Cliff, Kiss, Cigarette, explains Dylan Ward, "is a story about danger, risk and coming of age in a fucked-up world." At seventeen, playwright Ward has barely come of age himself, and he took plenty of risks staging his ambitious work at the LIDA Project experimental-theater space earlier this month, including facing down that age-old danger: a disapproving mom.
Ward, a student at the Denver School of the Arts, cast four classmates to play Adrien, John, Alice and Laura, teenagers in a British drug-rehab center that's perched on the edge of a cliff (symbolism, you know). During the course of the play, the characters chain-smoke cigarettes (all herbal, the program notes), contemplate suicide, make out on stage in every conceivable gender combination, and talk about sex, baby -- in very graphic terms.
"Opening night was mostly our friends from school, who had no problem with the material," Ward says. "The second night, we had a smaller audience, and most of our parents came, and frankly, one of them had some problems with what she saw."
That would be putting it mildly. When Adrien, played by Mitch Colley, told John, "You're just mad because I won't fuck you," John, played by Daniel Regan Thorne, sarcastically replied, "Yeah, I want your big, fat cock riding in my ass!" -- inspiring one actor's mother to hide her face in her hands. A few minutes later, she uttered a soft but pained groan when her son embraced and kissed his fellow rehab inmate.
"Yeah, she hated it," Ward says. "She's a little on the conservative side, and my actor had been a little reluctant to show her the script beforehand, so I don't think she had any idea what she was getting into."
After the cast members took their final bow, the offended mother gestured to her son that she wanted to talk to him outside -- immediately. The actors and director were scheduled for a talk-back with the audience, and they began the discussion with an empty folding chair in their midst. Meanwhile, mother and son had a heart-to-heart about fat cocks, asses and whatnot, mercifully held out of earshot. A few minutes later, the young actor joined the rest of the cast, looking sheepish.
But his mom has since come around. "She wants to take us all out to dinner now," Ward says. "We're cool."
Ward developed the original script this past summer at "Curious New Voices," Curious Theatre's workshop for aspiring playwrights. Although everyone involved with the recent performances attends the Denver School of the Arts, Ward is very careful to note that the production was not an official school play -- perhaps remembering the unofficial drama that ensued after some senior girls performed The Vagina Monologues at the Mercury Cafe earlier in the year.
"It's harsh, it's savage, it's whatever, but I think eventually all of our parents get the point that it's not rude just to be rude, or offensive just to be offensive," Ward says of his play. "It's got a theme that's important."
Here's how Ward explained that theme during the talk-back: "It's about the dark side of seizing the day, and the questions the soul faces when it leaves a place that's comfortable. That's a pretentious schoolboy answer, but it's the only one I have."
Smack down: Two weeks ago, the unidentified crusaders at crackstreet.com sent out a scathing e-mail announcing phase two of their anti-marketing campaign. While public support for their site -- which featured crime-discussion forums, along with photos of open-air dealing, crack hos and other Capitol Hill mainstays -- had been high, they said, they were "disappointed in the lack of commitment and apathy displayed by the city." So the shock-value troops were now threatening to send travel magazines a press release titled "New Website Warns Denver Travelers About Tourist Attractions," as well as one to tech publications with the heading "Vigilantes Go Online to Fight Drug Dealing In Denver."
This was definitely not the kind of publicity Denver officials were looking for just days away from the grand opening of a new, 2.2 million-square-foot Colorado Convention Center, set to come on line December 6. No, they'd rather have big photo ops like Monday's media event with Mayor John Hickenlooper and the Rockettes, not the mayor ignoring rock-candyland.
But on November 22, ten days after delivering that threat, crackstreet.com suddenly posted a notice saying the group is going to play nice. "We have decided to now begin the transformation of the site to reflect a more positive impression of the area and the great work of individuals to improve the current crime situation," reads the manifesto. "We are still not entirely satisfied with the city's response and the lack of a long-term commitment to eliminate the problem, but some progress has been made. We feel that for now our point has been made painfully clear and the city and the public is well aware of the impact of this drug dealing on the community. Now it is time for change."
One of the first changes: removing all the photos of crack dealing -- and, in the process, removing Off Limits' main reason to visit the site. (We loved seeing who was stupid enough to get caught on film.) Now all that's left is earnest, let's-take-back-our-community rhetoric, along with the occasional "revelation" that a resident has discovered crack for sale around the shuttered space at 13th Avenue and Pearl Street that was a 7-Eleven until earlier this month.
