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‘Everything Is Terrible!’ turns forgotten kids movies into live St. Louis show

Costumed members of the Everything Is Terrible! group stand in front of a wall of VHS tapes.
Jim Newberry
The Everything Is Terrible! artist collective is bringing its latest creation to St. Louis, uniting found footage with live performance art.

The surreal live show “Kidz Klub” opens for a one-night production in St. Louis this weekend, marking the latest creation from the artist collective known as Everything Is Terrible! For the group’s co-founder Dimitri Simakis, this latest project represents a culmination of what began around 2008, in his words, as an “unhealthy obsession” with lost media.

“We've just been collecting thousands and thousands of tapes,” he said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “It’s just endless.”

In the beginning, Simakis says he and his co-creators at the artist collective Everything Is Terrible! focused their efforts on splicing together clips from different VHS tapes — for instance, combining a few seconds of an anti-drug after-school-special with a voiceover from a low-production Bible story — to create something new and darkly funny.

But simply uploading short clips to the group’s website wasn’t enough. That’s where the idea for a live show began to develop. The show, which comes to Off Broadway on Friday, has since evolved to its current state featuring a collection of lavishly costumed performers who emerge during the show with their own story to tell.

“We wanted something physical, something that would last beyond whatever website we're putting it up to watch,” Simakis explained, describing the design for the St. Louis show. “It’s like you get to see a little bit of a live show, then a little bit of a movie.”

He added, “We really want to just assault all your senses.”

Even without the live action component of the show, the film wages its own war on the eyes and ears of the audience. The group’s eighth feature-length film, “Kidz Klub" doesn’t follow a rigid plot, but instead moves through a narrative that borrows and twists the messages attached to the original films. As filmmakers, Simakis noted, the challenge becomes: "How can we create a narrative out of thousands and thousands of other stories?"

Even trickier is the challenge of remixing video content that was originally devised as what Simakis flatly identifies as propaganda – in this case, films designed to dramatize religious or civic lessons, or featuring adults lecturing young viewers to mind their manners, believe in God and obey their teachers.

Listen: ‘Everything Is Terrible!’ turns to kids TV

“That's a huge part of Everything Is Terrible!” Simakis pointed out. “That all media is tricking you, all media is lying to you in some way.”

In development since 2019, Simakis pointed out that “Kidz Klub” draws on more than just VHS tapes, but DVDs from the early aughts as well. He’s not worried about the group running out of content anytime soon, even as VHS collections grow steadily rarer.

However, while “Kidz Klub” is advertised as “a psychedelic retelling of the American myth,” Simakis emphasizes that viewers shouldn’t assume the show’s target audience is restricted to stoners or fans of psychedelics.

There's a real preciseness to the film, he explained. “You can enjoy it. You can just let it kind of wash over you if you want it to.”

Related Event

What: Everything Is Terrible! presents Kidz Klub!
When: 8 p.m. March 11
Where: Off Broadway. 3509 Lemp Ave, St. Louis, MO 63118

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."