Friday, December 19, 2008

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant

Last night Einzige, frequent commenter Schtacky, and I went to see "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant" in Tempe, put on by the Stray Cat Theatre. By lucky coincidence, local Scientology expert and critic Jeff Jacobsen was also attending (see his recent article), and we sat with him in the front row for what proved to be a very enjoyable performance.

On the way to work this morning, I heard Robrt Pela of Phoenix's New Times reading his review on the local NPR station, and his review describes our experience quite well:
About three minutes into Stray Cat Theatre's newest production, I found myself thinking: This can't be really happening. When you go to see it — and you must, if you do nothing else this holiday season, go see this astonishing stage production — you will almost certainly experience the same sense of delighted confusion. ... I rarely stopped laughing during this barely-hour-long show, and my single complaint about A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant is that it ended too soon.
The play was a special treat for those of us who already know something about Scientology and the life of L. Ron Hubbard.

The production tells the story of L. Ron Hubbard's life ("writer, explorer, nuclear physicist ...") and how he came to develop Dianetics and Scientology, in the form of a children's holiday pageant. Cheesy props and frequent costume changes are used to portray rapid changes of location, from Hawaii to New York to China. Much of what is presented is accurate--Hubbard's birthplace, some of his claims about his life, and especially the content of Dianetics and Scientology. A few liberties are taken in the story of his life, though fewer than Hubbard himself and contemporary Scientologists take in describing his achievements. While there are countless amusing and disturbing events of Hubbard's actual life that could have been used for comic relief but were omitted, we were surprised at how much they managed to pack into a short show. If you want the longer version, you can read Russell Miller's biography of Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, online, complete with supporting documentation including paperwork from his FBI files.

The show continues tonight and tomorrow--if you have the opportunity to see it, take it, and you'll be very glad you went.

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