It was fun while it lasted.
What's So Funny?
By Adam Cayton-Holland
On the southbound 0 RTD bus that runs down Broadway, there are no advertisements. Unlike New York subway cars or the elevated trains of Chicago's CTA, the 0 is not littered with ads hawking college courses or pills to help you get it up. In their stead is a wealth of RTD propaganda informing riders of the rules of the bus: asking them to surrender their seats to gimpy, bug-eyed geriatrics, urging them to be polite, not shiv the driver and the like. Prominently displayed among all this information are two signs. One features an obnoxious blond man screaming into a cell phone over the words, "Hey, it's a cell phone, not a speakerphone. Please keep your conversations quiet and quick while riding." The other depicts someone singing while wearing headphones and reads, "Hey, it's a ride, not an audition. Please keep your music quiet while riding." Ride, not an audition -- you RTD guys are too much.
It would seem that the powers that be at RTD would like their riders to enjoy a tranquil, peaceful ride through the streets of Denver, one free of noise pollution. This point is hammered home by a sign on the 0's northbound counterpart that reads, "Your fellow passengers thank you for not YELLING on your cell phones or BLARING your headphones or WAILING on your saxophones or doing anything else LOUD on any other kind of phones while you're riding this bus." Although the excessive capitalization is certainly as grating as any loud noise you might encounter while riding, the message is loud and clear: Shut the fuck up; we're trying to commute here.
But this tranquility may soon cease. Starting in January, RTD will outfit ten vehicles with monitors that will offer rider information, maps, ads, news, weather updates (for those with their heads too far up their asses to look out the window) and snippets of classic television. Apparently, Ricky Ricardo spewing forth an indecipherable tangle of gibberish while struggling to restrain his Cuban rage and not beat the holy bejesus out of Lucy does not fall under the category of noise pollution.
After a ninety-day trial, the RTD board will survey riders to see what they think of the video system. If they like it, RTD will pimp all 1,121 of its rides with televisions. In return for whoring out these buses like boxers with advertisements painted on their backs, RTD will receive $100,000 or 10 percent of the ad revenue from Transit Television News, the Florida-based firm installing the system at no cost to RTD. TTN operates similar programs in five other cities, where they've all met with overwhelming approval. But will D-town take to such a blatant mass-media intrusion? Will our simple city tolerate the infusion of commercialism into our daily commute?
I had the opportunity to talk to one loyal RTD rider on the subject, a woman who sat on the bus alone, quietly reading the Bible. I asked this woman -- let's call her Crazy Bible Lady With Creepy Facial Scars -- what she thought of having televisions on the bus, and whether it might interfere with her reading. In response, Crazy Bible Lady With Creepy Facial Scars got up from her seat, looked me straight in the eye, let loose with an astounding series of furious coughs that blew my hair back, and then debussed, wiping globules of mucus from her lips.
My point exactly.
But hey, we at What's So Funny are not here to judge. We're here to help. Didn't you see how we once found that little orphan boy a home? Check the archives, it's there. In that spirit, we're offering the good folks at RTD some suggestions for the TV trial period, so they can make that money-money and continue to provide us with the inconsistent, C+ service to which we've all grown so accustomed:
Rotating ocean imagery coupled with inspirational Whale Songs soundtrack will help riders forget they are really sitting in three inches of man-urine.
Strategic installation of crotch- and chest-level monitors ensures attention of key toothless-scumbag demographic.
Delight bus-goers with ongoing hilarious blooper segments like Disabled Rider Mishaps and When Drug Addicts Attack.
Hard-Core Porn Fridays.
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Recruit Billy Dee Williams for voice on weather updates: "Damn, baby, it be 45 degrees outside, and that's cold. But inside, baby, things are starting to get hot! You look good enough to eat, baby. Goddamn."
Placement of cheap student film crews on popular Thornton bus lines makes it possible to film and then broadcast entire episodes of Cheaters on single ride.
Airing of Johns TV on #15 Colfax bus = two birds, one stone.
Engage DPS students riding RTD home with tailor-made after-school specials like State School, Huh?, The White Boy Who Thought He Was Black and Guess Who's Pregnant Again?