Premiering this week at Actors Theatre of Louisville and running through February 4th, ‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’ mashes together the seemingly disparate worlds of professional wrestling and theatre with a healthy hip-hop swagger sprinkled evenly throughout. From the mind of playwright Kristoffer Diaz, ‘Chad Deity’ made a huge splash with its 2010 New York debut and garnered a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with its deceptively intelligent writing and lovingly frank commentary on racial identity within the raucous and rude business of body slams and elbow drops.
As described by Actors, Macedonio “The Mace” Guerra is a natural wrestler but incapable of being the star that audiences demand. Tired of making other wrestlers look good, he recruits a smart-mouthed Indian kid to dethrone the current All-American champ, Chad Deity. Mace’s plan and conscience are tested as the rivalry is used to exploit racial stereotypes and the men come to question whether or not they are fighting for more than just title-belts.
Holding the reins of ‘Chad Deity’ for its Derby City debut is director KJ Sanchez, who is now based in New York but got her start in Louisville in the early nineties and has been making it back to town for a project or two for just about every season since. Friends with ‘Deity’ playwright Kristoffer Diaz, Sanchez was caught off guard by the immediate success of the initial production but was quick to fall in love and form a personal bond with the material. So personal in fact that when Actors announced it was picking up ‘Deity’ for its 2011-12 season, she had no hesitation at campaigning for the job.
A big part of the general relatability of ‘Deity’ is that the social commentary is tempered by Kristoffer Diaz’s childhood nostalgia and ongoing love affair with wrestling, and director KJ Sanchez told LouisvilleKY.com that with little to no previous exposure, that she has gained a newfound sense of appreciation and discovered through this project that the stage and the ring have much more in common than either side may care to admit. “Theater is just wrestling’s older sister with OCD,” Sanchez jokingly remarked.
Video interviews with Kristoffer Diaz and debut production director Sean Daniels, courtesy of Actors Theatre of Louisville:
The Actors Theatre production of ‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’ is not a world debut but Sanchez notes that the endeavor still boasts a number of firsts. KJ is the first female director to tackle the project and relates personally to Mace (also the play’s narrator) due to a shared latin american identity, but also raves that this will be the first time the material will be performed ‘In the Round’ (thanks to the Bingham Theatre), commenting, “we have actual wrestling on an actual stage in the second act… this thing demands to be done in the round.” Sanchez went on to detail the aforementioned physicicality of the play, revealing that the wrestling sequences were choreographed by real-life wrestler Al Snow, who reportedly told the actors to, “eat their Wheaties and bring their A-game.” The stars of Chad Deity even performed at a recent Ohio Valley Wrestling match.
More information on ‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’ available via Actors‘ website.
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