There is indeed cause to rejoice, as gay marriage is finally legal throughout all of the United States. However, the fight for equality is far from over. There are plenty of arenas besides the marital in which people have been lobbying for the right to discriminate against gays. (Bear with me; I promise this goes to a happy place.)

Over the last year or two, the U.S. has seen an influx of “religious freedom” laws, which are really just anti-gay laws with innocent, pro-rights labels slapped on them (‘cause the “Fuck the Queers Act” would be offensive). This new legal fad grants the right to both private businesses and government institutions to deny service to anyone based on the proprietor’s religious beliefs or convictions. So, if you, a business owner, find homosexuality to be an affront to your religion, good news! You don’t have to sell your wares to those wicked gays, who will probably just use them to do gay things anyway. Evil gay things.

Far more people than should be necessary have already pointed out the similarity between these laws and early twentieth century segregation laws (but I’m gonna do it anyway: they’re just like early twentieth century segregation laws). As of December of last year, there were 19 states that had already implemented laws of this nature.

Among the many states debating the virtues of such legislation is Oklahoma, which has seen a slew of proposals for anti-gay laws in the last half year. Among the more colorful/infuriating are one bill that states that parents “may obtain [gay conversion] counseling or therapy for their children under eighteen…years of age without interference by the state,” and another that declares “[n]o employee of this state…shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pension or other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state.”

Now, granted: none of these proposed bills (to the best of my knowledge) has hit the books yet, and there are many citizens of Oklahoma--both politician and Average Joe/Jane--who are fighting each of these proposals tooth-and-nail. But, with your indulgence, I’m gonna pick on Oklahoma for a moment, because I think that it’s time that a statement be made. I would like to, in a manner of speaking, burn these anti-gay, pro-discrimination assholes in effigy. And to do so, I have a proposal of my own: I propose we get rid of “Oklahoma!,” the musical.

Hear me out on this.

Cliché though it may be, the world of the theatre--and musical theatre most stereotypically--has been a haven for the LGBT community as well as all liberally-minded individuals. And one of the staples of musical theatre is Rogers and Hammerstein’s quaint little tail of rural idiocy, “Oklahoma!” Not only is the show named for (and set in) a state that as of late has been turning its back on gays and those who love them (me!), but it is, when analyzed, a celebration of antiquated values, questionable morals, and frightening stupidity.

For those who have never seen "Oklahoma!" or who only have vague memories of it, let me familiarize you with the loose string of events the show calls a plot.

Firstly, there are two morons, Curly and Laurey, who have the hots for each other but won’t admit it, which pretty much does away with any mystery as to whether or not they’re going to get together. There’s a big dance/auction/thing coming up that all the yokels in town are going to attend. Curly says something stupid that makes Laurey upset, and so, to get back at him, she promises to go to the shindig with the rapey-looking farm hand. Honestly, from the moment he walks on stage, this guy has the words Sex Offender not written, not tattooed, but emblazoned on his forehead. The letters shine like white gold. And if he were to unbutton his shirt, we’d see “They’ll never find your body” glimmering on his chest.

And Rapey McGee is burning for Laurey. This guy clearly creeps around after her and collects fallen strands of her hair, which he then smuggles back to his little shack by the barn wherein he has a built shrine dedicated to her, the center of which is a life-size Laurey doll made from hair and semen. And Laurey decides, “I’ll make Curly jealous by going with him to the dance. Tee-hee.”

Later on, when Laurey can’t decide between the handsome guy and the dude who’s going to be fucking her loooong after he’s killed her, she decides to solve her dilemma by taking opium and going on a vision quest (you only think I’m making that up.)  The climax to Act 1 is Laurey hallucinating that she’s a ballerina and that Rapey McGee kills Curly right in front of her. And she STILL goes to the dance with him. Stupid twat.

While all this is going on, there’s a subplot involving another young lady named Ado Annie. Ado Annie is a slut. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, I’m just calling it how it is. She has a whole song called “I Cain’t Say No,” (no, not Can’t; Cain’t) in which she proclaims that any man who offers her a kind word immediately wins a free parking spot for his dick in her mouth. Now, were she just a young lady living it up with a few different guys, I’d have no qualms with her. But she thinks that everyone man with an eye for her naughty parts wants to marry her. We first see her with a traveling salesman (and, we later learn, drug dealer) named Ali Hakim, who obviously hits up every naïve bimbo in every town with the same tired pickup lines. But Ado Annie is convinced that this worldly gentleman has wedding bells in his ears. This place has the most sexually-uneducated women on the planet. As a result, Ado Annie’s father forces Hakim into a shotgun wedding engagement with his daughter.

Then there’s Will, who genuinely does want to marry Ado Annie. Will’s just returned from Kansas city, where his tiny rural brain has been all but liquefied by all the modern advancements they have, including cars, telephones, burlesque theatres, and indoor plumbing. While over yonder, he managed to procure fifty dollars (it’s never explained how; I like to believe he robbed a bank while disguised as an old lady), of which he’s particularly proud. Why? Because Ado Annie’s father said Will could marry his daughter if he ever managed to get himself fifty dollars--meaning, if Will ever proved that he could be financially responsible enough to care for his daughter. Which Will clearly isn’t. Because while he did at one time have the coveted fifty dollars, he then went and spent it all on gifts for his not-bride-to-be. While Ado Annie’s father lives in the Middle Ages, I can’t blame him for not letting this pig-fucker marry his little girl.

Finally, we get to the big barn dance, or whatever the fuck it is. They have an auction which is tantamount to sex trafficking. All the women have prepared picnic baskets that the men are bidding on to raise money for this newfangled thing called a schoolhouse (no one knows what it is, but they’ve heard it rocks). Let’s not kid ourselves here. The men aren’t bidding on a picnic basket. They’re bidding on a picnic with the lady who made the basket. And they’re not really bidding on a picnic with the lady--they’re bidding on a night of the sweet tender warmth they typically only get from the local farm animals.

