Once again, local zine ‘Stupor’ comes to life at Planet Ant

Stupor zine Publisher Steve Hughes holds up his latest issues that have formed the basis of a new theater production at Planet Ant, which starts this weekend.


By Alan Madlane
Hamtramck is in a Stupor again.
As in, Stupor ‘Zine, that locally produced and highly unpredictable publication that trades on the dialog that fills the barroom air here in town.
And they’ve got another live production in the works, happening in fact this very upcoming weekend.
Review: Will these new (or “unreleased” or “twin of unreleased”) issues of Stupor be available to buy in print form? How many print issues of Stupor does this make now, anyway?
Hughes: The new issue is number 47. It’s titled “DISAPPEARING ACT” and is a companion to the last Stupor release, which came out in June 2022. That one was titled “MY SECRET SICKNESS.”
Together, they are a double album, both have red covers, and both were designed by the same artist, Renee Willoughby (Shout out to Renee!), and both are being performed together at Planet Ant.
Yes, about how to buy them! I’ll have the new issue for sale at the Planet Ant show, along with back issues, books too, even Stupor T-s and Stupor totes.

Review: Who among the suspects — being, you or The Hinterlands — was the first to turn to Roberto Bolaño’s work for inspiration? Is he heavy on crime writing/reportage? Or else, why the crime angle to this show?
Hughes: Before our Stupor collaboration, The Hinterlands (a performance group based in the neighborhood north of Hamtramck) were sketching out possibilities for a piece based on Roberto Bolaño’s short novel “Antwerp.”
Bolaño is Chilean author. His stories are surreal and poetic, but also deal with some tough subject matter like homicide, crimes of passion, and the weird normalization of disappearances — like one day your neighbor might just be gone — Poof!
The Hinterlands were fascinated by Bolaño’s work. It rubbed off on me. Over the course of our collaboration, I read almost all his books. The stories in these new Stupors reflect it.
Review: How did you assemble your cast for this show? Did you hold auditions, or just anoint actors with roles based on knowing them from before? Or…?
Hughes: We had auditions at Planet Ant in early December. The brain behind the production belongs to Myles De Leeuw. As a director, she’s quick to see what’s working and what’s not, and skilled and even in correcting whatever problems come up.
Really, I think she’s outstanding, so it’s very good to be working with her again. Yes, some of the actors who appeared in last year’s show are also back for this one. I’ve been going to the rehearsals, and I have to say, I have a ton of respect for them.
Review: Were there any stories that you heard from interviewees that were too much to handle—we imagine that some of it could just be downright heartbreakingly sad. Did you err toward the comedic or darkly comedic more in choosing which stories to fit into this show?
Hughes: It’s true we heard all sorts of stories, but I sure don’t remember any that were sad or hard to hear. Sure, some were absurd.
Some felt like… wow… I can’t believe you did that, or how is that possible? Of course, we were at the bar collecting the stories. That means, most of us were enjoying ourselves with a drink or two, and most of the patrons we talked to were in good spirits as well.
The stories that appear in “MY SECRET SICKNESS” and “DISAPPEARING ACT” came from a three night bar-tour of Hamtramck: first Bumbo’s, then Painted Lady, and last Outer Limits.
Overall, we collected 45 stories via video camera. I transcribed them and that text became the rough drafts for the ten stories that made it to print and will be performed at Planet Ant.
Review: Have you started plotting out what’s next in the Stupor Universe yet? There are probably all sorts of directions you could go in — embarrassing moments from childhood; animal encounters; feelings about what the afterlife is like; etc.?
Hughes: Next year, 2025, marks 30 years of Stupor, and also 30 years since I’ve lived in Hamtramck. It’s been a good run. I’d like to make a new issue to celebrate the big 3-0.
Review: What’s this about last weekend’s reading at Book Suey? I heard it ruled!
Hughes: It did rule because Book Suey rules! It was a pre-party event to celebrate the Planet Ant event. I read with poets and flash-fiction writers from Book Suey workshops.
After the readings, there was a performance by the electo-synth duo that call themselves “o0.” Book Suey is an awesome store. I am so happy they decided to open shop here. Also, they happen to have the largest collection of Stupors anywhere in North America. Long live Book Suey!
The reviews are in, and they’re already calling it the Hamtramck Literary Event Of The Year! Funny that it’s happening right next to the library, where one might guess, not a single Stupor is to be found.
“Disappearing Act” and “My Secret Sickness” run at Planet Ant from Feb. 9 through the 17, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m. Get your tickets at planetant.com
Posted Feb. 9, 2024

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