Dallas — Audacity Theatre Lab's fourth Dallas Solo Fest returns, after taking a break in 2017. The event runs June 6-10 in the smaller studio space at the Dallas Children's Theater. Look for interviews with each performer, and reviews of each show, coming on TheaterJones.
Our final interview is with Dallas theater stalwart John S. Davies, who brings his Oh, Jesus! Or… An Actor, a Cynic and a Savior Walk Into a Bar. Davies has been developing the piece for several years. It opens at 10 p.m. Friday, June 8; and continues at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9; and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 10.
Directed by Matt Lyle, the description reads: "Jesus is back (well, he says he's Jesus) and he has daddy issues. The crucifixion/resurrection thing didn't work out so well the first time. The world is still in chaos, so he's convinced his Father to let him try again, but this time he's going to use 21st Century tech to get the word out. Unfortunately, he keeps getting interrupted by a cynic with a stick up his ass. Davies presents a strange and uproarious meta-journey into the landscape of faith and deception."
How did this piece come together? How long did it take, and how many times have you performed it for audiences?
I started on this piece when I heard about the first SoloFest. I had been thinking of doing another solo ever since BEEM! and SoloFest seemed like the kick in the pants I needed. I started writing the piece in 2015, attended one of Brad’s [McEntire, the SoloFest founder/producer] Solo Salons and read what I had and got enough encouragement to continue. I performed it three times at the last Out Of The Loop Festival and was told I was the audience choice among the shows in The Stone Cottage. I was actually slated to be in the 2016 SoloFest but had too many conflicts with Outside Mullingar at WaterTower so I was thrilled Brad accepted me this year.
The first time I ever saw you perform was BEEM, which was produced by Ground Zero Theater Company. Have you done any solo work since then?
Really? The first time you saw me I was performing solo? Apparently more people saw it than I remembered. I keep running into people who remember it...I have not done anything since then although I would drink bourbon in the evenings and conjure ideas. Prior to BEEM! I had done Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. Those are my only solo ventures.
What are the challenges of performing a solo show?
How much time you got? The challenges are different depending on the show. When you've written the show yourself, one of the challenges is setting it. I think I'm finally down to only a couple of places where I'm still playing with the wording of a joke. Another challenge—much of this is akin to stand-up comedy—but I won't really have the chance to tweak it in front of an audience. By the third performance I might just be getting the rhythms down... Also challenging is rehearsal. It's difficult to work alone and even with a director it's hard to maintain focus. All of these challenges are compounded when you're also essentially producing and publicizing the show.
Matt's a funny guy, I've heard. How important has his input been? Any specific examples?
Of primary importance was the fact that Matt liked it. I had just done Big, Scary Animals [Matt’s play at Theatre Three in 2017] and then taught the play in my Script Interpretation class and I thought it was one of the tightest things I had ever read. So having Matt's stamp of approval was a big shot in the arm. He contributed a few jokes and helped me with some crucial cuts but he was most helpful as a director. He conceived the lighting and helped me a great deal with the performance. He showed me where to slow down, where to speed up and clarified what I was trying to do When you see the show, you'll notice the transitions between the two characters. That's Matt's work. And he laughed a lot when I rehearsed in front of him...
What are you looking forward to with this festival?
I'm looking forward to seeing the other shows! They are a diverse and fascinating bunch. I'm also hoping Oh Jesus! will have a life beyond this fest so I'm hoping to spur that interest.
Anything you'd like to add?
If I continue with the show, maybe you'd like an occasional column on the triumphs and travails of the solo artist? I plan to apply to the FW Fringe. Write me a nice review so I can use that to convince them to sign me up...