Do you know where you’d go if you died tonight?
During the tour of my last solo show, I was on a swing through San Francisco when a man stopped me on the street and asked me this question.
From my days as a Christian, I knew this as a classic set-up; but I was a little tired and answered with an absent-minded “No.” And, of course, the man launched into his capital-T testimony.
“Well I didn’t always know where my soul would end up, either. In fact, just two years ago, I was homeless on these very streets. But then…”
The first monologue I ever wrote and recorded was for my church, when I was 14. Sensing my enthusiasm (let’s not say talent) for acting and writing, they asked if I would like to dress up like a Bible character and then tell his story to the congregation.
So, somewhere, there still exists a VHS of this performance: A 14-year-old Dave in robe, sandals, and pasted-on beard. I can only hope the current owner is either: a) too Christian to be vengeful, or b) too old to care about YouTube.
That day, ironically enough, I told the conversion story of Doubting Thomas. But I would tell my own conversion story many more times. We all did. Everyone at my church did.
Our “testimony” was our greatest conversion tool. It was our story of past sins and eventual salvation. It was to be both honest, sometimes brutally so, and entertaining — you wanted that non-believer to keep listening, right?
Though I disagreed with the man in San Francisco — I’m no longer a Christian — I had to admit: He told his tale well. I stood on that corner and listened to him for at least 15 minutes. And it was only then that I realized the origin of the stories I’d been telling on stage, the similarity between my narrative form and his own.
I often stay backstage after my shows, listening to the audience leave the theatre. Unfortunately, they never really talk about how brilliant I am. Often, though, they tell their own stories, their confessions, stirred up in their mind.
Trying to write these monologues, I thought again about the old testimonies of my youth. About our public confessions. And I thought something like that might work: a series of short confessions. • 22 August 2007