“A History of Sh*t: Manson in Thebes” is an outrageous, off-color comedy featuring talent including Temple students, recent graduates and professors.
It’s not every day students get to see their professor in a 7-foot turd costume or watch as another brainwashes fellow students to join a colon-cleansing cult, convincing them to go on a murdering frenzy.
The collaboration of Temple minds, the Theatre of Evangelical Scientific Revolution and the 2009 Philly Fringe Festival make these and other outrageous scenes possible – and affordable – with the ongoing production of “A History of Sh*t: Manson in Thebes.”
The Philly Fringe play sends Charles Manson, played by Temple religion professor William Allen, back in time to ancient Greece.
There, he and the God of Sh*t, played by university Mosaic professor Norman Roessler, promote colon cleansing, begin a cult and evoke a killing spree – providing a view of what the production calls “the philosophical implications of poop.”
“It’s ridiculous, tragic and hilarious all at once,” Roessler said.
In addition to starring Temple professors, the play’s success is due to many Temple students and recent graduates. Max Marguiles, a Temple alumnus, was helping Roessler with work for an academic journal when the idea of participating in the Philly Fringe Festival was brought up.
Marguiles is a member of the Theatre of the Evangelical Scientific Revolution, a group of artists and comedians who helped bring “A History of Sh*t: Manson in Thebes” to the 2009 Fringe Festival. He was a major link between the theater group and the Temple students, graduates and faculty who joined the production.
“Max was definitely the center point of it,” Roessler said. In addition to the show’s lead roles, there are 15 to 17 people in the ensemble, and of them, about 10 are Temple students, he added.
Sophomore horticulture major Julie Bare plays Oliviana, one of the women who becomes brainwashed by Manson in the play.
“Whenever William Allen or Norm Roessler are in a scene together, it’s outrageous,” said Bare, adding that there’s even a port-a-potty on stage.
“William Allen does a terrific job,” Roessler said. “A lot of stuff is incorporated from his own religious studies.”
Roessler also contributed his academic knowledge and experience with the study of grotesque realism.
“It’s a real collaboration between everyone involved,” Bare said.
“It’s pretty much like a carnival. Everything is going on at once,” Roessler said about the show, which premiered Friday, Sept. 4.
“A History of Sh*t: Manson in Thebes” will run again at the Ukrainian League Thursday, Sept. 10 and 17 at 8 p.m. and at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia Friday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.
“You’ll laugh, you’ll revolt, your Facebook lifestyle will get a jolt,” according to the show’s Web site. “You’ll scream, you’ll cry, and you’ll only kiss $5 goodbye.”
Audience members also have a chance to win a free colonic. The Infinity Health and Wellness Center of East Falls, Philadelphia donated six colonics, which will be raffled off at each production.
Katya Quinn-Judge, a Temple University alumna who graduated in February with her bachelor of arts in theater, plays the mother of the King of Thebes. Katya’s character also gets sucked into the colon-cleansing cult led by a fictional Manson and, as a result, kills her son.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so the audience shouldn’t either,” said Quinn-Judge.
“It’s called the History of Sh*t. I think it’s probably going to attract a strange crowd,” Bare said. “I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised. It’s a hilarious show.”
Christine Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.