There are few sounds that have rattled my bones like the sound of metal dog tags falling to the ground and piling up. And there are few lines that have gutted me like the frequently repeated refrain, "I had to put the flag in the washing machine to get all the dirt out of it." These images are taken from Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe's production of Goodtime Speech, a play by Memphis poet Randy Wayne Youngblood, who passed away last year at the age of 56.
Youngblood once toured as a roadie with the rock band Yes. He was a cofounder of Our Own Voice (OOV). He was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1984 but never let his obstacles prevent him from making art. This week, Youngblood's fellow company members celebrate their friend's life and work by staging his last play, Attorney/Joker: Part Sign.
"It's a challenge to reduce Randy's writing to just a statement," says frequent OOV contributor Alex Skitolsky, who has been working on the script on and off for the past 12 years. "Randy gave me a notebook containing all the text when I was directing Goodtime Speech," Skitolsky says.
OOV artistic director and choreographer Kimberly Barksdale Baker describes Attorney/Joker as a reunion. "It is lovely to see Alex taking the helm," she says, noting that several past OOV players are coming back to Memphis for the show.
"Randy references a lot of stuff," Skitolsky says, attempting to explain the experimental work. "I caught myself Googling pretty much the entire play because he references so much. There are song lyrics, pieces of a novella, the old [vampire] soap opera Dark Shadows, and lots of '70s and '80s rock. There is one scene that is structured entirely around the lyrics of 'Hotel California.'"