THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY PRESENTS
"KILLIN' REPUBLICANS," A NEW ROCK OPERA BY
DICK D. ZIGUN, FOUNDER OF THE CONEY ISLAND MERMAID PARADE
What happens in the conversation when actress Jodie Foster, a Nigerian Afrobeat star and her Mississippi oilman husband get drunk together in first class on a transatlantic flight?
November 30 to December 17
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E.10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$18 gen adm., $15 seniors & students
Box office www.theaterforthenewwcity.net, (212) 254-1109
Running time :90
Critics are invited on or after December 1.
NEW YORK, November 10 -- "Killin' Republicans" is a rock opera with concept and libretto by Dick D. Zigun, who is known as an icon of the Brooklyn avant-garde arts scene, the Permanently UnElected Mayor of Coney Island, Creator of the Mermaid Parade and Coney Island Museum, and Godfather of Neo-Burlesque and Sideshow revivals. Composed by Arturo "Artie" Rodriguez, directed by vagabond, it is not a cry for violence but an intellectual discussion, set to Rock 'n Roll, about violence in the history of the Republican Party. The entire piece is either sung or performed in recitative in a variety of styles: rockabilly, death metal, Willie Nelson, Beatles and Punk. Theater for the New City, which gave Zigun his first paying theater job (running the TNC Box Office in the late 1970s) will present the opera's world premiere November 30 to December 17.
In the story, actress Jodie Foster finds herself stuck in the first class cabin of a transatlantic flight with two wealthy VIPs: Goodness Gracious, a Nigerian Afrobeat star studying for her USA Citizenship Test, and her husband, Billybob From Biloxi, a Mississippi oilman and Rockabilly aficionado. The couple are aware that Foster was the hapless inspiration for John Hinckley's attempted shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reagan was leaving the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, where he had addressed 5,000 members of the AFL-CIO, when shots rang out. Hinckley, wielding a .22 handgun, attempted an assassination in order to impress Ms. Foster, with whom he had a psychotic obsession.
The conversation that ensues among the three passengers is supposed to be intellectual in its wavelength (think "My Dinner With Andre"), but fun and Rock 'n Roll. Goodness Gracious is studying for her US Citizenship Test and learning about US presidents in order to understand the American system. Jodie Foster's entwinement with the Reagan assassination story inspires a series of loony reflections on violence in American politics. The trio recount the history of killings and attempted killings of other presidents in America, including Lincoln's assassination by the actor John Wilkes Booth ("big star with tiny gun"), the shootings of James A. Garfield (who lived eleven weeks with the bullet in his body--his doctors couldn't find it) and William McKinley (whose death put Teddy Roosevelt in the White House). These are followed by accounts of the attempted assassinations of Teddy Roosevelt (he finished a campaign speech in Milwaukee with a bullet lodged inside a rib) and Ronald Reagan (whose assailant, John Hinckley, had been stalking Jodie Foster while she was a student at Yale). Ms. Foster exclaims in the libretto, "Why me?...why not Brooke Shields...it's not fair..." Ms. Shields studied at Princeton.
The violence the three passengers discuss is not limited to presidents. They also scrutinize the 1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts antislavery Republican, by Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democratic congressman from South Carolina. Sumner took a bloody beating in the Senate chamber, but he lived to help impeach President Andrew Johnson for blocking the enforcement of reconstruction acts.
The title of the opera might suggest the piece is anti-republican, but this is not the case. Mostly the piece suggests that the Republican Party has a history of progressive action and has gotten punished for it. Toward the end of the opera, there's a Rock 'n Roll remake of Whitman's poem about the death of Lincoln, "O Captain! My Captain!"
Oi! Captain! My Captain!
What direction Up ahead?
There was once a Grand Old Party
Now its fallen, cold and dead
In the curtain call, for equal time, we finally get a Democratic victim: JFK. (The chorus sings of a "Curse on the Kennedys - They Never See It Coming.")
The actors are Queen Koleurz Koluchi as Goodness Gracious, Edwin Vazquez as Billybob From Biloxi, Abby Gumpper as Jodie Foster, Gabriel Winkler and Ava Jones as Flight Attendants, and Youssef Alaoudi-Flidi as Voice of the Captain.
Zigun has been evolving an experimental style he characterizes as a sort of accessible Richard Foreman. He tries to be fun and "fun house" in his thinking. He has been writing plays since high school. Seven years ago, he decided he wanted to write rock operas; this is his first. The idea was to take language out of regular conversation and create a play that also works as a rock concert. Most of it is light verse, like beat poetry. The entire opera is either sung or it's music scored under dialogue. "Chorus and rhyming is not how actual people speak," says Zigun, "but it's how Rock 'n Roll works."
