Gonzo Theater: A Savage Nightmare Journey Into the Heart of the Great American Play.
I found it late one night, cruising the interweb for money. Fast cash now. Apparently, there are these people who can and do make billions of dollars, suckling at the teat of globalized information networking. Me? I got a check from Google, once. In return for 12 years of maintaining a blog, YouTube channel, and unrelenting brand loyalty. I do not monetize well, and so remain internet poor. Unlike Google, I happen to believe in privacy, and sovereignty, and owning our ideas, for whatever they are worth. So, I was looking for cheap play contests, or festivals, or opportunities online, that would lead to the exposure of the theater I write. Then, there it was. The official Pulitzer Prize web page. Enter now, they said. So, I did.
The Pulitzer people are very clear on their criteria, for drama. You must produce a play, during the calendar year, submit a $50 online application fee, and then mail six copies of the manuscript, with an optional DVD. It is emphasized that the DVD is recommended, but non-essential. It then occurred to me, so clearly and true, that one does not win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama without writing and producing original plays. My experience as both a playwright and a producer gave me the self-knowledge that I could produce my own written work, and submit for this prize, as many times as I wanted. An absurd experiment in freaking out the normals.
Of course, that is making it sound easy, which it obviously is not. In fact, I can say without hyperbole that my shows have almost killed me, several times. But, better to die working towards a seemingly impossible goal than to continue languishing in the purgatory of the unproduced playwright? For is there any worse fate than, for a script to remain unperformed? I think not. So, rather than continue to pay fees submitting my work for lesser prizes, I aimed my sights skyward and pulled the trigger. Ambiguity and failed ventures were set aside. I would write, produce, and direct a new original show every year. Trying to win the PP for D, until dead.
21st Century Play.
Becoming a first-generation college graduate is not easy. It involved becoming so destitute that the government unequivocally offered aid, in the form of high interest and inescapable student loans. It involved settling outstanding debt, accrued and defaulted because of tragic and inescapable circumstances. It involved throwing away my shame and accepting help. I finally graduated in 2015 from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, securing the bachelor of science degree in theater arts that had eluded me for so long. 17 years is a long time to matriculate. Somewhere in all of that, I delivered dead bodies as a driver for Cease Family Funeral Homes. Moving dead people around offers a unique and life altering perspective on existence. Realizing how fragile and brief our lives are focused me on creating new work.
In the process of avoiding graduation, I had accomplished many things. Plays written, directed, and performed. I have only one formal Playwrighting class under my belt, and the professor used a text book from 1972. I would like to think there were some advances made, since 1972, but no. I wrote a comedy for that class called PWNed in Kyrgyzstan, which is currently unperformed. I wrote it using Aristotelian methods, with many other parameters put in place by the nature of the assignment. With that work done, I wanted to write something that broke convention. A work that attempted, as a component of the script, to intentionally challenge and involve the audience within the performance. Tearing down the fourth wall. That fourth wall we all know is not there. It is the one, and perhaps only advantage that performance art has, over film and television. Live performance can, and I believe should, involve, challenge, and excite an audience. To that end I did things like spit at them, involve them in Q & A, and tried smells. 21st Century Play was my senior capstone project and it set out to break several theater rules on the cheap.
After writing my first draft for 21st Century Play I sent it to some friends to solicit feedback. I have a low response rate but can rely on a core of three to five supporters who will consistently read my stuff and offer feedback of varying usefulness. One comment from a fellow classmate from Playwrighting called it “Virtually unreadable.” Which was feedback that was new, and disturbing to me. I attempted some redrafts and when I thought I would be able to perform it on the cheap, I hit up Kickstarter for a funding goal of $1,000. The funds were meant to secure venues in two cities, relying on a presale audience model of production. This was not my first Kickstarter effort, but once funded at a final total of $1,220, it was my first successful one. When it was funded I felt giddy with achievement. I had 32 backers that had purchased tickets and DVDs in advance, and I had enough fluid income to negotiate with smaller spaces in Bemidji, and Saint Paul. The formula I’d been working towards for the last decade or so was to stage, rehearse, and preview in Bemidji. Bemidji, where costs were relatively low and audiences largely generous. Then transport to the Twin Cities, seeking out the exposure required to forward work to larger metropolitan audiences.
