Hot Lunch Apostles, a play by Boulder poet and playwright Sidney Goldfarb, will open at New York's La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theatre on March 1 as part of the fabled Off-off-Broadway theater's fifty-year celebration. Produced by the Talking Band, a collaborative group that spins evocative tapestries of words, imagery and sound -- both vocal and instrumental -- Hot Lunch Apostles was first shown at La MaMa in 1983. The play is about an itinerant troupe of carnival people who perform at rural fairs at a time when millions of people are hungry and out of work. "They perfom the most foul acts imaginable," says Goldfarb. "Hot lunch is where the strippers are eaten on the runway by the audience. This stuff is true: The actors actually did a lot of research."
Realizing that they can attract more audiences with religion, the carnies decide to stage Bible stories. "When you see them attempt to perform the gospels, you're seeing them do their regular acts at the same time, in a juxtaposition between the sacred and the profane that kind of makes them equivalent to each other," says Goldfarb. "I was purposefully not going to put my foot down in any particular place. At first the gospels are presented humorously, and the carnies don't know what to do with them. But by the end, I tried to make the language as pure as I could.
"Some people told me the show was horrifying; others said that after seeing it they were going to church again," he adds.
La MaMa will be transformed into a fairground for the production, complete with food stands, game booths and geek shows, and in this space, according to the press release, "religion and sex bash up against each other in a wild, shocking and hilarious production." Grammy-winner Loudon Wainwright is among the cast members.
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Goldfarb, who co-founded the creative writing program at CU, has an impressive resume that includes several grants; one of his plays was directed by Julie Taymor of Lion King (and -- less happily -- Spiderman) fame. He first met the Talking Band's Paul Zimet -- who directs Hot Lunch Apostles -- when they were both students at Harvard. They ran into each other again in Boulder in the 1970s, when Zimet and other members of the Talking Band arrived to give a series of acting workshops. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda had died, and his country was suffering the brutal rule of Augusto Pinochet. Zimet asked Goldfarb to translate some of Neruda's poems, and then staged a fund raiser for Amnesty International called An Evening with Pablo Neruda on the CU campus. The two men expected a handful of audience members, but hundreds of people turned up, most of them from Chile and other parts of Latin America.
Goldfarb observes that the play's premise of high unemployment in a time of fervent religious revival is even more relevant today than it was in the early 1980s. He hopes this new production will be "provocative and funny and interesting. and that it will maybe cause viewers to see our present condition in a different sort of light."