Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Rather than write my own preface, the staff of The Mercury Menifesto demanded I use their canned material to introduce their show. Here goes:

In the late 90s, after being fired from his job as Santa at Sak's Fifth Avenue due to an incident with Mayor Giuliani, John Del Signore began standing in the subway dressed in a silver unitard. Passers-by would crowd around and debate whether or not he was "real"; it was only when money was dropped into the bucket at his feet that he would "come to life". In due time, Del Signore and his collaborator Victor Wilde became known as The Mercury Men and their stationary artistry was sought after for events at such decadent venues as The New York Stock Exchange and a Mark-of-the-Beast-themed nightclub in Times Square called Bar Code.

Del Signore's Pretentious Festival show, The Mercury Menifesto, is presented as a motivational seminar for those who dream of one day performing in the subway but lack the right confidence and technique. Along the way, the twisted story of The Mercury Men will be vividly re-enacted during the seminar with the help of actor Jeff Seal, puppeteer Mary Kate Rix, video artist Mikella Millen and - live via satellite from L.A. - Victor Wilde.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Just look at the title. What could be more pretentious than a manifesto? How about a MENifesto.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
I see where this is going - your next question's going to dredge up all that rubbish about how I "stole" my act from the gold guy in Times Square. Well, I refuse to be tried in the court of public opinion! Interview over.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote "For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture." Explicate.
I suppose I have time for one or two more questions. Roland and I used to be quite close, as a matter of fact. Regrettably, we had a falling out when I spotted him leaving a matinee of Animal House and, grinning from ear to ear, rushing to buy a ticket for the very next screening! He tried to tell me he was researching a theory about the semiotics of toga parties. Well, I let him know what a disgraceful philistine he'd become, and he promptly belched in my face! Barthes was a vulgar fraud! What was the question?

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
Woah, woah, woah. Are you suggesting that the general public will be admitted into the theater? Absolutely not - I won't have them stinking up my production with their "popped corn" and their "heated dogs". My actors and puppets perform for a pristine, empty house - or no one! (Of course Industry and press are most welcome.)

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
My staff informs me there is another show set in the subway called "Tunnel Vision". While the title is certainly clever - if one goes in for that sort of thing - anyone who has ever taken the New York subway knows it's MY turf. That I wasn't even consulted by their production team was truly a slap in the face.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I will accept my awards on behalf of all my marginalized silver brothers and sisters who are still - in 2007! - denied a seat at the table. The entertainment industry will come in for a particularly scathing indictment for their degrading portrayal of silver people as nothing more than bug-eyed, robotic street minstrels. It's high time we started seeing people of silver in roles as rock stars and crime-fighting aristocrats. (My headshot and resume available upon request.)

Photo by Haik Kocharian

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