My allies in Bemidji Community Theater assisted early on by giving me a space at a variable cost based on any gross income. With the black box at Bemidji State University secured for previews, I set about the task of finding a venue closer to home, in Saint Paul. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul theater community is both a thriving ecosystem, and a cliquish hellscape. Getting a foot into any door can by a colossal achievement. Finally, the Mounds Theater seemed willing to book me. The Mounds had been padding their theater events with questionable wrestling. The tour found the only thing holding the place together was mite feces and prayers. They were entirely unwilling to share in any of the capital risk, and I found their rental prices unacceptably high. Eventually I made the choice to end negotiations.
This was not a first time attempt at original theater. In 2012 I produced and performed in Out of the Fez, which was a collection of seven short plays written for a biannual event produced by my friend and mentor, Greg Gasman. Over the course of four years I would eventually write a total of 8 works, for Out of the Hat. Then Gasman moved away and no one continued the event. Out of the Fez, was a collection of the first seven shorts. It had the advantage of being on the Bangsberg Mainstage which is the only designed live performance venue in the four counties surrounding Beltrami. The Paul Bunyan Playhouse, located in the center of downtown Bemidji, is a poorly converted movie theater. School venues are too large to function without microphoning performers, and others are poorly converted from other things. The Black Box is next best, as it is in a basement which is sound and tornado resistant.
With these original works, I set a trend by casting people I knew, rather than hold auditions. Auditions find the available, and the willing, but not necessarily the greatest talent. Rather, I wrote the piece with people in mind, and then sought them out. The original cast of 21st Century Play was Zak Holmes (Of the future!) [30s Male Educator] Jeremiah Liend, Present #1 [Massive Gift Box With Sexy Legs] Puppet, Present #2 [Another Massive Gift Box With Sexy Legs] Puppet, Leroy Jenkins [30s Male Educator] Jesse Whiting, Veronica Jenkins Ne Mars [30s Female Engineer] and Veronica Mars (Of the future!) [30s Female Space Pirate] Sasha Almendinger, Ace [40s Male Felon and Student] Mitch Blessing, Sarah [20s Female Artist and Student] Amanda Mix, Brick [50s Male Felon and Student] Eric Kuha, Manbot [Android Male Sophisticated] Jeffrey Willis, and Tiny Tim [10s Male Crippled English Boy. May be played by creepy puppet.] Puppet.
It is a larger cast, as staging goes. Oh, I’m no Wilbur Shakespeare, but rather I try to make a functional group of four to six characters interact. Without too many shenanigans, or tomfoolery. It was only 7 people, I was hoping for. In the end, it was one too many. Theater is still a very expensive art form. It requires a communal effort of groups of people, working in a coordinated fashion, towards opening night. Venues are impossible to find for less than thousands of dollars, if and when they are willing to respond to you. We had our first read through, Monday, July 27 2015. Noticeably absent was Mitch Blessing, who was playing Ace. The following night, cast members reported seeing him bicycling away, with speed. That night, after we finished our read through, Blessing quit the show because of a mandatory barbeque.
That night, I thought I was dying. I thought the rage, and anger, and sadness would explode my heart as a piñata full of blood. I pushed the rage. Focused it, into preparing for the show itself. The Black Box had not been performed in for four years, and everything in every direction was dirty and broken. But, there is not that too dirty, that it cannot be cleaned, nor so broken as to never be replaced. Or so I say. At some later date. I lifted desks and panels hundreds of times my body weight, over mattresses filled with mites, and furniture lost in the basement of the humanities. Cut MY theater program will you!? I did not die. To this day, I am still alive. Recasting was impossible. We only had a two-week rehearsal period, beginning upon casting. I had already shaken the Artist Tree for those willing to work for dozens of dollars, modest local celebrity, and the forwarding of original art. Of sorts. The willing had all fallen out, and no amount of shaking would help. So, I wrote Ace out of the script that night. Dividing his lines between Brick and Sarah, who represented the audience performers, actors seated in and among those in attendance. In the end, it was probably better? I was angry at Blessing for those years he took off my heart, that night. But, forgive and forget is the name of the drama game.
