My Salvation Has A First Name: A Wienermobile Journey (FringeNYC)

by Ellen Wernecke

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 12, 2008

Robin Gelfenbein in "My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey" at FringeNYC
Robin Gelfenbein in "My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey" at FringeNYC  

Robin Gelfenbien was happy with who she was, for the most part, until she got to college. There, for no sensible reason, the author and performer of My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey was singled out and picked on mercilessly, causing her to do something that put her dream of becoming a broadcast journalist on the back burner.

When Oscar Mayer came to recruit on campus for their "Hot Dogger" program -- the official name for drivers who spend a year at the helm of one of the company's seven 23-foot Wienermobiles on their endless promotional tours -- the tap-dancing, high-energy Jewish girl from Hartford could not be deterred from applying. Her year with the Wiener changed her life, but not necessarily in the way she expected.

Gelfenbien's one-woman show introduces characters like her auntie, the only one in the family to believe in her dream, and her overly laid back driving partner, a slacker from Florida who is constantly defying the rule not to make sexual comments about the vehicle. One of her best characters, and a highlight of her adventures, is the corporate "fixer" who is sent to ride along with them whenever Gelfenbien or her partner misbehave, like the time they made an inappropriate appearance in the town where the Lorena Bobbitt trial was being held. Though Gelfenbein entertains us with her singing and dancing, it is her talent as the consummate storyteller that makes her rambling tale of the road hold together so well. Giving so much of her tale over to the trials of becoming a Hot Dogger, she exposes the wild hair every college senior develops but few get to experience: the intoxicating aroma of total freedom.

For Gelfenbein, in the end self-discovery was just a fiberglass meat product away.

Gelfenfein’s one-woman show, directed by Jeremy Gold Kronenberg, is part of the New York International Fringe Festival. It plays August 12 at 9:15, August 14 at 10, August 17 at 2:30 and August 21 at 3:30 at the Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street. For more information, visit or

Ellen Wernecke's work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR's "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.