Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Writing, Linguistics, and Creative Process
Typical show business stories usually default to a fiery exposé of debauchery and bacchanalian excess designed to sell in those twirling display carousels at airport newsstands. But what about the untold backstage accounts of real-life exploits behind the scenes with jammed scenery, dead microphones, out-of-service bathrooms, and the pleasure of dealing with the wildly unconventional demands of show people? And what if the story is told from the perspective of a simple, implacable facilitator having had a first-hand experience in every situation? What was it within my past that helped me to succeed in this dysfunctional business? I answer these questions in this memoir, which provides a humorous, engaging account of how a career in the theatre evolved from simple expectations. The chance opportunity to play in a theatrical sandbox, and the subsequent silliness of it all, is featured in this work.
Cultural repercussions touch upon the path to my theatrical inclinations. Growing up in an environment of mid-century absolutes where success was measured within blue-collar options, the idea of making a living as a theatrical seemed highly unlikely. My story follows that journey by describing my formative years within a midcentury culture and its attendant assumptions and traditions. Indications of the inevitable result of a professional theatrical career are revealed by introducing a smorgasbord of familial, historical, and histrionic personalities. I discover there is a unique relationship between the craggy fruit-and-vegetable seller offering arias in the streets of old Brooklyn and the fragile, white-gloved patron of any art that will assuage their need for social relevance. I reflect on the uncomfortable similarity of a reactionary and impulsive CEO and the current state of political affairs. I take an unconventional view of the feminine mystique of an iconic dance troupe in the Rockettes and bring them to a 21st-century relevance with a feminist eye. All this is done with a self-deprecating, humorous approach that is charmingly irresistible and is constructed to evoke hearty laughter when read.
The central theme revolves around events that initiate this rollercoaster journey of a profession in theatrical arts, one that I never imagined could happen. I utilized a chronologically based structure that weaves ancestral history with contemporary references from my adolescence through my adulthood. I apply a humorous tone to create a self-effacing statement that embraces the reader with wit, comedy, and wisdom. Recurring references that keep returning in the story maintain a connection to personal history and resolve in reflective anecdotes that keep the narrative amusing and entertaining to the reader. The story transcends the superstar clickbait. Instead, it recalls celebrity encounters, illustrating the celebrities’ human traits and how they adjust to life’s challenges just like we do. It is a humorous reveal of unforgivable conceit becoming irrevocable folly.
The working title reflects the core of the narrative central to my adult work life. This is a book about embracing an unorthodox career and finding a comfortable seat from which to view the journey through one’s experiences.
The memoir is inspired by the innocent wisdom of Annie Dillard, the inventive quirkiness of James Thurber, the frank openness of Nora Ephron, and the quintessential humility of Stephen Tobolosky. The work suggests a sense of self-determination in a world insistent upon victimization. The story evokes a sense of sprezzatura, otherwise known as the art of effortless mastery, where stress and angst take a very far back seat to the enjoyment of life. It is an invitation to sit back and enjoy the show.
Bonanni, John, "Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain" (2019). Master of Fine Arts in Professional Writing Theses. 43.
Available for download on Wednesday, November 15, 2119