An Exclusive Peek Behind-The-Scenes Of Karen O’s Rock Opera, ‘Stop The Virgens’!

Karen O performs in her opera, “Stop The Virgens.”
Photo: Courtesy of KK Barrett and “Stop the Virgens”

Since it was first announced over the summer, I’ve been waiting impatiently for Karen O’s psych-rock opera Stop the Virgens, a music-infused theatrical opus produced in conjunction with The Creators Project. Three weeks ago, I found myself standing with hundreds of others mere feet from the stage at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, anticipating the marriage of indie rock and over-the-top visual spectacle. As you might already know, Karen O is the frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (she’s also one of our fave style slayers FYI), and she co-created the project with production designer KK Barrett, known for his work on Marie Antoinette and Where the Wild Things Are (to which Karen contributed original music). Even though the show ran for only eight days, we still can’t stop thinking about it or hoping that it will be remounted again soon because, folks, I’m here to tell you that this thing was AMAZING. If you can imagine 40 girls on a black circular stage running around in gleaming white choir robes while maniacally spitting up fountains of blood, a commanding female figure singing at them like an ice princess overlord while drums pound and guitars snarl in cacophonous harmony, then you have only a slight idea of what Stop the Virgens is all about.

Bringing together a talented (and pedigreed) team of musicians, performers, and designers to create a visual and aural carnival incorporating Karen’s signature assault of audacious punk rock wit, the look and sound of the show was INSANE (as in, insanely AWESOME). Karen’s longtime stylist and the show’s costume designer Christian Joy, as well as wig master and makeup artist Mike Potter, known for his work on Hedwig and the Angry Inch, created humped monsters, lobster claws, giant horns, human hair dresses, lotus flower glasses, and sumo wrestler wigs, and took Karen O on a mythological style journey from evil goddess to ’60s girl group enchantress. It all has to be seen to be believed. Lucky for me (and for you), MTV Style got an exclusive peek…

A shot of the stage from “Stop The Virgens” featuring Lili Taylor and Karen O.
Photo: Courtesy of KK Barrett and “Stop the Virgens”

Stop the Virgens was originally an album Karen made six years ago that she decided to release in a more visceral way. She collaborated with Barrett to come up with the look of the show and with Sam Spiegel of N.A.S.A. fame and her YYY’s bandmate/guitarist Nick Zinner to flesh out the musical aspect. With a backing band that included YYY’s drummer Brian Chase and Beastie Boys keyboardist Money Mark (among others), the show came together under the direction of edgy theatre writer/director Adam Rapp. What’s it all about, you ask? In Karen’s words, it’s “an assault on the tragic joys of youth, fever dreams drenched in visual seduction, a cathartic spell spun through a cycle of nine songs.”

Sketches of two of Karen O’s costumes in “Stop The Virgens.”
Photo: MTV Style/Courtesy of Christian Joy

Karen plays a menacing character at first, and emerges out of a giant ruffled cloak in a black and white gown made out of human hair. She goes through several changes throughout the show, which designer Christian Joy encapsulates in a variety of innovative costumes that reference things like beetles, jellyfish, lobsters, mermaid queens, and pixie nymphs.

Props from Karen O’s “Stop The Virgens.”
Photo: MTV Style

Karen’s character interacts throughout the show with a chorus of “virgens” (yes, with an e-n-s) that wear choppy blonde wigs, haphazard makeup, and sawed-off choir robes. They all sing in eerie harmony and are watched over by two sentinel women in dark blue robes, one of which is played by indie actress Lili Taylor. The Virgens also like to make mischief.

Girls in lotus glasses from Karen O’s “Stop The Virgens.”
Photo: Courtesy of KK Barrett and “Stop the Virgens”

Wig master Mike Potter said he’s “been trying to get Karen to have white hair for years” to no avail. Instead, he was able to re-create it in the show with three dramatic, human-hair wigs that Karen switches in and out of. He describes the process of creating Karen’s looks as “coming together like magic,” which is also how I viewed the show.

Wigs from Karen O’s “Stop The Virgens.”
Photo: MTV Style

Even though Stop the Virgens ended a short while ago, hopefully with help from The Creators Project and their collaborators Intel the show will have another life soon. (If the whispers on the wind are anything to go by, it might, yeah yeah yeah, be a possibility…). I’m desperate to see it again and in album form, too, because it’s the lost GIRL POWER album I think we all need. Also, girls onstage singing, playing, and behaving like the crazy creative entities we all are? Well, that’s awesome, and frankly should be happening more often all over the dang place. So, thanks, Karen O, for taking a fantastic artistic step in that direction. You ROCK.


{Thanks to The Creators Project and Stop the Virgens.}

* And here’s another STV peek courtesy of Ioulex and the The New York Times.

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