Director brings wrestling’s fakery center-stage

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Nov 2, 2009

Seth Rozin, artistic director of InterAct Theatre, is so pumped about his production of The Elaborate Entrance of the Chad Deity, about pro wrestling, that he can demonstrate how someone can get pummeled with a folding chair without getting hurt.

Rozin has wanted to direct the play by Kristoffer Diaz ever since he read it two years ago, but knew that a wrestling ring set wouldn't work on InterAct's regular stage. Fortunately, he arranged for the arena style stage at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, just a few blocks away.

The play is about pro wrestling pomp and drang, ostensibly, but with larger messages about survival of the fittest in an apocalyptic world. Rozin also had to have a troupe of actors who were willing to nail the fight scenes.


A hot playwright

"Kristoffer is a hot playwright and there is a lot of buzz about this play. This is his coming out play. And he has a tremendous voice. A hip-hop poetic language. I saw the preview of it at the Victory Garden Theatre (in Chicago) on a regular stage, much as I loved it, I knew that I had to put the audience in an arena space.

"I wasn’t a wrestling fan. The play is very much about how wrestling is theater not sport. Everybody knows it’s scripted, with improvisation with the players trusting each other and no one gets hurts. Ways that we entertain with a broader metaphor about something in the world, broad and bald, as it is." (Story continues on following page.)

Watch a wrestling rehearsal from the production:



Taking aim at fakery

Rozin is fascinated by the wrestling world’s layers of theatricality, mixed with the visceral involvement of the fans. "This play shows this world as fake and violent and shallow, the play lets you see what else is happening.

And then there are the moves which Rozin calls acrobatic and intricate. "Our whole production staff went to Combat Zone Wrestling, which pushes the boundary. These guys are big, not like actors bodies, and they are doing these moves that can’t possibly be real.

"But the fakery has something to say about our culture. The fact that we indulge it grotesquely in this country. The play takes aim at that. Who is suffering at the bottom while someone is rising."

Hmmm.

"The central character is a ’jobber’ whose purpose is to get his butt kicked. By the guy who is the big champion. The winner every week gets the money, fame and glory. The jobber is the better wrestler of course."

Double down hmmm. Rozin says the fighting aside, Diaz delves into race, stereotypes and class issues.

Tony ’The Hitman’ Stetson, an old-school wrestler, worked with fight choreographer John Bellomo to work out the moves. Also in the cast is Eric ’The Smoke ’ Moran, a professional wrestler, who helps to keep the actors in the fight scenes safe.

There was, nonetheless, some anxiety as to executing some of the moves.

"The lead actor Juan Pachesco as Mace (making his professional stage debut) got the script and realized he was required to do the ’power bomb,’ which is a flip and slam move, so was having second thoughts after he watched a demonstration. There are three moments that they can do it. He slept on it over night and the next day was ready to go all the way."

Aside from the fine Philly actor Jeb Keager, the rest of the cast make their InterAct debuts.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity continues through November 22, 2009 at the InterAct Theatre Company, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA. For more information visit the InterAct Theatre website.


Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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