Leon Scott is not your average choreographer.
He is, in fact, a professional wrestler of 20 years. Leon “Ravage” has a ring reputation for “sheer brutality” and specializes in delivering the dreaded “Reverse Crucifix Ace Crusher.”
But we all know that the “art” of professional wrestling is every bit as choreographed as anything you will see on stage during a performance of “Swan Lake.”
And so of late, Leon has been spending his, um, “down time,” (he’s sidelined from his day job due to injury) teaching a bunch of actors how to throw each other around, kick each other to the ground, stomp on each other’s crumpled bodies and otherwise practice the fine art and artifice of professional wrestling.
All without actually hurting each other.
“I don’t know why it takes like 20 super kicks to take this guy down,” Scott jokes after running two thespian/grapplers through the moves of a competent killer kick multiple times.
The “Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is a dark comedy by Kristoffer Díaz that focuses on professional wrestling as a lens through which to view the American dream, corporate greed, our unslakable thirst for heroes and villains and – well, pretty much life, the universe and everything when you come right down to it.
“There is so much polarization in our politics and our culture,” says director Alberto Bonilla. “Wrestling is a reflection of what’s happening in America today. It’s even more relevant now, when you think about everything you see in images. There’s a deeper story behind what are you being fed and what you believe.”
Oh, and Leon isn’t the only wrestling pro associated with this Hipp production. One of the actors, Jose DeGracia, aka “The Bad Guy” (Boo! Boo!), is himself a Jacksonville-based wrestler.
“I’ve been wrestling for 13 years,” he said. “This play has really struck a chord with me. I identify with this main character incredibly well.”
And talk about being all in. “Even after rehearsal,” DeGracia said, “we’re going back to my place, going over wrestling moves and watching wrestling videos.”
“There are a lot of layers in this play,” says Bonilla. “People are gonna laugh, they’re gonna gasp when they hit each other. And then, if they are entertained, they will leave with the message that this is real wrestling.”
And, by extension, real life.
Although there are designated villains in the ring, Everette K. Olson is the real villain in the play. “He uses America’s fears in the wrestling ring to sell tickets,” says David Patrick Ford, who plays Olson.
“My whole idea of wrestling has been turned on its head,” he added “There is such an athleticism to it. It looks vicious but nobody is trying to hurt anybody. We have become such a family.”