December Spawned a Monster… Questions for Adam Dugas

Photo by Casey Spooner

Now in its eighth year, “Chaos & Candy” has become Downtown’s official debaucherous Christmas-themed performance art spectacle. It’s a performance of holiday thriller “The Unholy Night,” the story of the Krampus, a ghoulish nemesis of Santa who inflicts punishment on poorly-behaved children. When not possessed by the holiday spirit, the show’s director, Adam Dugas, might be seen creative-directing music video shoots or performing with Ann Magnuson. Dugas is also the show’s creator, emcee, composer, mise-en-scène, and poster boy, so he’s well equipped to answer a few questions about what to expect of this year’s extravaganza.

NICK HALLETT:  Just what are you supposed to be in this photo?
ADAM DUGAS: Some kind of metal snow demon. The wardrobe is never done before the press image has to be made, so I am always improvising. My character is the Winter Warlock, the Horned King, the Watcher in the Woods.

HALLETT: What can you tell us about the costumes this year? 

DUGAS: This year the look is inspired in part by Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen movie, Karlheinz Weinberger’s sexy photographs of Swedish biker gangs from the 50s and 60s, and a dash of classic heavy metal.

HALLETT: How did “Chaos & Candy” first come about?

DUGAS: I guess I’ve always been interested in exploring the origins of things, going beyond the assumed world. It feels like Christmas as we know it has been around forever, but it was basically invented in New York by merchants and marketers in the nineteenth century. I’d always wanted to do my own Christmas special and I mentioned it to Jeffrey Deitch. He funded the first production.  The ceiling was hung with 100 hand-cut three-foot snowflakes, floor to ceiling velvet curtains, a petting zoo, a craft fair and a spectacular show. It was a dream come true, especially because I achieved my main goal, which was to open a window on Christmas for people who felt excluded or sickened by it.

HALLETT: What is it about the holiday season that makes you so inspired?

DUGAS: As a kid I just loved snow and winter and Santa Claus and the Rankin-Bass holiday specials, but now I have grown to love the season for all these other things I have found. I’m a little goth at heart, and the 12 days, being the darkest time of the year, were thought to be the time when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest. So it’s a time of ghosts roaming and trolls dancing at midnight.

“Chaos & Candy 8: Unholy Night” is performed on December 18 and 19. Abrons Art Center is located at 466 Grand Street, New York.