On a personal level, the piece is inspired by Zigun's marriage to a Nigerian woman and his transatlantic flights to meet her family. Jodie Foster and Billybob From Biloxi are both aspects of himself, Zigun says. The opera was written before Trump.
Concept and libretto are by Dick D. Zigun. Composer/Musical Director is Arturo "Artie" Rodriguez. Director is vagabond (lower case spelling is correct). Production Manager is Omar Villegas. The musicians are Jordan Rodríguez on drums and percussion, John Plenge on guitar and keyboards and JOrdan (Rothstein) [irregular spelling and parentheses are correct] on piano and keyboards. Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat is designed by Erin Mathewson.
Dick D. Zigun (Concept & Libretto) is a four decade icon of the Brooklyn avant-garde arts scene, known in the press as The Permanently UnElected Mayor of Coney Island, Creator of the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Museum, and Godfather of Neo-Burlesque and Sideshow revivals. He is also author of 19 full length weird American plays, produced not only at Coney Island but also at the Mark Taper Forum, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, People's Light & Theatre Co., Eureka Theater, Ralph Lee’s Mettawee River Theater Company, The Bridge Street Theater and LaMama. "Killin' Republicans" is his 18th play. Zigun's scripts are extremely theatrical, written in a cartoony Coney Carney Style influenced by Performance-Art, Pop-Culture, Vaudeville, Looney Tunes and experimental theater. He earned an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama and is an alumnus of New Dramatists and Bennington College. Other recent plays include "Bloody Brains in a Jukebox/A Rock Opera" and "The Education of Al Capone as if Told by Jimmy Durante." (Dickzigun.com, Facebook: Dick Zigun, X: @DickZigun.)
Mr. Zigun dedicates his play, "For my wife, Princess Patience Mukoro from Akara Royal Quarters, Kiagbodo Mein, Delta State, Nigeria and also for the late Nigerian playwright, J.P. Clark (my Uncle- In-Law), who encouraged the writing of this story over a nonstop two day conversation after I was welcomed to Warri by my In-Laws King Pere Bigborogha, in the Throne Room of his Palace and Commissioner For Education, Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, at his Mansion."
He remembers, "Crystal Field gave me my first paying theater job running the TNC Box Office when the Theater was on 2nd Avenue. Even when I was running my own institution in Coney Island, Crystal was always supportive. I held a major fundraiser at TNC and many of her shows came to my stage or the Boardwalk. When I recently decided to move my playwriting efforts to Manhattan, Crystal was the first to say "come to TNC it’s already your home!" I cherish her friendship and decades of her support for whatever I do. She has always been my guiding star on my path thru Off-Off Broadway!"
Arturo "Artie" Rodriguez (Composer & Musical Director) is an independent Harlem NYC born multi-instrumentalist whose career spans over 40 years. He draws inspiration during this time from the soul/jazz and salsa of 125th St. to downtown’s Punk Hardcore scene and beyond. He has worked as a bassist to many artists both independent and established. He is most widely recognized as the bassist, composer and co-founder of the Punk-Salsacore group RICANSTRUCTION. As of late, he dabbles in film scoring and production while performing and recording as a bassist in many groups.
vagabond [lower case spelling is correct] (Director) is an artist, writer and award winning filmmaker. He was a co-founder of the RICANSTRUCTION Netwerk [irregular capitalization and spelling are correct], an artist collective in the vein of the Situationist International, that organized protests and created agitprop such as the Dos Alas Mural on 105th Street and 3rd Avenue which just celebrated 25 years. His first narrative feature film, "Machetero," won awards at festivals around the world. He’s a contributing author to "Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements," published by AK Press. He recently completed ll Roads Lead to the Fire Escape," a feature documentary on original Nuyorican Poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez. He’s in post-production on his second narrative feature film , "The Spirits of Coney Island," starring Cesar winner Isaach de Bankolé, Tony Award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia, founding member of The Last Poets Abiodun Oyewole, and Dick Zigun.
"Killin' Republicans" was originally developed by Funhouse Philosophers LLC in 2016 at Coney Island USA, when a staged workshop ran five previews and ten regular performances. It was not reviewed. The cast was Juliet Jeske, Nikos Brisco, Jessi Williams, Amanda Jencsik and Celina Leroy. Director was Terry O’Reilly and composer was Christian Amigo. That workshop was funded in part by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Family and Friends Of Dick Zigun.
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PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE at https://photos.app.goo.gl/XPNY6x6VRCuNtyAi6.