During his senior year at Marin Academy Dezi Gallegos, Class of 2013, dedicated one class period every other school day to writing, producing, and refining his original production, God Fights the Plague, as part of an independent study in theater. He has spent the past year refining his work and is excited to be performing his one-man show at San Francisco’s Marsh Theater this summer with a special Marin Academy Weekend planned for July 5th and 6th.
1. You graduated from MA last June and deferred college for a year. Tell us what you’ve been up to.
Tons of theater stuff! I taught four acting classes to kids aged 4-12, co-directed Annie with a cast of 50 performers aged 7-17, and have just kicked off my run of 16 performances of my one-man show, God Fights the Plague, at The Marsh in San Francisco. Also, I’m currently working with 18 kids to write an original play that explores morality, empathy, and innocence. The play, Hamlet’s Orphans, will premiere at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse on July 18th. So things are very busy. This summer I teach my kids Monday through Friday and perform my one-man show Saturdays and Sundays. It’s insane, but it’s what I love.
2. Give us the backstory on God Fights the Plague.
In my senior year of high school, I interviewed 16 men and women of a variety of faiths. I transcribed the moments of these interviews that I found particularly beautiful, funny, moving, or inspiring, and shaped these moments into a one-man show. In the play, I portray each of my interviewees, using their exact words and mannerisms. I also added a storyline about my own religious journey, and how my interviewees influenced it. Here is a blurb about the piece:
The Marsh presents 18-year-old visionary Dezi Gallegos’ GOD FIGHTS THE PLAGUE. This solo show starring Gallegos, directed by Charlie Varon, chronicles the comic and moving journey of a young man who sets out to determine if there is one God, no god, or many gods. For this original documentary theater piece, Gallegos interviewed individuals from nine different religions and recreates their words, wisdom, and wit onstage. From a rabbi who moonlights as a singing drag queen and an Elvis-worshipping witch, to the California State Director of American Atheists and a man who found Jesus in the back of a bus, Gallegos recreates his conversations with a wide variety of followers in his quest to know why we’re here, where we’re going, whether our ship has a captain or if we’re sailing on our own – ultimately creating a performance that rekindles faith in humanity.
3. A run at the Marsh Theater is a pretty major accomplishment right out of high school! How did that come about?
Ambition and luck. I performed God Fights the Plague at the end of my senior year at MA. It got an extraordinarily positive response, and I knew the show had a life ahead of it. I got in touch with Charlie Varon, a writer-director-actor (and the director of all of Dan Hoyle’s one-man shows, including The Real Americans), and he agreed to direct my show. He took me in a very different direction, and I’m so grateful to him for it. I auditioned the new piece at the Marsh in March, and the Marsh’s artistic director loved it. So I began my 16 show run (Saturday and Sundays) on June 7th. But I’d say the biggest reason I’ve had such success with the piece is that the people who I portray in it (my interviewees) are just remarkable human beings. I have heard their words hundreds of times, and yet I never tire of their stories. They are moving, inspiring, thought-provoking, funny, and always worth listening to. God Fights the Plague has been a success because (though I’m the only performer), I’m not the only personality on the stage; there are many, and they open hearts and minds.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
If all goes according to plan I will begin my undergrad studies at USC next year and in five years I will be living in LA, making movies. I will have friends that are remarkably similar to those in the TV show, “friends.” I will frequent a bar where everybody knows my name. I will be in the process of meeting my children’s mother. In all seriousness, I have no idea, but I know I’m happiest when I’m telling stories, working with kids, being around people I love, and/or reaching the ridiculously high goals I set for myself. So I’m hoping to find a job/life that allows me to do all of that.
5. Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
I loved “That’s Absurd” with J O’Malley. The class was an introduction to existentialist philosophy, and asked the question, “How can humans live rationally in a world that can be random and irrational world?” One of the essential texts of the class was The Plague by Albert Camus. The novel presents the idea that life is vulnerable to plagues of all kinds. Illnesses are obvious examples, but gun violence, mental illness, hatred, and death are plagues as well. They don’t make sense, and there’s no purpose, meaning, or reason for them; they randomly strike, and force us to deal with that which we do not understand. As we discussed in “That’s Absurd,” there are many ways to deal with the irrationality of plague. One of the most intriguing methods is choosing to believe in a higher power that ordains this irrationality, for reasons that are incomprehensible to us lower beings. This idea became fundamental to my one-man show, God Fights the Plague. In the play, I grapple with my Lyme Disease diagnosis (my own personal plague). I am a non-hiker, non-camper, and yet the illness is still mine. “That’s Absurd” helped me see that part of my frustration with this sprang from wanting to rationalize an illness that cannot be rationalized.
6. If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
I would get to know more under and upperclassmen. I stayed pretty attached to my grade, and I regret not getting to know more people outside of the Class of ’13. Also, I never told my high school crush I liked her. That’s a regret. She’s still there now, I don’t know if she ever knew…. For a kid who is completely comfortable performing in front of an audience of several hundred people, I am extraordinarily uncomfortable around the girls I like. This is something I briefly touch on in God Fights the Plague, when I’m attempting to pray to God and I say, “I just have no idea how to talk to you. It’s like I’m treating you like a girl that I like and that I’m awkward with, cuz I’m pretty awkward around girls. Which is actually a conversation we should have some time, it’s like what the f*@k, God? Couldn’t you give me just a little…” and then, through the art form of dance, I briefly enact what I wish God had given me.
7. How can we get tickets to your show?!
The best way is to visit this link: http://themarsh.org/god_fights/dezi-gallegos/
I am thrilled to announce that we are able to offer a special discount to the Marin Academy community on July 5th and July 6th: MARIN ACADEMY WEEKEND! Use the discount code “wildcats” and get $5 off your tickets. I really, really hope you’ll come see the show, whether on Marin Academy weekend or some other time (the earlier the better). Get a group of friends together and have a night in the city. I have worked so hard to get God Fights the Plague to the Marsh, and now I just want to share it with as many people as possible. I PROMISE, if you come, you will not regret it. Buy tickets now!
Interested in being in the spotlight for a future alumni newsletter or have a classmate to nominate? Send me an email!