Ten years ago, we did this dark comedy in Chicago at The Side Project...


It looked like this:















Pictured L-R: Alex Gunn, Tammy Stackpoole, Heather L. Tyler, Ryan Bollettino, Joey Steakley. Not pictured: Steve Wilson, Joe Binder.


And people said things like:

"...Graney’s skewed wit is undeniable; David Lynch himself would be jealous of the second act’s opening moments...” - John Beer, Time Out Chicago


And:

“In this provocative Side Project staging, theater views itself in a ridiculously unflattering and ultimately disturbing light...A reality that's already warped cracks open to reveal a rapacious, libidinous dementia, and Porno becomes a nightmare parable about art horrifyingly corrupted by compromise.” - Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader


And even:

"...Graney is clearly very well aware that in "Porno," ...he was pushing things to the most outrageous limits for both his actors and the audience. In fact, he has plummeted over the edge. His work raises this essential question: When does replicating the very horrors you intend to criticize become every bit as soul­crushing an enterprise as the horrors themselves?" - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times


And those were the nice reviews! Irrespective of critics, appearing in Porno is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had performing on an intimate stage. We sat 30 people each night - 15 on each side in alley/stadium seating. Shag carpet on the floors, wood paneling on the walls and a hot, humid summer with no air-conditioning made for a truly immersive experience. Rehearsals began at 10AM Saturdays and Sundays - which, for us late 20s/early 30-somethings in the Chicago theatre scene with late-night show and social commitments meant true dedication. Those mornings smelled like stale smoke and ketones, and we laughed harder at ourselves, at the text, at the joy of doing what we loved. Did we know we were pushing boundaries? I think every Chicago storefront theatre was trying to do exactly that, back then. I think we just did. For the joy of it. Maybe we went to extremes because it felt natural to explore the ridiculous, the absurd, the perverse, the dark side of human nature. We were young adults, still discovering our purpose - and, I think, the purpose of theatre. Some saw Porno as making a statement about ‘theatre as voyeurism, gleefully watching others expose themselves’ (both character and actor). It certainly was commenting on compromise - how far are you willing to go, how much of your artistic vision will you give up in order to get your show made, book the job, get what you think you want?


Sean (Graney) wrote Porno at a time when I had just lost a very lucrative, albeit compromising ‘day job.’ In fact, that exodus was among the most personally challenging moments I had faced up to that point - to support my art, I was working in the financial sector just as our economy and big banks and Wall Street were all failing. My company was caught up in the middle of it. By default, so was I. It was a scary time. The original ending of the play was a parallel to my life. Unpleasant.


I had the luxury of taking time to really reflect on what it was I wanted to do - and thus began my on-camera career and eventual move to Los Angeles. I was closer to getting what I wanted, but somewhere along the way, I realized I was compromising my artistic self on a regular basis. For the sake of the business of it all. For progression in the industry. For...? Financial reward. ‘Success.’


I lost the joy. I wrote to Sean that what resonates with me still about Porno is the parallel of what we do to each other in our commercial society: we laud the money, the perverse, the shallow, the fluff, the bigger/louder/sexier/younger to the point that even art and artists pander to that aesthetic to survive. I myself was feeling lost to that.


Since starting work on this project, “Lemonade” came out. For anyone who calls Beyonce a compromiser - floggletoss!!! She is a pop mega-star who has the power to release whatever music her heart desires, and her adoring Bey Hives will own it. And this is what she chooses to do. She goes deep, she goes hard. This is her art. Compare that to what the ‘Beliebers’ out there are getting...There are artists in our world who value artistic integrity - who have found a balance between the business and the drive to create. That’s inspiring.


Sean rewrote the ending to make, what I think, is a less violent and bigger statement and changed a few characters to include our LGBTQ and gender-questioning brothers and sisters. You may not even notice that part; it’s not a huge script plot. But it was important to us to cast artists representative of our world, today. And thus, PORNO DIDO was born.


This is my Hollywood Fringe debut. And my directorial debut. I hope you embrace the laughter and the joy and the naughtiness of PORNO DIDO. A dark comedy forged in Chicago. Finding breath and relevance once again. Welcome to the L.A. premiere.