It’s the summer of ’69 and the death of music icon Judy Garland has emboldened her gay followers. A routine police raid on an underground Greenwich Village hotspot erupts in to a full-scale riot, the impetus of the modern gay rights movement. That’s the well-known, oft-rehearsed myth of Stonewall, anyhow. Smash that myth against the vivid theatrical imagination of playwright Ike Holter, add a howling live rock ‘n roll band, and you get the world premiere play, Hit the Wall. Remixing this historic confrontation reveals ten unlikely revolutionaries, caught in the turmoil and fighting to claim “I was there.”
Some questions from our interview with Hit the Wall playwright Ike Holter
Have any images, videos, or songs that been used through the process?
I’ve been listening to Rufus Wainwright singing Judy Garlands entire concert of “Live at Carnegie Hall”.
It’s a true remix–the words and arrangements and score are identical to what Judy sang decades before, but Rufus puts his own spin on it, and you listen to it differently.
John Cicora (Music Director) and I are big fans of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”, with a big emphasis on how music is used during the film. We hope HTW will have an underscore and soundtrack that adds to the tension, joy, fear and exhilartion of the time-period, without being a “did you catch that song by Diana Ross” concept piece. One of the reasons “Do The Right Thing” is so great is because the music is a character within the film–it’s hot, it’s angry, it’s aggressive, it’s sensitive, it has an arc.
Can you give us a description of where this play started?
The story of The Stonewall Riots, for me, is an incredibly epic, history-changing event that speaks to me in so many ways—the New York location, the fact that it happened in the summer of ‘69, Judy Garland references, the horror of The Vietnam War— aaaaaah, it drives me crazy.
I found out about the deadline for garage rep about three weeks before it was closed, and I wrote a 90 page first draft and sent it to them at 11:59, seconds before the Midnight deadline.
There have been about three and a half drafts since this spring, and anytime I gettoo “blocked” about something I just remind myself how amazing this true story is, and it pushes me back to work.
Are there any eras or countries other than our own that you look to as inspiration for your style? Any contemporary groups?