I didn’t make any money, with this show. Lost some, not a lot. Made me feel bad, but I knew art would make me feel bad, from the get go. I wish more people would have come? I was unsure as to why and how people did not come? I had FB targeted ads, some radio spots, some really good social media exposure, even a TV commercial, and people just did not come, in the numbers that I predicted, or wanted them to. We were the subject of a piece done on Lakeland Public Television for their show Common Ground. Scott Knudson, the producer, had early access and interest in the project. His recording lacks an audience, which is novel. In general, recording live theater is hard, but we do what we can for the sake of posterity. It is hard, having things on the internet. People can ignore them, entirely. Live performance is a participatory venture, and even with the best quality of video, it lobotomizes a performance down to something that can be easily ignored. The competition is every swinging dick with a few million to burn in marketing dollars. I don’t have that sort of money, around here. A $1,000 Kickstarter should not expect itself to become the next Eugene O’Neill play. But, for the record, O’Neill can also feel free to kiss my ass. How I long for his lavish barn.
Getting the footage piecemealed together and finally sent was a laborious and unpleasant process. The final product was of the most dubious and shaky of quality. No, this would not be the year we were winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That much was clear, as my lateral graduate research pointed my creative compass toward the loadstone of Hamilton. Well, sure, Lin-Manuel Miranda. You have all those resources. With the fancy schooling and the credible financing. The professional production staff and crew. We’re just out here, you know? Trying to say something equally important, and maybe question things? Challenge a few people. A very few. Dozens and dozens of people. It isn’t sad failure, it’s building a following.
Four Garys was a play I began writing in 2013. The germinal idea for writing this work comes from an interaction with a lifelong friend, Phil Broste. Phil played guitar in a band with his father, Gary Broste on bass, Gary Burger on guitar, and Gary Vanyo on drums. When forwarding names, my preference was “Three Garys and A Phil” as opposed to “Phil and The Garys”, or “3 Gary Phil”, or even the actual band name, which ended up being Wigglestick. When thinking about the three Garys, though, I always dreamed of a fourth. Imagine it. Four Garys? The germinal idea is planted, but it would be almost two decades before anything would see the sun. I came back to writing this play in 2016 for a lot of reasons, but foremost in my mind was to create something for my friend, Gary Burger, who was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. I thought it was something that could make him laugh, when he needed it most. I did not get to send him the play, before he passed. But I believe he, or at least the ghost of another Gary, watched over me, as I wrote it. Garys watch over me still, perhaps?
Gary Burger’s famous adventure was being the lead singer and guitarist for The Monks, a band whose seminal album, Black Monk Time is considered eternally groundbreaking rock. When I miss Gary and the joy he brought to so many, I turn to his art for solace. I listen to his music and watch his films. When I do I know that he is not dead, but alive, forever. Preaching the good word of love and peace. After all, as he sang, I’m a monk, you’re a monk, we’re all monks. Called to sing the praises of our miraculous world. Our spacecraft. By the way, Garys is not an actual word, according to my computer. But I maintain that multiple Garys exist. Life is weird, you know? The work that was generated was far weirder than one person, or thought, however. It was driven by life events and experiences, deaths mostly, that deeply influenced and guided my ethos towards pathos, and then towards creation. If that is even a thing, anymore.
The play presupposes that every character is identical to one another, and makes no attempts to separate dialogue, except by speakers. It is experimental because I am not aware of anything like it being attempted before, but that may be my own ignorance. You could never get four identical people to play in a show, unless you were lucky enough to find quadruplets, somewhere. So we used puppetry to fill the gap, and made individual voices merely a matter of personality. A large part of the rehearsal process was supposed to be finding the dialogue that is appropriate for each voice, and then creating a universal tone and vernacular that will close the distance that puppetry may not reach.
