Wrestling Comedy The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity from Second Stage Theater
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The last date listed for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was Sunday June 20, 2010 / 3:00pm.
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The world-famous Joffrey Ballet reprises its bold contemporary version of one of Shakespeare's most… More
Written by Kristoffer Diaz
Directed by Edward Torres
*An interview with Kristoffer Diaz *
What was your inspiration for the play?**
I grew up as a huge wrestling fan. As a kid, most of my friends loved the World Wrestling Federation — the cartoony, super-popular company headlined by muscle-bound superhero Hulk Hogan. I watched the WWF, but preferred the National Wrestling Alliance, a smaller company that focused more on the athletic competition side of the business. By all objective measures, there was better wrestling in the NWA, but the WWF was better at generating spectacle - and the WWF’s version won out big. I think that lesson stayed with me on a subconscious level: it’s not enough to be good at what you do, you’ve also got to make people want to pay attention. Sometimes the latter is more important than the former. It doesn’t matter if it’s theater, wrestling, or even politics - perception matters. Style usually trumps substance. As an artist, it became clear to me that I needed to try to balance both.
How do you see the relationship between the world of professional wrestling and the world of theater? *
I grew up going to both live theater and live wrestling events — Madison Square Garden with my dad one weekend, Theatreworks USA with my mom the next. While the specifics of each form are different (wrestling is more like a musical than it is a traditional play; when the emotion gets too large to express in words, musical characters break into song while wrestlers break into choreographed violence), I see them as flip sides of the same storytelling coin. You’ve got protagonists and antagonists, escalating sequences of conflict building to a climax, reversals, reveals, catharsis, and of course, spectacle.
In the United States, we’ve somehow managed to create a false division between theater (seen by many folks as “high culture”) and other forms of live storytelling. With this play (and in all my plays), I’m trying to blur that line. Professional wrestling is great on huge emotional investment, not so good with subtlety, intellectual rigor, and cultural awareness. Because of those glaring flaws, it’s easy to dismiss the form, but I’d rather analyze it, learn from it, and see how it can help me tell a better story.
As reflected in the play, many personas in the world of professional wrestling are drawn from racial and cultural stereotypes. Do you see that ever changing? *
At its basest form, wrestling is a secular morality play, reflecting the social values of its audience. In the United States, this tends to mean that the working man is the good guy, and anything that threatens his way of life is going to be bad. I think that’s a long way of saying wrestling stereotypes won’t change until American society changes.
What is the significance of the play’s title, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity?
Whenever I talk about the play informally, I call it “Chad Deity” (or “Chad”, if I’m being really lazy). The play’s not about “Chad Deity” the person though; it’s about “Chad Deity” the media construction. The success of THE Wrestling is not attributed to the skills or charisma of one man; it’s contributed to the spectacle that’s been created around and in the service of that man. I’m not offering a critique of any individual person with this play. I’m trying to examine and illustrate the systems that produce the public perceptions of these people. The important words in the title aren’t “Chad Deity,” they’re “Elaborate Entrance.”
This is your first full professional production in New York. How does it feel?
New York is home, plain and simple. My friends and family are going to get to see my play. That’s kind of the reason why you do stuff like this, isn’t it? The fact that my home town happens to be the theatrical Mecca of the world (yeah, I said it — what are you going to do about it, London?) is just a nice little bonus. I’m thrilled.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the play?
Maybe first I should mention what I hope audiences bring to the play: a willingness to have some fun…then think critically about the fun they’re having. We’ll be trying to mess with your expectations every step of the way. We’ll be doing everything in our power to get you to stand up and cheer, then call you out on why you’re cheering and for whom you’re cheering. There’s only one thing theater can do better than television and film, and that’s create a communal experience between audience and actor. I hope that audiences walk away with the feeling that they’ve just experienced something that they’ve never been a part of before.