Asolo Rep Calling Chad Deity to the Ring

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAR 24, 2017

Pull out the spandex and face paint—and keep that folding chair handy, it’s not for sitting—professional wrestling is coming to the Asolo with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Written by Kristoffer Diaz and featuring real professional wrestlers onstage, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated and Obie Award-winning play takes the viewer from the center of the ring to the halls backstage, where politics and power plays represent the real competition, for a highly physical satire both comical and biting. Opening April 7 in the Cook Theatre, Jen Wineman directs.

The play follows career wrestler “Mace” Guerra, who Wineman describes as the Nick Carraway of Chad Deity. “If Nick Carraway did powerbombs and suplexes,” she adds. A perpetual fall guy setting up others for success, when Mace helps discover a young Indian American wrestler with the charisma to rival superstar Chad Deity, he’s initially thrilled. But when the studios exploit racial tensions to raise ratings, everyone involved has to think twice about what they do and why.

Set in the over-the-top world of professional wrestling, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity merges the world of traditional theater with that of professional wrestling (arguably its own type of theater) for a show that mines the strengths of both. But this also places special demands on the performers. Enter Jamin Olivencia, a 14-year professional wrestler and veteran of two past productions of Chad Deity. Appearing in multiple roles throughout the production, Olivencia also served to bring the performers up to speed on proper technique to keep everybody safe.

At the suggestion of the writer, the performers all embarked on a one-week boot camp to prepare. Even Wineman participated. “I’m pretty ferocious,” she says, “so watch out.” Olivencia agrees. For a week, the actors learned to fall, to fight and to watch out for one another in the ring. They watched professional wrestling, learning the rhythm of the match and how the participants maintain a constant, if largely unseen and unheard, dialogue referred to as “calling the match,” as they dance around the ring. In the end, they all learned far more than they needed, but were able to build their bouts from the ground up. “It’s the real deal,” says Olivencia. “It is wrestling.”

And while the physical aspect of Chad Deity makes for a thrilling spectacle, the heart of the story shines through, says Wineman, in its universal commentary on the roles individuals play, the exploitation on racial lines and others still extant in society and how much one can—or should—compromise their beliefs. That combination of heart and physicality is what initially drew her in. “That’s what this play does,” Wineman says. “That’s the most exciting kind of theater to make.”

Opening April 7 with previews April 4–6, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity runs in the Cook Theatre at Asolo Repertory Theatre through April 30.

Pictured: Garrett Turner in Asolo Rep's Production of "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity." Photo by John Revisky.

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