In a desperate attempt to get out of his shotgun wedding, Ali Hakim buys all of Will’s useless junk from him for fifty dollars. Hurray! So, when the time comes to bid on Ado Annie’s basket (pussy), Will, the crack baby that he is, announces his newfound wealth by bidding it on the basket. Seriously, if these two ever get married (and spoiler alert: they do), she’s gonna be turning tricks just to make ends meet because hubbie is constantly blowing every dime they have on shiny rocks from the streetwise kids up the road. But, Mr. Hakim races in and saves the day (and his own bachelordom) by outbidding Will, winning the basket and ridding himself of the doe-eyed leech.

At long last, it’s time to bid on Laurey’s basket (asshole). This is the climax of the show, as Curly and Jud (that’s Rapey McGee’s real name, by the way: Jud. That man’s mother named him Jud. After hours of agonizing childbirth, she was clearly so furious with him for not being stillborn that she said, “Fuck you, kid. Your name is Jud,”) go toe-to-toe trying to outbid each other with such ferocity that it can only prove my sex trafficking theory. No one in their right mind would be blowing so much money on a basket of mystery food. There could be nothing in that thing but a half-eaten tuna sandwich. On white bread. The black sheep of all breads.

Jud has been saving up every dime he has to make sure he can win this auction, forcing Will to sell all his worldly possessions in order to raise the money to beat him. Either Curly is a true hero, sacrificing everything he has in order to save his lady love from the proto-Jeffery Dahmer, or he is an idiot with a capital I-D-I-O-T for driving himself to poverty over a half-eaten tuna sandwich.

So, Curly wins the auction, as you may have guessed two hours ago, and he and Laurey finally make the realization that they are meant for each other, which, if they’d just done at the beginning of the play when they fucking should have, could have spared everyone the hallucinogenic drug trips and Curly’s newfound status as a homeless man.

In short order, Curly and Laurey are married. Then Jud, proving that he can be just as stupid as everyone else, simply walks up and tries to stab Curly. In front of everyone. Like he was ever going to get away with that. It’s slightly better in the film version, where he tries to set both Curly and Laurey on fire. That makes him insane, which I can totally dig in a villain. In the play, however, he’s just retarded.

A scuffle ensues, and Jud ends up being slain by his own dagger. Poetic justice at its most uninteresting.

A side-note to anyone who may perform this play in the future: please, for the sake of those of us who’ve suffered through the last two hours, Grand-Guignol the fuck out of this scene. Let Curly stab Jud in the gullet, then try to pull the blade out, but instead of pulling it straight back, he tries to pull it up and ends up accidentally gutting Jud like a fish. Jud’s ribcage snaps open like a kitchen cabinet and all his vital organs spill out onto the stage floor. Then as the others rush to lend medical aid, they just end up slipping and sliding on his viscera in a scene of madcap slapstick that would do the Marx Brothers proud. Seriously, we need it at this point.

So, now a murder has taken place. Now, it’s barely possible to prove that the stabbing was even intentional; and even if it was, it was clearly in self-defense. This is an open-and-shut case, I admit. Nevertheless, some kind of legal action must be taken. Fortunately, one of the yokels on hand happens to be a judge, and they throw together a trial for Curly--with no arraignment, no lawyers, and not an unbiased witness or juror within a ten mile radius--and settle the whole affair in ten minutes. That’s how the show ends, folks! We can’t let something as arbitrary as the law get in the way when these two people are in love. (Ooh! Irony!)

So, the legal system is shoved aside in order to rush the newlyweds off on their honeymoon. Seriously, what kind of honeymoon are these two going to have? The groom just killed a man on their wedding night. Does anyone expect them to actually have sex tonight? They should spend the evening in bed together holding each other and crying. Curly has seen into the abyss of a dying man’s eyes, and he comes out the other end smiling. The future does not look good for these two. I can imagine them at the bridal bed, Curly still clutching Jud’s blade in his fingers, quietly asking, “Can I take this into bed with us?” Years of heavy S&M are bound to follow, each depraved encounter less and less satisfying as Curly yearns for that mad rush he felt as he plunged a knife into another man’s innards, until one night he’s found dead in a closet, having accidentally hung himself while trying to perform autoerotic asphyxiation.

Anyone should be able to see that this show is a glorification of thoughts and values that are not only long out of date, but, taken to their extremes, very dangerous. People view these characters and their neanderthalic hijinks as quaint, the way one laughs at a toddler who tries to walk through a sliding glass door (don’t even pretend that you don’t). After all these years of societal progress, there’s no one in this show left to relate to. It doesn’t speak to us. All it has to offer is a reminder of a past that we should be happy to be getting further and further away from.

So, what? Do we get rid of this classic of the American theatre altogether? Of course not. We adapt it into something new. I suggest that a team of writers and lyricists put their heads together and rewrite this show to reflect more contemporary values, and set it in a state more worthy of its own musical: Massachusetts!

Why Massachusetts? First of all, it was the first state to legally sanction gay marriage. But much more than that, it’s a sparkling gem of industry, education and American progress. It’s where the passengers of the Mayflower established the first American colony; before the Civil War, it was staunchly anti-slavery; it’s home to Harvard University, the country’s oldest institution of higher education; it was the site of Shay’s Rebellion, which ultimately helped lead to the creation of the American Frickin’ Constitution; in short, it’s in dire need of its own fucking musical!

As this is, in essence, an adaptation, “Oklahoma!” will serve as the basis of the new show’s plot, but there will be some radical changes. First of all, we're renaming our male lead. Curly isn't a name, it's a hair style. He will be renamed Thaddeus. Secondly, we're resexing our female lead. The name Laurie can stay, but it's a nickname for Laurel.

