It’s difficult to
describe exactly how a room reacts to David Wayne Reed unless you’ve been in a
room when David Wayne Reed enters it.
This is what I learned last December,
when I was among the storytellers drafted for one of Reed’s Shelf Life events.
I knew the local actor and playwright by reputation, but I’d never watched him
work up close. For that evening’s installment of the new-ish series (the theme
was a seasonally appropriate “Unwanted Gifts”), the Brick was packed, and when Reed took the stage, wearing a panama hat and a button-down shirt, the room
hushed as though everyone present were expecting a healing sermon.
Shelf Life isn’t
without therapeutic properties. It’s hybrid of Moth-style monologues, literary
slams, and old-fashioned show and tell. Presenters share stories connected to
objects (generally on view in the room) that relate somehow to that occasion’s
chosen theme. February 25’s is Idol Worship — about which, more in a moment.
Reed landed on the
idea for the series while cleaning out a relative’s home. As he separated which
items to discard and which to keep, he recognized that behind each possession
was a tale of some kind — an origin, a connection. Shelf Life, then, makes up a
kind of fragmented play about life with objects, one with a disparate, purposely mismatched cast.
For Saturday’s Idol
Worship, the title suggests objects and events tied to heroes of pop culture.
“My object is a
RuPaul doll,” says Megan Metzger, a former Pitchcontributor
now working toward her doctorate in Illinois. “She’s wearing a red-vinyl body
suit with matching thigh-high boots. She’s fierce!”
involves RuPaul’s Drag Race, a Project
Runway-like elimination contest in which participants fight for the title
of best drag queen. “Being a superfan of anything is usually perceived by
others as crazy or nerdy, but I’m hoping my story will dispel some of that
craziness and/or nerdiness,” Metzger says. She adds that, though she
travels back to KC infrequently, “when David Wayne Reed calls, I answer.”
are Judy Mills (of Mills Records), Ryan Wray, Pamela Liebbert, Gustavo Adolfo
Aybar, and Kimmie Queen. Expect to see Loverboy drumsticks, Elvis, autographs
from poets, and an imaginary friend.
I heard seven
narratives the night of Unwanted Gifts, including Mark Manning’s admission that
ceramic clowns seem to follow him, and Jen Harris’ tale about a dog-shaped
doorstop. During the latter, the room stayed utterly still, and the
already-weeping woman sitting next to me at one point had to stifle a gasp. Such reactions are why Reed
has undertaken the project. “I think it’s in the act of listening that we
incubate empathy,” he says. “And empathy breeds compassion, and compassion tears down proverbial walls of otherness.”