On the rare moments when one is able twist a thought or two away from the many social disasters that are plaguing us, it’s easy to remember that the world is actually populated with a ton of cool people. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you got to associate with one or two of them. LGBTQIA musician and activist Scott Free has been a longstanding voice for queer artists in Chicago, hosting a decades long performance showcase called Homolatte and being a very loud reminder to queer festival organizers that actually booking gay acts is a necessity for their events to be a true source of pride and awareness.
A few years ago, we spent a lot of time together working on a show called Zombie Bathhouse: A Rock Musical. To this day, friends still tell me how his lyrics for that project totally nailed aspects of their own lives, a true testament to his empathy and talent. His latest work, The Last Revolution, is a social call to arms that has deservedly gotten tons of praise and attention and, as with the majority of his work, really raises an eye on the tremulous circumstances that we are now facing as a nation.
The one thing that has always struck me as both unique and heartbreaking about the theatrical performance is its impermanence. Once it is done, it’s done and if you weren’t there, it isn’t even a vaporous speck in your consciousness. Of course occasionally, whether in rehearsal or secretively done during a performance, footage can be recorded for posterity.
Such is the case with Zombie Bathhouse: A Rock Musical. I wrote the book for this show that premiered during the Halloween season in Chicago last fall. Along with the ghastly limb chewing action and romance – (Yes, romance. This was a musical, after all.) – that occurred onstage; some ghostly presence got some recorded evidence of the show. Now we have a super cool music video of one of composer-lyricist Scott Free’s most aggressive numbers, Man Meat.
Nicely, this leaves an imprint for both the work of director Dan Foss and one of the show’s inspirations, Joey Kissling. Foss, who was suffering from kidney and heart disease, died nine days after the close of the show. His imaginativeness helped flesh out the show’s structure and his love for the cast allowed everyone to overcome the emotional hurdles involved with mounting a larger production with ease. Kissling, meanwhile, provided the spiritual outline for Michael, the show’s conflicted and defiant lead. Kissling succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer in the spring of 2016 and Michael was created in his honor. Now, thanks to the existence of this video, they both have a more permanent and much deserved legacy.