Thaddeus and Laurie are two young, bright individuals who have known each other since childhood. They have only recently shared a night of passion, and while Thaddeus is totally down for a serious relationship, Laurie, being of a Catholic upbringing (of which his Aunt Eleanor is a constant reminder), fears that their romance is sinful.

Laurie turns to a family friend for advice. This is the Jud character, only we’re not calling him Jud. He will be Judge Virgil--the title of Judge being a nod to his former name, and Virgil for the ancient Roman poet who, in the Divine Comedy, resides in the first level of Hell, the circle of the unbaptized and people not of the “correct” faith. The French critics will get it.

Judge Virgil advises Laurie to deny these impure impulses. However, the Judge is, himself, a closeted homosexual, and secretly lusts for Laurie. Unwilling to reveal his true nature to the world, however, the Judge rallies several of his rightwing buddies to support a proposed Religious Freedom Act that will do all the stupid shit that religious freedom acts do. Feeling that this is what God would want, Laurie joins the movement, to Thaddeus's heartbreak and dismay.

Meanwhile, Annie (we're cutting the Ado) works part-time in an abortion clinic, while working to earn her master’s degree in business finance. Her long-term boyfriend William is eager to get married and settle down, but Annie wants to wait until she’s out of school and has started the path to her career. William, however, is an old-school, patriarchal, missionary position type of guy, and he’s not so interested in having a wife with a career. He sees himself as the breadwinner and Annie as the baby maker. While Annie is dead set on pursuing her dreams, she’s nervous that she’ll lose William if she waits too much longer.

On the other end of the spectrum from William is Annie’s lesbian friend, Ally. Ally’s the kinda girl who’s never had her tongue in the same vagina twice. She enjoys getting high, picking up ladies, and not thinking past tomorrow. Annie comes to Ally for advice after a fight with William. As Ally expounds on her life philosophy of non-commitment, the two ladies, spurred on by marijuana, draw closer to each other, and suddenly--oops!--hot lesbian sex!

Don't think we're cutting the drug-induced Act 1 finale. Oh, no. After seeing so many of his LGBT friends in an uproar over the proposed religious bullshit act, Laurie begins to have second thoughts. He meets Judge Virgil at the judge's luxuriant abode, where Virgil offers him a drink. As Laurie expresses his reservations, he becomes lethargic, and falls into a deep sleep. The dance sequence that ensues will be a beautiful nightmare of such brain-liquefying surrealism that it will make Tim Burton cum. Seraphim and cherubim hover above the audience, lamenting as a Red Demon Judge condemns Thaddeus to be burned alive at the stake (a reference to the state’s darker, less educated history), while Laurie can only look on and weep (and dance) in despair. As the Red Demon Judge’s minions set Thaddeus ablaze, the villain turns on Laurie, and the two engage in a vicious but tasteful dance interpretation of a rape. Laurie then awakens on the bed in the Judge's boudoir, the Judge sitting in a chair off to one side, icily silent, smoking a cigarette. Curtains on Act 1.

Act 2 focuses on the impending local court ruling on the proposed Religious Freedom Act. Replacing the sex slave auction of the original musical, the court ruling sees all the main characters turning out to speak their piece on the matter. William is frustrated by Annie’s desire to attend the event, feeling that it’s of no relevance to them because they are not gay. Annie finally decides to leave William, fearful about pursuing her future alone, but knowing that she cannot be tethered down. As it turns out, however, she doesn’t need to go it alone after all. Ally, inspired by Annie’s passion and dedication, has fallen in love with her, and makes her first long-term commitment to another woman. Neither of them know if their relationship will last forever, but they know two things for certain--they love each other for the moment, and more hot lesbian sex!

The court ruling is nigh. The LGBT members and their supporters make a passionate plea for the Religious Freedom Act to be rejected, however the law-savvy Judge Virgil trounces them in the eyes of the legislators with his legal rhetoric. The law is about to be put into effect when Laurie arrives and pronounces her love for Thaddeus (in song, of course). The judge is enraged by the betrayal, and in his ensuing tirade against homosexuals and their sinful nature, it accidentally comes to light that he is gay himself.

Instead of showing him hatred, Thaddeus and the others try to welcome Virgil into their community, and show him that there’s nothing wrong with following one’s own heart. Refusing to listen, the self-loathing Judge Virgil takes his own life, symbolizing the inevitable self-annihilation this country faces if it continues to try to suppress the deepest-rooted emotions of its citizens. And don't think for a second that this suicide is going to happen offstage. Oh, no. This moment will be the show's major set piece; its helicopter, its barricade, its falling chandelier. The Judge will douse himself in kerosene and set himself ablaze, a literal representation of the inferno to which he has condemned himself. And as the ensemble looks on in horror, Judge Virgil proceeds to sing a heart-wrenching eleven o'clock number WHILE ON FIRE, rushing about the stage and spreading the flames to every inch of the set in a glorious display of purgatorial destruction that only Julie Taymor could realize.

Then a chorus line of beefy firemen arrive and put out the blaze.

In light of these events, the court rejects the proposed legislation. Everyone rejoices as love triumphs, as it only can in…


Copyright Micah Delhauer, 2015



As the year draws to a close, I thought I'd write my (probably) final entry on my mystery theatre escapades, as these shows are where I rang in many a New Year. My first two blogs on the subject can be viewed here and here. For anyone new to the party, I once belonged to a dinner theatre company wherein we performed immersive mystery shows, involving the audience in the plot and doubling as the restaurant staff. As is the case with all theatre—especially theatre that involves improv, close proximity to the patrons, and booze—the unexpected was always lurking right around the corner like a salivating troll. Here are some of my fonder memories.


The Show Must Go On

Performers at the company needed to be prepared to jump into any role at any time. I can think of no better example than the night that Mike Jensen had to fill the high heels of one of the supporting female characters. We’d just hired a new actress who was scheduled to make her debut that night, and low and behold she didn’t show. We couldn’t even get her on the phone. We tried calling other actresses, but none were available. We did, however, have a surplus of male actors. So, at the eleventh hour, Mike put on the dress. Hell, if it was good enough for Shakespeare, it was good enough for us.

