YOU SAY GORILLA AND I SAY GUERILLA – Tales from Bo / by Bo Gerard

Guerrilla (Spanish for "little war"), as applied to theatrical events, describes the act of spontaneous, surprise performances in unlikely public spaces to an unsuspecting audience.  Typically, these performances intend to draw attention to a political/social issue through satire, protest, and carnivalesque techniques. - Richard Schechner, The Drama Review - 1970"

Gretchen and I met each other while performing with "The Bond Street Theatre Coalition" in a sociopolitical street theater piece called “Powerplay”.  The piece was written by the cast and director, and performed every Friday night in Washington Square Park and on Saturday afternoons in Central Park.  (All appropriate city permits were obtained.)  The 8-member cast gathered a crowd by doing group warm-ups on our tarp, which included acrobatics, juggling, and singing.  The show was full of characters borrowed from Greek and Native American mythology and followed a post-apocalyptic clown duo on their quest to find out what had long ago caused the destruction of the land called America.  We used song, magic, circus skills, and puppetry to keep the outdoor audiences engaged.  After the show we passed the hat , but no one was doing it for the money - lucky thing too, because there was very little after we split the pot eight ways.  We did it because we were soldiers in a cause.  We were using our minds and bodies to reach out to the public and hopefully start conversations about the topics in our plays. Ever since then Gretchen and I have continued performing “guerilla theater”, and we actually still do it to this very day.

Five months after I met Gretchen we started writing a two-person musical show together.  It was based on a story used in Transcendental Meditation called “Warm Fuzzies”.  We got funded by “Sidewalks of New York” and "Brooklyn Arts & Cultural Assoc.", and performed that show in schools, parks, and housing project courtyards in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  In the Projects there was no advance advertising - the two of us just showed up, gathered a crowd, and did the show.  It was rough, sometimes dangerous, and incredibly rewarding.   This was usually the first, and maybe even the only, experience some of these audiences would have with theater.

As we moved into the more lucrative world of commercial theater and corporate entertainment, we always sustained the desire to give back to society.  So, we have always kept at least one “guerilla theater” project going, performing shows that can be effective without a stage, audience style seating, lighting, curtaining, etc.

In 1989, we co-created the award-winning “Dream Collectors”, with Rogene Russell, Artist Director of Fine Arts Chamber Players, and for 26 years performed shows with important social and educational messages in hundreds of schools and for many thousands of teachers and children in the DFW area.

In 2012 we created “The Pipdillys” to perform musical shows in libraries that are not merely entertaining, but have important content for parents and children.  Once again money is not the reason for our efforts.  In fact, if we compared the number of hours we spend conceiving and writing the shows, building the props, writing the music, recording the tracks and then hours upon hours of rehearsing, with what we actually charge, our wages would work out to pennies an hour – split two ways!

Why do we do it?  Because we feel it is important, for the audiences who do not or cannot go to the theater, to have a thought provoking professional theatrical experience come to them.  It’s a mission – it’s a calling.