Devil in the Deck is autobiographical.
The stories are all true to a greater or lesser degree. In fact most of the stories in Devil are stories I have been telling friends about me and my family for years just in a slightly different setting. Only one story in the show was written created just for this project. It's the story of Kevin and his father. Kevin is my youngest brother's name, the character is named for him. Although the story is not true everything in it is based on events, people, and places in my life. I played chess with my father most evenings and cards with my mother many afternoons. Though neither Kevin nor I became doctors the sort of social games that are laid out so plainly in the story were absolutely a part of my childhood.
I really did run with the bulls and my girlfriend at that time really was wearing skin tight red pants and six inch heals. I really did run into the ring with the bulls and I really was nearly trampled. My mother really is superstitious and I really was cursed at a young age by a bad tarot reading. In fact, I did spend a fair amount of my 32nd year wearing my seat belt and looking both ways before I crossed the street.
The first time I put Devil up was at the Shelton Theater in San Francisco. It was a one weekend run. I was filling in for Jason McPherson who had booked his solo show in the theater and had to cancel. The producer, Fred Anderson, asked me to fill in at the last minute. I had about two weeks to put something together and had never done a proper one man show in a theater before. I decided that the show would be a series of stories about my life punctuated by magic that I learned at the time of that particular story or that referenced each individual story in some relevant way.
Drew Letchworth was at that show. I have long admired his work as an actor and his ability to develop characters in a way that I was never trained to do. Drew and I talked for about an hour after the show and he inspired me to develop it into what would become Devil in the Deck.
My skills as a story teller were OK but my skill as an actor was lacking. Drew spent hundreds of hours working with me. We did acting exorcises, rehearsed non stop for months, wrote and re-wrote the script. Ultimately we had a show that I am very proud of. It's the story of my life but more than that, Devil in the Deck is the story of Jack Swindle and his journey and hopefully the story of of many of our lives.
A few months after we mounted the show I posted an ad on Craigslist for a guitarist. John Anaya answered the ad. He was fantastic and has been an important part of the show ever since. His music gives depth to the story enabling me to allude to emotions that are better felt then described. John covers for me when I forget a line, and reminds me to smile when I get too serious.
My goal was first and foremost to create a show that I would want to see. I wanted it to be unique as I didn't see any point in putting up something that everyone else was doing, I hoped to share the card tricks that I had learned and that I am in love with, but most of all I wanted to create a classic fairy tale of love and adventure. The show my not be all of those things and certainly falls short on a number of levels (my acting most of all) but in many ways it succeeds.
May 23, 2013
San Francisco, CA