Another component was the integration of the puppetry, which promised to be something like Waiting For Godot, in space, with puppets, or Avenue Q without the music or budget, also in space. PWNed in Kyrgistan, 21st Century Play, and Four Garys are primal and absurd Jeremiads of rebellion. The work rebels externally, by challenging the ways in which things are performed to a live audience. They rebel internally, by refusing to set themselves within a focused narrative. They rebel against the roots of understanding by which I approach these works, that being from “Theater of the Absurd”. What Beckett and Ionesco turned to as a means of translating the uselessness of human existence, the absence of meaning and value, is fundamentally different from the theater I seek to create. I make “Theater of the Weird,” because life has a point. If you create one. The idea that there is no real meaning to life but that which we apply to it is great. Fun stuff, existentialism. Moving beyond this intangible philosophy, we can unite ourselves in celebration of the weird and miraculous. Despite our reason and science occult and faith based cultures persist within our macroculture. What is witchcraft one place being wordplay in another. It is into this milieu that I placed Four Garys. To begin, I wrote the work with the very specific intention not to number or otherwise differentiate the Garys.
Technology of the far future will mean life will be a matter of stem cell manipulation, essentially 3-D printing out humans. Human life will be used as a cheaper-than-robot form of labor. The challenge is writing identical beings. Clones. Calling them “Gary 1” and “Gary 2” places an unintended value and differentiation that I wanted to avoid. Instead, the reader can simply interact with a single voice, colored to varying degrees by age and individual experience. It was, of course, difficult to pull off. With the shortest rehearsal period I had ever attempted, it could be considered forever doomed to mediocrity and failure. Nevertheless, I believe my life has but one meaning: to create weird theater.
Feedback provided by several peers helped with drafting. In the end, I was forced to walk away and trust that I had written something of value. Art sometimes reveals things to us after we have created it that we did not really understand or appreciate. I have come to the realization that we are all of us space janitors. Cloned poorly, perhaps, but still 99% identical. In the vast emptiness of space, it is one another alone that we must rely upon to aid us in our many tasks. If 21st Century Play was unreadable, Four Garys was incomprehensible. It toed the line between absurdity and relevance like nimble mountain goat, only to rabidly tilt headlong in an entirely new and troubling direction. I created a Kickstarter for Four Garys but never launched it. I didn’t want to manage a crowdfunding site while working on finer production details. I had a verbal agreement with a faculty member of the theater department who, for our purposes and those of potential legal actions, we will call Fail Blowfart. Professor Blowfart showed some real enthusiasm for my research and work, after a rocky start with some dismissive and disrespectful email. Producing for credit, it made sense to use my financial aid to help fund the show. So many people are going to attend, so why not? I will have help? I thought.
I couldn’t find the fourth Gary. Initially Sasha Almendinger had agreed, and then bowed out a month or so before rehearsals were scheduled, due to some conflict, like a fabulous vacation somewhere exotic. Once again I shook the Artist Tree, but shake though I might, entertain whatever bargains I could, entice people of all genders, ethnicities, and spiritual persuasions to do this cloned space puppet play, no takers. Venues fell into place nicely, the puppets were a labor of love, and experimentation. The poster was snappy. No fourth Gary. Eventually, and against all odds, I commited to playing two of the four Garys. I didn’t allow numbers, but assigned the Garys animal totems, representative of the creatures within the worldship of the Garys: Rat, Duck, Cobra, and Asp.
Jesse Whiting (local hero and educator) played Rat Gary, Eric Kuha (educator and technician) was Duck Gary, and I (local hero and fiend) played the snakes Garys. My normal panic levels elevated to new and unknown altitudes. I sent an email to Professor Blowfart, to see how we would schedule credits, to which they responded that they didn’t think what I created was theater, and that they had reservations about following through with our agreement. I was in a dark, terrible place, but I responded as politely as I could. I suggested the performance may prove otherwise, and that the journey from script to rehearsal to performance was an evolution.