The character was an over-the-top prima donna to begin with, and the audience enjoyed Mike’s performance in drag. But for me, the best moment was when Mike and I both happened to be offstage, waiting for our next entrance, Mike flipping through the script and scanning the dialogue.  Suddenly, he got really excited.  He’d come to the line, “I’ve done a hell of a lot more than change my name to get to where I am.” 

“I know exactly how I’m going to say that!” he giddily exclaimed.

When the moment finally came, he dropped out of his falsetto voice, going down into a deep bass, and the line suddenly took on a whole other meaning.  The audience’s response was a gradual but ultimately very strong laugh as they slowly put two and two together. I will always be grateful that I was witness to the moment that Mike had that spark of inspiration.

As for the dumb-ass actress who baled on us, she wrote us a lengthy e-mail blaming her absence on her alcoholism and making the AA-mandated apology for having wronged us.  We laughed at her letter and then never used her again. 


What a Pretty Young Lad

Another example of last minute, gender-defying replacements would be Meredith Young’s turn as the show’s young male love interest.

Artist's conception.

I don’t recall what fiasco caused her to don the pants, though I seem to remember she was given a day or so to learn the part.  Dressed in men’s clothes and a wig, the diminutive actress looked like a twelve year old boy. Performing opposite the curvy Briona Daugherty, their relationship carried a strong undercurrent of either lesbianism or pedophilia (or both).

Their kiss at the end of the song “Tipsy Gypsy” was a sight to see. Munchkin Meredith leapt up into Briona’s arms, legs wrapped around her waist, and cried “Big kiss!” before planting one on Briona. It fell somewhere between adorable and disturbing. Whatever the end result, Meredith proved her worth by learning and performing the male role, unwaveringly and without complaint. I miss ya, girl.


A Classy Gentleman

Briona Daugherty and I were chatting with a male patron during the pre-show one night. Briona, playing an up-and-coming 1940s Broadway starlet, asked the gentleman if there was anything she could get for him. “How about a lap dance, honey?” was his charming response, as he pat his lap invitingly. There was only a short pause before she answered, “Hmm, I’m not sure what that is,” and, turning to me, she continued, “but Mr. March is our choreographer. Maybe he could do it and I could watch.” 

“Well, I’m not entirely sure what it is, myself,” I said as I positioned myself just astride the patron's knees.  “But if you would be kind enough to instruct me, I’d be happy to oblige.” The patron seemed less amused with himself at this point. “Naw, that’s alright,” he backpedalled.

“No, really,” I maintained, “it’s no trouble. I want to learn.”

“Naw, naw, nevermind” the man refused emphatically, waving his hand. 

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, yeah forget about it.”

I resigned with a shrug. “Alright.”

So, my hat off to Briona for turning that around so elegantly.


Micah Queens Out Over Tea

The dinner break at one particular venue was always a hassle. All the food had to be sent up by elevator to the second floor in metal cabinets, then remain in a closet-sized hallway to be distributed to the performers to bring out to the guests. Orders at this location were consistently wrong or missing, and this interval in the show often went agonizingly long. 

One particular evening, while trying to get everyone their food in a timely fashion, I was asked by a woman to bring her some hot tea. While I was happy to oblige, she apparently had little faith that I would remember her request, because she proceeded to let every performer who passed by her table know she wanted hot tea, which meant my fellow actors/servers kept harassing me with the redundant information, “There’s a woman at table one who wants a hot tea.”

These reminders became increasingly irksome as I searched high and low for the goddamn tea bags and little teapots. The kitchen staff had no idea where they were (why would they?). My fellow performers didn’t know where they were. I searched everywhere they ought to have been, and everywhere they ought NOT to have been. Frickin’ Indiana Jones found the Ark of the Covenant faster than I found the damned tea.

But find it I did! I arranged the pot, teabag, spoon, slice of lemon and little packets of honey on a saucer, and carried them out into the dining area to fill with hot water and then bring to the woman for whom they were meant. En route to the water, I ran into my buddy Lisa Enochs. “I got the tea for that lady!” I announced proudly.

“Oh,” said Lisa, “I just brought her some,” at which point I hurled the saucer and all tea-related paraphernalia into the air, exclaiming, “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” then turned on my heels and stormed back out of the dining room.


Later, I felt really bad to have had such a bizarre, shocking, and childish reaction in front of someone who A) was a friend of mine, and B) had done nothing wrong. I went to Lisa to apologize, at which point she told me that my little queen-out moment was the funniest fucking thing she’d ever seen. 

So, at least I made somebody laugh.


Do You Speak Romanian?

Unfailingly, if you do a foreign accent in one of these shows, you will have patrons try to speak to you in the corresponding language. Playing a Romanian gypsy in one production, I thought I was fairly safe.  How many people in this country actually speak Romanian? I thought.

The answer is a lot. 

During my first months with the company, I’d yet to learn the popular go-to answer of “I’m sorry, I’m trying to only speak English while I’m here,” and so went to unnecessary extremes to get out of such predicaments.  I remember one guy—American, no trace of an accent, and yet fluent in Romanian for some reason—trying for the length of the show to converse with me in my character’s native tongue.  I kept pretending I was busy, or couldn’t hear him over the sound of the live piano. “Let me go ask the piano player if he can play more softly, and I’ll be right back,” I told him. En route to the piano, I passed another actor, and discreetly begged her, “Engage me, engage me, engage me!” “Oh, Mr. March, I had a question for you. Please walk with me.”   

But the guy wouldn’t let up.  He kept speaking to me in Romanian every time I passed the table.  Even after the show, once we’d taken pictures and started cleaning up the restaurant, he was still after me. “I knew it! You don’t speak Romanian!” he taunted. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this super sleuth had proven that I was not actually the person who I pretended to be in the show.

