The world of smackdowns and body slams is being transported from the ring to the stage in a new production that's opening at Mixed Blood Theatre.
The play, called "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" is a local playwright's exploration of the underbelly of a sport he loves...professional wrestling.
Playwright Kristoffer Diaz sounds a little embarrassed when he makes this admission.
"I know more about professional wrestling than I should," Diaz said.
But Diaz isn't ashamed of his background as a wrestling fanatic. Growing up in Yonkers New York, he lived and breathed the WWE, played with wrestling dolls, and idolized "The Rock." In later years, as Diaz became a writer, wrestling loosened its hold on his imagination.
But the Brooklyn-based playwright, who's been a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis since last year, has returned to his obsession.
"It's something that I love and I think with most things that you love you have that complicated relationship that you really love what it could be in potential and don't necessarily love what it actually is," he said.
"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity," looks behind all the stunts, pseudo-drama and racial stereotypes wrestling promoters use to whip fans into a frenzy.
At the same time, it offers a new model for the industry that actually reflects the global reality of its increasingly diverse performers. And for theatergoers hoping to see piledrivers, power bombs and choke slams in this play--they will.
The sound of folding chairs whacking muscular backs has become pretty common at Mixed Blood in recent weeks.
The stage has been converted into a ring. And director Tom Jones says fight choreographer Bruce Young, along with Minnesota wrestler Billy Blaze, have been putting the actors through some grueling training.
"They come in, they wrestle, they stretch, they learn the moves," he said. "Then they have to learn the choreography cause it's not just enough to learn the moves, it's also, it's just like learning a ballet."
"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" revolves around three characters who might be viewed as the past, present and future of wrestling.
There's the narrator, Macedonia Guerra, or Mace, who playwright Kristoffer Diaz says always plays the villain.
"He wrestles under a mask," Diaz said. "He's the guy who loses every week, and he makes the winners look really good."
Mace: "When I'm on the attack in a wrestling match it's a constant process of action, reaction and evaluation. Thinking about the outcome of the match, which, yes, we already know going into the night. So don't dismiss my art form on the basis of it being pre-meditated, unless you're ready to dismiss ballet, for the swan, already knowing, is gonna end up dead."
"The star is Chad Deity," Diaz said.
An African American wrestler who according to Diaz is musclebound and super charismatic.
"And not good at wrestling actually at all," Diaz said. "He's good at the storytelling part, not good at the wrestling part."
Chad: "Chad Deity was hanging out with his boy Brett Favre the other day, and Chad Deity's boy Brett Favre turned to Chad Deity and said, 'Chad Deity, you're the champion and the ladies man, and the media icon that I've always wanted to be,'" Deity said.
Mace is happy being the evil foil to Chad Deity's superstar until he discovers a young athletic, Indian American named V.P.
"Vigneshwar Paduar," Diaz said.
A hip hop influenced, dynamic person of color who, with Mace's help, could be the new star of wrestling.
P.V.: "What I need is...I need that Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson...that rivalry," P.V. says in the play. "I want to be working with somebody. I want him to elevate me."
Mace: "To push you. To make you work harder."
P.V.: "And have my back."
Mace: "And make sure he don't hurt you."
P.V.: "It ain't nothing that's romantic or love or nothing like that."
Mace: "It's community."
Despite Mace's vision, his wrestling tycoon boss wants to turn V.P. into an America-hating terrorist character fans will despise.
Director Tom Jones says the play's metaphoric power lies in its portrayal of wrestling as a battle of narratives.
"It is a contest to see who's story, who's image is going to be heralded," Jones said.
Jones says you can look at America as a history of winners and losers determined not by talent but by who's writing the script.
"And very often that's not of one's own cultural choosing," Jones said.