Our preview venue was the Headwaters School for Music and the Arts, in Bemidji. The school is a repurposed funeral home. Our venue in Minneapolis, The Open Eye Figure Theater was apparently also once a morgue. Things were obviously going well from day one. Rehearsal was ridiculously short because summers were brief. Children running to and fro. Every performer had a crisis of faith. Every one of us had a moment, when we did not believe it could be done. Even stripped down and simplified, we were still grown men wearing ski masks while manipulating childlike nightmare puppets. The script was anything but simple.
Our opening in Bemidji went almost well, although audiences were virtually nonexistent. I had projected out worst case and break-even scenarios, and we were somewhere below my worst estimates. It wasn’t as if there was no advertising. The online promotions were well received, and the poster was snappy. There was a radio interview that many people heard, and we were on the community calendar. Still, no audience. None of the masses of people who claim to support theater attended. If the previews were hard the premier was a controlled nightmare. Friday afternoon my other two performers arrive three hours late and without the set pieces for the backdrop. We did a shaky rehearsal and then powered through opening night. The next day we had two performances, with the possibility of having our set, for the second. The matinee was my last. I will never do matinees ever again. The day started with my stage manager and brother having an anxiety attack due to medication imbalance. Driving to the show was a 50/50 to either the venue or the emergency room.
This was, of course, the performance that Professor Blowfart would attend. They did so comped, with a friend, mostly on their phone. Even on their phone through the curtain speech where I specifically asked no phones to be used. We had five audience members. I forgot my lines late into the second scene and left the stage for a script that was not actually there. My brother powered through. I didn’t have to run lights and sound, as well as perform in two out of four roles. At one point Kuha lost his connection to Gary ( perhaps because of nervousness) and on a response spun his Gary, which lost his wig. The wig went spiraling to the ground, and Kuha made a big deal out of retrieving it and putting it back on. As I said, a controlled nightmare.
The professor left at intermission. Never to be seen or heard of again. I’ve thought about following up several times. To explain to them about the ER, the set confusion, and the inability to push a complete vision into our reality. Still no dice. Maybe I will send them this, and let them know that they can die choking on a whole greasy bag of dirty donkey dicks? Maybe I will never see them again, and they will eventually die in a more conventional way? I thought about registering a formal complaint with the university, but to what end? Seems like more paperwork than any sense of real vengeance. At least I now know I will never do a matinee, again. That was the worst of it, and now I am done. I will perform in daylight no more forever.
The closing night, and the night we recorded, was a different flavor of nightmare. The set didn’t arrive until well after the audience was seated. The people who brought it begged me to use it, even though it was a ridiculously difficult task to assemble, and there was no curtain. I did it anyway. Let them see me assembling my cheap, recycled Styrofoam set. Let them know the weird shit I do, to entertain them. At some point I realized I was going to have to perform the “Suicide Bag Monologue” to the sister of a man who had himself suicide bagged, the previous year. That was the worst part. Knowing that I had to bring up this fresh pain, combined with some terrible sense that I didn’t have a right to it? To wit, the monologue:
Gary. A suicide bag is a device that consists of an airtight hood affixed to a tube that provides a steady supply of either helium or preferably nitrogen. If a proper seal is achieved, and the gas flow maintained, unconsciousness occurs within 30 seconds, and complete brain death within three minutes following that. Unlike exposure to carbon dioxide, which causes a panicked response, the natural breathing of noble gasses bypasses this reaction and death is serene, quick, and painless.