I think what he really wanted was to ask me out, but was too shy.

Another time, I had the misfortune of speaking with a humorless woman who actually was Romanian.  By now, the first act was over, and it had been well established what my character’s nationality was. Nevertheless, as I spoke to her table during the dinner break, she inquired, “Where are you supposed to be from?”

“Romania,” I answered.  

“No,” she said, flatly, “you’re not,” and then just stared at my evilly.

I think my jaw hung open for about twenty minutes. I don’t even remember what I eventually said to her. All I know is I hope she got mauled by a bear.

It’s called suspension of disbelief, bitch!

Ironically, I did learn to say, “I only speak English in front of my customers,” in German when I assumed a different role in the same show, and guess what? Not one person tried to speak to me in German. God, why do you hate me so? Is it because my hair is prettier than your son’s?


Too Soon?

This story isn’t so much about the show as it is about something truly horrific that happened sort of peripherally to the company (and my own complete lack of sensitivity). There was an actor who worked with the company for a while who was generally considered by everyone to be a friendly, soft-spoken fellow. His name was Dan Wozniak. Go ahead and Google his name. You’ll find that he horribly murdered two people; the first was a friend of his, whom he shot in the back of the head in order to steal his bank card (the “friend” had recently come into some money). The second was the first victim’s girlfriend, whom Dan lured to her dead boyfriend’s apartment with a message from her boyfriend’s cell phone. He then proceeded to hack the bodies into pieces and leave a series of human geocaches all over Long Beach. THEN, so I’m told, he went to the wrap party for another show he’d just finished (“Nine,” I’ve been informed), and casually chatted with his fellow cast members while the dismembered body parts of his victims fed the conqueror worm. Seriously, Hannibal Lecter would be proud. 

I’m also Equity!

Now, I never actually met this guy. He left the company just as I was joining, and if we did happen to catch a fleeting glimpse of one another at one of my early rehearsals, we certainly took no note of each other. However, as I was driving to rehearsal for a new show one morning, I got a call from my sister informing me that this guy that most of the cast knew had been arrested for a double homicide. “I just wanted you to know what you’re walking into,” she warned me. Sure enough, the tone of that rehearsal was very surreal, awkward, and surprisingly quiet for a group of actors.

When we broke for lunch, the lot of us sat around a table, chewing our food in solemn silence. I decided that this period of respectful melancholy had gone on long enough, and so I commented, “Man. For a murder mystery company, we suck at detecting.”

The tension broke immediately with peals of incredulous but much needed laughter. And from there the floodgate of horrible jokes was opened amongst the cast.

I also do weddings.


Fear the Audience

During photos after the show one night, a couple asked us if we would meet them after strike for drinks. They kept telling us how special we had made their anniversary, and the wife insisted on buying a round for everybody. “Sure thing,” we all said. However, as we all prepared to leave after striking the set, it seemed that no one in the cast was serious about meeting up with the two. 

Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I decided to go, and managed to talk my sister Laura into accompanying me.  We met up with the couple and wound up in a bar together at the Mission Inn (where the two had a room waiting for them upstairs). We were then bombarded with personal information of an explicit nature by the wife, while the husband waited with ever decreasing patience to go upstairs. Eventually, Laura and I called it a night, whereupon the now inebriated wife invited us to come upstairs with them, and forced us to look at pictures of her husband’s genitalia on her phone, as though this would entice us to accept.  Impressive though his features were, we kindly passed on the invitation and, with a sudden need to scrub our eyeballs, started for the parking lot.   

Suddenly, the wife became frighteningly protective of my younger sister, whom she’d adopted as her new best friend, and wouldn’t allow her to walk back to her car alone with me. “I don’t know you,” she told me. “I don’t know that you’re really her brother.  I love this girl.  If I ever thought you were going to do anything bad to her, I’d fucking kill you!” Fortunately for us, another woman in the bar that Psycho Wife had become beholden to had gone staggering off with a group of men, and our crazy admirer was suddenly torn between which woman to lend her protection to. Her husband was useless at this point, as he just wanted to go upstairs and get laid.  So, she was forced to go after her other new best friend, reluctantly taking my word for it that I was indeed Laura’s brother and had no intentions of raping her. The second she was gone, we ran for our cars. 

And that’s the night I learned never to go out with members of the audience.

Here’s to all the memories, good and bad!


This is my second post about the time I spent working at a murder mystery dinner theatre, and some of the amusing hijinks that made my time there memorable and the sometimes less-than-stellar working conditions worthwhile (the first one can be seen here). Prepare yourself for silliness!


A Family Company

Here’s what I’ll probably remember most about my stint with this company: at no other job have I had to work so hard to avoid making out with my sister. Laura, who is five years my junior, joined the company a year before I did, and it was she who invited me to come and audition. But instead of bringing us closer together, this company forced us to keep as far away from each other as possible. There wasn't a play we did where Laura and I weren't cast in roles that were romantically linked to each other, and while there were typically multiple actors assigned to each role, a fun little prank for the higher-ups was to schedule us for the same performances, and then watch as our eyes exploded and our brains tried to escape out our ears (true story). 

I can’t speak for Laura, but my biggest concern wasn’t so much that it would be gross to snog my own sister. What really concerned me was the possibility that I might kiss her and then find out that I liked it. Seriously, what do I do then?  I have a hard enough time picking up women without discovering that my mother’s daughter is the only one who does it for me.

Pictured: incest.

Ultimately, we always managed to switch roles with other actors or otherwise avoid any performances that might make Christmas a little more awkward, though the powers that be seemed hellbent on seeing us swap saliva.  Normally, I get really, really angry with actors who make demands about who they will and will not perform with—in fact, I think it’s one of the hackiest things an actor can do. And yet, I still refused to play in a romantic role opposite my own flesh and blood. I guess I’m the biggest hack of all.


