Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Blogging Bloodworks: BARN BURNER: A Play about Pro-Wrestling and Middle School by Christopher Sullivan



When I was 12 Pete Jenesen power bombed me through a table. It was terrifying and exhilarating. That's not as gay as it sounds.

Couches, mattresses, and trampolines became arenas where we would suplex, piledrive, and clothesline each other. We used to have these wrestling parties for the monthly Pay Per Views on Sunday Nights. The first one I went to was for the 1999 Royal Rumble, an event the WWE (then the WWF) throws every January where 30 wrestlers (or superstars, as they call them) come in and out of the ring, eliminating each other by tossing each other over the top rope. At Quinn Jason's mom's house that night we had our own Royal Rumble on his what then seemed like enormous living room floor. We clanked Arizona Ice Teas pretending we were Stone Cold Steve Austin chugging beers. It was some of the most fun I've had in my life.

Finding out who was into wrestling growing up is always a total surprise, never who you'd expect. There was something magical about it, the drama, the humor, the real stakes (it's hard to fake falling off a steel cage). Pro-wrestling is a total fantasy world unlike anything else. At the same time we were throwing each other through tables we were also having our first games of spin the bottle, walking from the bus to school by ourselves for the first time and seeing the high schoolers who seemed like all the cool people you saw on TV. These are the years where children are introduced to very adult things for the first time, and the results come in waves of anxiety and terror. Looking back there was no perspective on how things would change, no safety in the knowledge you'd become a different person. Things would get better, if only a little.

My play Barn Burner (tonight at 9:00 on the second floor of EST) is very much about all these things and is one of the more personal things I've ever written. Those were years friendships I have to this day were formed, and interests I have now were cultivated (wrestling has maybe taken a backseat to somethings.) In the play, Jesse Heller is a 13 year old girl who's inspired by a WWF writer who's renting her family's cottage to start her own pro-wrestling league for the kids in her school and try to get it on TV. While I usually try to avoid incorporating specific details from my life into my writing, this play has many, from the Burger King in my town where the kids hung out to the long stretches of black dirt fields where onions grew. It's a play that means a lot to me and it would mean a lot to me to see you there.

Barn Burner
by Christopher Sullivan
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
With Clare Barron, Jon Bass, Dave Gelles, Scott Sowers, Tommy Lyons, and Patrick Fleury

9:00 PM at Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 W52nd St, Second Floor
Part of EST/Youngblood's Bloodworks Reading Series

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