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On Tuesday evening, a voice boomed out over the full house at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. “Vice President Mike Pence has been abducted by … aliens?”
Such is reality at Cornyation, the annual Fiesta event that satirizes local, state, national, and global affairs through elaborate props, wacky skits, and a generous use of confetti cannons. The audience laughed, cheered, and danced in their seats as performers gave their all to entertain the masses in two shows on opening night. The Empire Theatre felt like one giant party as audience members crowded the bar before and sometimes during the performances.
As is customary, Cornyation was packed with pop culture references paired with current events. In one sketch, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh loomed over the audience, surrounded by dancing witches á la American Horror Story, cackling over a bubbling cauldron. Former City Manager Sheryl Sculley made three appearances, strutting across the stage with confidence each time, while jokes about Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his muscles remained wildly popular with the crowd. Even the sharks of the ubiquitous “Baby Shark” song had their moment in the spotlight.
Cornyation also briefly honored cycling community leader Tito Bradshaw, who was struck and killed by a motorist early April, with a cyclist zooming by during the entrance of King Anchovy, a parody of Fiesta royalty.
Longtime host Elaine Wolff and first-time host Jesse Mata introduced each sketch with saucy humor, throwing in the occasional f-bomb and double entendre. The two bantered and cracked jokes about Chick-fil-A, Julián Castro, and King Anchovy.
“Cornyation made a bold choice for king,” Mata deadpanned as he introduced King Anchovy Mindy Miller Hill, “with a powerful, affluent white woman from Alamo Heights.”
At Tuesday’s 10 p.m. performance, Cornyation hit a few technical snags when music began playing off-cue. After calling an early intermission, the cast came back and finished the rest of the show without incident. The Tuesday performances are the first time the skits are performed on stage together, Wolff said.
“We were like, ‘Ha! That was a classic Corny dress rehearsal,’” Wolff said.
The party continues after each performance when Cornyation actors pour out of the Empire Theatre onto College Street to say hello to their friends and fans.
Wolff said she loved seeing how heavily local events featured in Cornyation 2019.
“Some years it’s more national,” she said of the parody skits. “This year, because of the local election and the propositions, you have more local skits and it’s really fun.”
Cornyation raises money for local AIDS-related charities and has donated more than $2 million since it became a nonprofit. The organization has also established the Robert Rehm scholarship for up to four students, giving college scholarships to San Antonio students who major in the arts.
Cornyation continues Wednesday and Thursday nights, with two performances per night. Buy tickets here or visit the Majestic Empire Theatre box office.