Maintaining Verisimilitude

In one of our productions, after my final exit (in which I would, after confessing to all the murders, guzzle down poison and retreat offstage to a noisy but unseen demise), I’d usually sit in the bar and wait for the show to end.  During a private party one night, as I sat there, the party organizer came into the bar to close out his tab.  Immediately, I threw myself to the floor and laid there until he finally left. Where’s my Tony Award?


Old People Are Hilarious

Really, this is more Steve Biggs’s story than anyone else’s.

Steve Biggs. American hero.

But here it is from my point of view:

We had a large party of elderly patrons from a retirement home one evening. After they’d been seated for a bit, one of the gentlemen came to us and asked if he could have a table separate from the rest, as he found his group to be “too depressing.” We obliged him, and sat him at a small table that was unoccupied. Before the show began, the young woman chaperoning the group asked if we’d be sure to keep an eye on the loner, as he had a tendency to wander off. “If he leaves the restaurant,” she informed us, “he may not be able to find his way back.” Oh joy, we thought. 

Instead of wander way, the old man dozed off for most of the show, waking up just in time for Mr. Biggs’s dramatic speech at the climax of the show. Orienting himself to his surroundings, the gentlemen glanced over and noticed a whole table full of his fellow retirees. Hey, I know those people, he thought, and as Mr. Biggs monologued, the man shuffled over to the table of his peers and began to converse with one of them as though they hadn’t seen each other in ages.

“I haven’t seen you since the time we went to that dinner show!”

Finally, near the end of Biggs’s speech, the elderly gentleman wished his friend well and began to waddle back to his seat. Despite a few sideways glances at the octogenarian, Biggs plowed forward with his monologue. “How can I forgive that which is unforgivable?” he recited. “Unbridled ego, flagrant mediocrity…..people walking around during my speech!” Everyone laughed except the senile audience member, who remained oblivious to the performance going on around him—even when Mr. Biggs rushed past him to commit (fake) suicide offstage.  He may not have realized it, but for about a minute, that old geezer was the star of the show.


The Worst Scene Stealer Ever

I’ve worked with some pretty bad scene-stealers in my day, but possibly none as bad as a two foot tall blow-up sex doll that was given out as a prize amongst the patrons of a particularly lively private corporate party (seriously, when co-workers get together anyplace outside the office, especially when there's booze, they go fucking insane).

The “prize” was awarded during the dinner break, and when the show resumed, half the room’s attention was still on the provocative plastic midget, folks taking pictures with her and generally ignoring the live show taking place mere inches from them. I tried to assure the patrons that she would still be available for photos after the performance, but to no avail. I just couldn’t compete with the allure of a plastic doll that you can put your penis into.

Thanks, acting classes, for nothing.

Oh, Why Not?

We were often hired out to do “away shows,” private performances (usually for corporate groups) at locations outside our normal venues. As often as not, these shows were an exercise in futility, as they were often in gigantic rooms loaded with people who wanted to eat, drink, talk, and pay no attention to us. So we often had to make our own fun. 

I did one such show at the Dana Point Marriott, playing the role of fifth-rate crook Cairo. As I listened from offstage, Lisa Enochs (as femme fatale Sheila Wonderly) finished singing “Why Don’t You Do Right” and fellow performer Bob May announced, “I always liked the way you sing that song, Ms. Wonderly.” This was a minor mistake.  The line wasn’t meant to be said until after Sheila’s next song, and would cue the entrance of another actor, Chuck Abernathy, with a knife in his back.

I mentioned this to my fellow offstage actors, and we discussed possible solutions. It wasn’t a particularly difficult problem: Bob could just say the line again at the end of the correct song; another character could say it; or we could just skip the line and Chuck could enter right after the song. While this last suggestion was by far the easiest and probably the most sound, I requested that I be allowed to say the line. No one objected.

So, as Lisa sang her second number, I entered the large ballroom and perched myself on the end of a buffet table. When the song concluded, I crossed one leg over the other, leaned back like a pinup girl, and said, as seductively as I could in my squeaky Hungarian accent, “I always liked the way you sing that song, Ms. Wonderly,” and batted my eyes coquettishly. At this, Chuck came stumbling in and collapsed onto me, causing me to scream, “Get him off me! Get him off me!” 

Was any of this necessary? Absolutely not. But it’s these little deviations that help a person stay sane.

Lisa and I.

 Guns and Bread Rolls

It was realized part way through a performance of one show that the prop gun integral to the show's climax had not been set in the wine bucket for Beth Lindsey, the actress playing my wife, to pull on me. So, during dessert service, the stage manager tried “inconspicuously” to set it.  Right beside the wine bucket was a particularly obnoxious group. Earlier in the evening, they decided it would be hysterical to start playing dodge ball with the bread rolls, and even slam dunked one into my water pitcher as I was refilling their glasses. 

Well, somehow, the stage manager’s ninja-like skills were no match for the perceptive powers of these fun-loving patrons, and once she’d left, they peeked into the bucket and discovered our gun. Apparently, they thought that they were supposed to find it, and decided to continue their gut-busting bread roll running gag by replacing the gun for one. So, at the show’s climax, my panicked wife pulled a bread roll on me.  There was nothing false about the surprise on my face. 

She was supposed to shoot at me, missing but causing me to have a heart attack. Not entirely sure what to do, Beth merely threw the roll at me. This, somehow, still caused me to have a heart attack. 

After the show, the practical jokesters took pictures with us and laughed about the whole thing, thinking we’d found the gag as hilarious as they had. Needless to say, I hope they were all run over by a prison bus.


One more to come! (Probably)



I worked for several years at a murder mystery dinner theater, with multiple locations in Irvine, Orange County and Riverside. We put on numerous plays over the years and I played a large variety of characters, even within the same show (casts tended to revolve, and it behooved an actor to know all the parts in a given production).

