For better or worse, Jackson, Wyoming, has developed one of the strongest mountain town identities out there. In fact, the town's unique character has become so culturally pervasive that it has even inspired its own play.
Call it ski comedy or high-altitude theater, but this past April, “I 2 Can Ski Forever” took the Jackson Hole valley by storm, selling out a pair of shows at Jackson's Center for the Arts and delivering some needed comic relief during a low tide spring season.
"We are poking fun at the ski culture, the people who are just really driven by that one passion," says Andrew Munz, the writer and director of the show. "This place has such an identity, so we want to be able to laugh about it once in a while."
As the crowd of 700--skiers and non-skiers alike--packed the theater for the two performances can attest, the comedy group delivered, leaving no stone grinder unturned. Seasonal workers, cougars, juice cleansers, and ego-swollen ski bros, "everyone gets their comeuppance," says Munz, an aspiring playwright and actor with local roots. Ten actors and a local snow dog named Mellow starred in the series of character-driven skits, forgoing intricate set design in favor of sharp dialogue, clever song covers, and a few on-stage PBRs.
“I 2 Can Ski Forever” is the third of Munz's Jackson-based satires, and a sequel to last year's, “I Can Ski Forever.” After selling out three 100-person shows in 2014, he decided to up his game this season, and audiences responded.
"We had people sitting in the first show that were getting up after the first act to buy tickets for the next show," says Munz.
The skits are fine-tuned for a Jackson crowd (if Pinky G's and the Silver Dollar don't ring a bell, you may be a little lost), but the themes ring universal--the overwhelming disparity of males to females, the housing merry-go-round, a general lack of responsibility, and the blinding passion of being the best (or at least coolest) skier on the mountain among them.
One skit features an interpretive dance about the struggles of waking up for first chair, while another dives into the clueless backcountry skiers that head up Teton Pass every day. Intermittent video breaks look at the park rat as a creature on the Discovery Channel, and during one of the song numbers an actor yells, "We have no ambition, got a seasonal position." The bits are short, witty, and pack a satirical punch.
The comedic ode to life in a mountain town was a Munz brainchild years in the making. The 27-year-old playwright grew up in Jackson and has watched it grow from a sleepy cowboy ski town into a full-blown tourism machine. Along with that growth has been a steady influx of outsiders looking to make their homes in the mountain haven, developing a distinct culture along the way.
"People move here and want to be a part of the community. They don't want to stand out as different so they tend to change their lifestyle and outfits to fit into the local scene," says Munz. "No one wants to feel like an outsider."
The result, as in any ski town, is a ridiculous conformity to the average: College grad moves to Wyoming for plaid, cheap beer, part-time jobs, part-time relationships, powder skiing, and more cheap beer. The lifestyle is formulaic in a hilarious sort of way, but it's a path so many of us have taken to fall deeper in love with the mountains.
"Everyone indulges in the culture a little bit," says Kari Hall, an actress in the show that moved to Jackson eight years ago "for a summer" and never left. "We're in a bubble here, so if we can't laugh about it with our friends, then we're just going to be more isolated from the real world in the end."
It's not a traditional ski entertainment medium by any means, but “I 2 Can Ski Forever” is a third-eye perspective of our oft-insular world of skiing. Munz says he hopes to run a new show next year with new skits and videos, because, while he admits that he has pretty much hung up his skis in favor of the stage spotlight, he maintains that living in a ski town like Jackson makes it just about impossible to ignore the inherent ski culture, and all of the entertaining idiosyncrasies that go with it.
"By recreating this ski stuff on stage we get to laugh at it out loud with our community," says Munz. "We're shedding light on what we all laugh about in private. It's a look at our culture through a comedic lens, not just our polarized ones.