Not much of a monologue. Sort of gets thrown away for a cheap laugh, to offset the horror. It’s how I want to go, if I have any choice, in the matter. I would prefer a tent, of some kind. Or a chamber. In fact, I am currently locked in a moral debate as to whether or not to forward the idea of Gas Chamber 2.0 to the world at large. Still an airtight chamber, but you supplant the atmosphere with nitrogen, rather than Gas Chamber 1.0, which consists of dropping a packet of aerosol cyanide into hydrochloric acid. Currently we are executing our prisoners with experimental chemicals. In one case recently in the news executioners purchased drugs from people in the parking lot of the prison. Cruel and unusual, but here we are? I don’t want to get injected, or electrocuted, or shot, or hanged, or beheaded. I want to get gassed in a humane way, where I get to see a faint glimpse of hilarity before my eternal slumber. Is that too much to ask? After all, I’ve put in some time for good? Surely more so than the time I’ve devoted to bad.
So that was, and hopefully will be, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to perform. I felt I could not change it, because I wasn’t only considering the needs of the living, but the wishes of the dead as well. Incredibly hard. Apparently, the sister of the deceased had been informed about the monologue in advance. I still wonder about it. Worry about it. We made it. Despite everything, we limped over the goal line, with a weird show about space clones. If I would have had another week of rehearsal and a more comprehensive marketing plan, things probably would have gone much better. As it was, it was still semi-miraculous. Getting towards miraculous. That’s the thing with experimental theater; it’s all an experiment. Who knows if someone will really buy the poop in the bag? You don’t put a poop auction in a show, without wanting to venture into unknown territory. It was a Milky Way bar. PS. No one ate for reals poop.
I lost around $3,000, which was no fun. The puppets were weird, and may have looked cheap, but cost around $800 for four. I explained they were expensive and delicate to Kuha and Whiting. Who then both broke their Garys arms, within minutes of having them. It seemed like seconds. I guess it is just good they never tried working in a nursing home? I had to eat the cost and absorb it into financial aid. If not jacked out of my credit by Professor Blowfart I would have crowdfunded. That f-ing plebe. The dismissal filled me with such anger, loss, and sorrow. You get depressed after any show. You throw your heart, soul, blood, and sweat at the audience for a handful of nights. Then it is done. Move on. It is a specific and haunting flavor of mourning tasted by the theater. As close to post-partum depression as I ever care to be.
Despite these setbacks, among the wreckage I found little victories. I had done it, at long last rehearsed and previewed a production in Bemidji, and then transported it to the Twin Cities. An achievement more than a decade in the making. So, we must do it again. There was not enough time, to let Four Garys resolve, before I threw myself at the next show. During that process, my partner provided me with an epiphany. She came home from work and said that she realized something, about my work. That I put myself, Jeremiah Liend, into my works. Which I do. Isn’t that what Hunter S. Thompson did with his writing? It is. It is what he did. So, Gonzo Theater? There it was. Smashing me in the face as the Gonzo Fist. I do less drugs. Frankly, I don’t think doing acid makes you a good parent. Call me old fashioned. Still, I’m no angel.
I was filled with all this anger, and pain, and sadness, and loss, and I took all of it and judoed it into a new show, which I wrote over the course of two frenzied nights. I took Professor Fail Blowfart, and smashed them into Gloria Steinem, and put them into my box, and shook the holy hell out of it. In two nights, I wrote P.A.P.P.i.D.: Post Apocalyptic Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and it is probably the best play, of the three. Certainly my favorite. I did a few revisions based on feedback from three friends; Zak Holmes, Andrew Clemons, and Jess Mix. But, these were negligible edits on a work that came out of my brain fairly whole. Like the previous works it uses the Pulitzer Prize within a metanarrative. However, unlike the previous two works the fourth wall is established and the structure of the plot proscribed. Each presentation is really a miniature Aristotelian tragedy. Told with a gender balanced cast of six board members assemble below the crater of New York City Memorial Bay. Theirs to decide who will win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama 2400. It is a setting based on a tangent found within Four Garys, but my hope was that you didn’t have to see Four Garys to understand things. Because no one did.