Guests arrived at a restaurant and were immediately greeted by the characters, who would improvise with them while doubling as service staff. There was a scripted show, usually three acts, and between the acts we would serve dinner and dessert, always in character, always interacting with each other and the patrons, always keeping the story going and immersing the audience in the world of the show. It was fun. 


Like Shakespeare in the Park, but without the dignity.

I ended up leaving the company under a dark cloud, but recently I rediscovered a list of anecdotes that I'd submitted as part of a proposed (and later aborted, owing to poor planning and general apathy) anniversary party for the company. It tickled me to recollect some of these merrier moments, and I thought I'd share them, for theater lovers everywhere. (More to come later).

There’s Just Something About Me


In preparation for my first performance, I came to one of the shows to take down blocking notes. I was alone at a table in the far corner near the kitchen, my script out in front of me, dressed in a dark red shirt, my long hair tied back in its typical ponytail.

Near the end of the dessert break, just before act three, I was summoned by one of the actors to step out of the dining area into the adjacent bar, where Tom Royer (playing the detective) had the guests’ sleuth sheets, on which they'd written their theories as to who the killer might be. It is at this time during a performance that the correct answers are separated from the incorrect, and two or three highly amusing wrong answers are selected to be read out loud after the show.

“Do you want to join the company tonight?” Tom asked, and then handed me one of the sleuth sheets. Under Who Dunnit, in lieu of any of the characters from the play, the guest had written, “Man in back corner in red shirt and ponytail,” and under Why Dunnit, had stated, “Because he’s a murderer.” Apparently, even sitting in a corner and not saying a word, I have a commanding presence. 

So, during the post show, Tom handed me the corresponding sleuth sheet.  Pretending to be surprised, I read the guest’s name.  No one answered to it.  I read the guest’s answer.  It got a huge laugh.

Afterwards, as guests posed for pictures with the actors on their way out, the woman who had written me in as a suspect approached the cast and asked who I was. Apparently, she honestly felt there was something sinister about me, sitting in that corner and writing down notes like some sort of note-writing Nazi. (I'd hate to imagine her in an English class. She’d probably have an epileptic seizure every time they had a spelling test.) They assured her that I was a new cast member and that I was simply recording my blocking. 

Anyway, the thing I took away from this experience is that no matter how inconspicuous or innocuous I behave, and even if there’s a live show going on in the room, people can’t keep their eyes off me. 


I rule!


This Show is Not For You

Our shows created an immersive experience where the audience was included in the unfolding mystery, and the characters directly engaged the patrons on an individual level. While this form of theatre appeals to a large number of people, there are some who would fail to appreciate it. Agoraphobics would probably be at the top of that list.

"The actors are coming for me."

And yet, there was a man who thought that our humble little production would be just the thing to help bring his agoraphobic wife out of her shell.

In fairness to the gentleman, I don’t imagine he really understood what our show entailed; I doubt he was trying to perform some sort of sadistic shock therapy on his wife. This does not change the fact that his choice of venue was really, really poor. The unfortunate couple wouldn’t even accept a bowl of bread from me, let alone allow any of the actors to sit down and chat with them. To their credit, they were very polite.  The woman didn’t run screaming for the exit (though that would have been hilarious). The husband wasn’t belligerent, though he did ask us not to engage them, and we honored that request.

Sadly, our proximity to them was apparently still too much to bear, and they left during the dinner service, taking their boxed meals with them. I feel a little sad to think that, whatever progress the woman had made toward recovery over the past several years, we managed to destroy in less than an hour; that now she probably won’t even leave her bedroom and has to take meals through a slot near the bottom of the door. 

On the other hand, it was her idiot husband’s bright idea.


A Place Where Everything Is For Sale

Once, while playing petty black-market-dealer Cairo, I offered to find a pregnant woman a buyer for her unborn child. I did it with a half sense of apprehension, as some people get touchy regarding such issues (but thought the idea was too amusing not go for it anyway). Fortunately, this young woman was very game, and said she’d be happy to sell at the right price. I kept returning to her periodically throughout the evening, informing her that there were several interested parties competing for her baby, which seemed to please her immensely.  These are the audience members that made doing these shows worthwhile.


The Gag That Would Not Die


Another, slightly less successful Cairo transaction came when I was serving a table during the pre-show. As Cairo, I liked to wear an eye-patch, which often prompted people to ask what happened to my eye.  “I was desperate for money and someone offered me ten bucks,” was my go-to response. This led one of the patrons to offer me ten dollars for my ear. When I showed some reluctance, the customer handed me her butter knife and waited for me to start cutting. After some haggling, we agreed that I would go in the back and cut half of it off, then return and collect the money before I hacked off the rest. So off I went to the kitchen, where I grabbed a handy ketchup bottle and slathered the red stuff on my hand and the knife.  I returned, clutching my ear, and begging for the money. The customer informed me that she didn’t have any on hand.  “NOW was not the time to tell me that!” I wailed as I retreated from the table, followed by the sound of howling laughter. 

Before the show proper began, I hurriedly formed a makeshift bandage for my ear out of some paper towel and tape. During my first scene in the show, I made my way to the center of the room and slowly turned the damaged side of my head to the table where the botched transaction had taken place, which caused my little party of sadists to erupt with giggles. 

This table continued to be a blessing and a curse come the dinner service, asking me for other body parts which I refused to give them. Finally, the original buyer handed me a ten dollar bill for my troubles, but insisted that I do a dance for her in return. What the hell, I thought.  She did just give me ten dollars.  So I started improvising a little jig. But the lady was very particular, and under her unsettlingly specific direction I began doing a strip tease. Once my coat and tie were off, I began desperately thinking of a way out of the situation, and started to act woozy.  “Still a little…weak…from loss of…blood,” I groaned, and slowly sank to the floor.  Even once I was on my back, the young lady continued to direct me. “Thrust the pelvis!” she demanded.  “I’m thrusting,” I moaned, gyrating my midsection feebly as I lay on the floor. 

Eventually, the table decided that I had earned my money and released me with a round of applause. I thanked them, and then crawled my way pathetically out of the dining room, passing other tables as I went and asking them from the floor, “Does anyone need anything here? No? Alright, then.”

And people tell me I have trouble committing.

Stay tuned for more.


For any U.S. resident living outside the state of Nevada, visiting a brothel without fear of prosecution requires a bit of travel, which—let’s face it—is expensive. If only bordellos were free to open up in every strip mall in America, we’d save a ton on gasoline. Unfortunately, there’s a stalwart regime of hyper-moralists who refuse to take our expenses into consideration. These judgmental non-capitalists are always ready with a sermon and a plea to “think of the children” anytime the subject is raised. Thus it has remained throughout the centuries.

Until now.

I am here to provide the proverbial last word in the argument for the legalization of the world’s oldest profession. Brace yourself, dear reader. You’re about to be thrown head-first into the next chapter of human history.

.A properly legalized brothel—such as those seen in Nevada—is the perfect place to seek refuge in the event of a zombie apocalypse

Now who’s thinking of the children, bitches?

Bunny Ranch4.jpg

Pictured: hope.


Take any well-maintained, upper-class brothel. You don’t need to have ever been to one (or admit to it). They show up periodically in news stories about their surprising cleanliness and how no one who visits them ever, ever, ever walks away with AIDS or unwanted progeny. But such piddly arguments for their legalization are for lesser men. Let's talk about how they make the perfect sanctuary from the zombie horde.

Many of these are gated facilities, to keep out the riff-raff (i.e. the undead), and your fancier establishments even have video surveillance to make sure no one is on the grounds without an appointment (i.e. walking corpses). So, just looking at the outside of the building, the re-animated flesh-eaters of post-apocalyptic tomorrow would have to bypass security lookouts and a metal gate before they could take a single bite out of anybody.

Mustang Ranch2.png

Alright, this is all well and good, but lots of facilities could boast these characteristics. It’s what’s inside that makes the house of ill repute such a sweet find when our ancestors wake up all grouchy and peckish. Keep in mind, you don’t know how long you’re going to be holed up once the dead start rising. While we hope the military will show up and resolve the problem in short order, we need to be prepared to find ourselves in a George Romero wasteland of meandering corpses and tiny groups of squabbling survivors. Expect that the first place you run to when the zombie apocalypse starts is going to become your new home. While keeping the legions of carnivorous corpses at bay is certainly priority one, a healthy living environment is a close second. What good is staying alive if you’re miserable for the rest of your existence? How long before you turn on your fellow survivor or decide to decorate the wall behind you with your brains?

So before you put that gun in your mouth, let’s take a peek inside one of these houses of carnal pleasure.

Mustang Ranch1.png
Mustang Ranch7.png

It’s warm and welcoming. Bright colors. Polished wood. Friendly animal heads mounted on the walls. Themes vary from brothel to brothel, but one aspect remains the same: these places are designed to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere. No matter how scared or angry you may have been outside, once through that door all thoughts of gloom and doom will be lost in a miasma of pink bear rugs and heart-shaped loveseats. While the guardians of social morality spend their remaining years playing Monopoly in an old bomb shelter, you can ride out the undead uprising with style in a facility that sports hot tubs and a fully stocked bar.

Dovetail Ranch.jpg

Note the friendly red pole.


Thinking more practically, these pleasure palaces have live-in employees, which means they're equipped with showers, gyms, and other amenities. Your upscale whorehouse also features a small restaurant or grill. Granted, these probably don’t include magically restocking freezers or pantries, so organized food runs will be a necessity. But that hard-scavenged grub will keep a lot better in a place meant to serve food than in that abandoned church your neighbors ran to hoping for divine intervention.

And, of course, what are a group of humans going to do once they’re shut up in one place for an indeterminate amount of time?


They’re going to fuck! And fuck! And when they’re done fucking, they’re going to fuck again, just to get themselves ready for the midnight fuck-a-thon. After all, there’s a world to repopulate (and people get bored easily). Forget about all the fun toys and sexy costumes that you’ll have to play with; there isn’t a safer place in the world to have Fuckfest 2020. The place is loaded with contraceptives, designed for preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancy. STDs equal more zombies. Unwanted pregnancy slows a person down during break-ins or beer runs, and creates more mouths to feed (which, in the long run, equals more zombies). Hell, with a little luck, any venereal diseases that might possibly be carried into the refuge during the initial days of the zombie invasion will die out by the next generation without being passed on. Might we have just discovered the cure for every STD? We might have, brothers and sisters.

And after all that, I still haven’t mentioned what may possibly be the simplest reason why the upscale brothel is the perfect place for a group of strangers to live when the flesh-eating dead come to life...

Dovetail Ranch2.jpg

Beds. Lots and lots of beds. Human beings can boink anywhere (I have an entire hard drive of videos to attest to this), but at the end of the day, what’s more important than having a warm, cozy bed to curl up? A luxury often taken for granted, it will be sorely missed when, after hours on zombie watch, you’ve got nothing but a cold floor waiting for you. At that point, is there anything in life to look forward to ever again? Well, you can keep your abandoned mansion, 28 Days Later, ‘cause we’ve got more beds than we know what to do with! Two for everyone: one for summer, one for winter. Monthly raffles are held to see who gets the Under the Sea Room and who gets the Medieval Times Suite. Everyone rises each morning well-rested and ready for another day of living in perfect harmony, while the purgatory just beyond the front gate becomes a half-forgotten memory.

So that, dear friends, is my ironclad argument for the legalization of prostitution. I am confident that any further discussion on the subject will be limited to zoning restrictions and union fees. You’re welcome.