the life of Marc Summers — may initially strike some as yet another attempt to monetize America’s collective memory. But On Your Marc is far from a hit-like-if-you-remember-this cash cow, it is an insightful look at one man’s triumphs and struggles that can resonate with viewers from a variety of entry points.
Summers hosted one of the messiest game shows on television while living with obsessive compulsive disorder, recovered from an auto accident which severely damaged the left side of his face, and survived a five-year struggle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Coping with any one of these physical challenges could merit a documentary on its own, yet Summers chose to add another layer of complexity in telling his story — live theatre. In 2016, Summers worked with Artistic Director Chad Rabinovitz and the Bloomington Playwrights Project to create and launch his one-man show Everything in Its Place: the Life and Slimes of Marc Summers. Footage from this process frames On Your Marc and sets an important theme: nostalgia can be as much about moving forward as it is about looking back.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon describes nostalgia as “the ache that arises from the consciousness of lost connection.” Indulging the past is one way to regain that connection, to find the people we used to be and the things we used to love. If one remains there, nostalgia can be the depressive illness it was originally designated in the 17th century. What On Your Marc does that many other remember-when ventures fail to do is to make that connection to past experience and carry it forward into something new. A phoenix rises from its own ashes just as Summers learns a new art form to present his story. Our past is a part of who we are; embracing it can help us become who we might be.
Rabinovitz characterizes much of On Your Marc as a “love-letter to BPP and the City of Bloomington,” and in many ways it is. Landmarks and local attractions are not merely part of the film’s background but take on a role as almost another character in Summers’s life. As a direct result of this centrality, Bloomington Playwrights Project and IU Cinema have the unique opportunity to host a sneak-preview screening of On Your Marc with post-show discussion featuring Summers, Rabinovitz, and Everything in Its Place co-star Mike Nappi on September 14th. See it if you love the ’80s. See it if you love Bloomington. See it if you love people who not only overcome their past but accept it, learn from it, and propel it into their future.
Kathryn Glen is the author of The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway, available on Amazon and wherever you bug your local bookseller enough. Also a Graduate Assistant at Bloomington Playwrights Project and a Masters of Arts in Arts Administration candidate at Indiana University, Kathryn is interested in theatre and storytelling as a mechanism for community building.