With the script completed so quickly, I went to Kickstarter for funding, tripling my funding goal for 21st Century Play based on previous experience and expenses. To my surprise and through no small effort in social media marketing the project was funded. Then cast, produced, performed, and filmed. The final rewards have been distributed. There were certainly still complications and tribulations, with P.A.P.P.i.D.. But certainly not as many. There was one point where I was convinced I had summoned the unholy spirit of Joseph Pulitzer. That he was coming to drag me to hell. Luckily it was just a train. Our Bemidji venue was directly adjacent to the rail road tracks, you see? In Saint Paul, we had air conditioning! We are moving onward, and upward. Learning lessons. Planning attacks. If our foe is normality and our weapons are the arts.
P.A.P.P.i.D. seems to be the sort of success I am generally looking for. I have seen the ballpark, and it is writing small scale drama for an elite following. Having put my cast and audiences through their paces I am ready now to put aside my weird obsession with the Pulitzer Prize. I will no longer include it as a metanarrative. If this play doesn’t get me at least a finalist position, the whole game is rigged. They are just taking my $50, only to laugh all the way to the trash can. Those sad Pulitzer fucks probably don’t even recycle. I certainly do. P.A.P.P.i.D. was also the first play to have the Liend Arts Sustainability Scale (LASS) applied to it. After a preliminary score of 18, I revised it to a 20, and our final score was a 22. None of that means anything to you unless you’ve read my graduate work. In which case, thanks! The LASS is my solution for creating more sustainable theater. A tool for killing Disney. Fighting, at least.
The function of it, and these works, and this rambling series of recollections is to leave the world better than I found it. If they manage to kill me. It is a communication to my daughters, through time, so that if I am hit by a bus, or go into anaphylactic shock, or have a massive aneurism and die, they will be able to see who I was. Too many of my loved ones have died leaving nothing explained, or described. Whole swaths of time, lost forever from the oral tradition by television and light beer. In all this, I have only my stories. Although they’re stories set in the future, they’re really stories about the present. PRESENTS!?! And if this were a performance, sexy leg presents would go dancing on stage. But I AM the sexy leg present, you see? I only know of a couple of people who can write, produce, direct, and perform in their own work? Steve Saari, maybe? That guy’s a theater beast. But, who? Who else? The process is too bloated with rich people, saying absolutely nothing.
I don’t pretend to understand theater, or Gonzo, or anything. It is all a Grand Experiment, in seeing what sort of things are possible. Three original plays in three years is something, right? Not even O’Neill could crank out those numbers for long. Long Days Journey Into Night was just a shot in the dark, but it was also totally Gonzo. O’Neill showing us him and his drunk washed up thespian dad, fighting over stuff. Put some different names on it, and let the voices in your head have some ink. In all of this, I have no regrets. Only problems, and plans, and tactics. The next Great American Play is out there, somewhere. Just waiting for me to write, produce, direct, and perform in it. The futurescape is filled with performance spaces we can appropriate, and repair in our passing. The days of commercial theater are numbered, but in the new dark ages, the troupe shall reign again. As always, there is but one love, and we all must share it.
I wrote this rambling saga trying to keep things under a page count, but in doing so neglected to do the most important thing. Thanking the elite cast and crew for whom I dedicate this dread account. I could list their names, but I do. I have already. It is known now who among billions still rise to challenge normality so dramatically. Even stripped down to a skeleton crew of performer/artist/technician/swashbucklers, I would still take them into the very jaws of hell. I would take their talents in lieu of 1,000 Steven Speilbergs, and their commitment over a billion Tom Cruises. They are my heroes, my family, my friends, and my inspiration. Of them all, I specifically dedicate this work to Jesse “Jetski” Whiting. A greater performer, educator, or friend a person could not ask for. Working with him has been the greatest honor in life, and the finest pleasure in art. Long live the fighters, the players, the die-hards, and the artists. So mote it be, Amen, Gesundheit. Be on the lookout for further Gonzo Productions, in our weird future.
21st Century Play:
Common Ground With Jeremiah Liend:
Presents of the Past:
Northern Community Radio Four Garys Interview:
TAD Talk on Gonzo Theater:
P.A.P.P.i.D.: Post Apocalyptic Pulitzer Prize in Drama: