The Town Hall Presents
Hunter S. Thompson's
THE KENTUCKY DERBY IS DECADENT AND DEPRAVED
with Tim Robbins & special guests Brad Hall & Chloe Webb
Music Composed and Conducted by Bill Frisell
Performed by Ron Miles, Curtis Fowlkes, Kenny Wollesen, Jenny Scheinman, Doug Wieselman, Eyvind Kang & Hank Roberts
Scripted from the original article by Hunter S. Thompson
Artwork by Ralph Steadman
Produced by Hal Willner
Directed by Chloe Webb
Only a writer as perceptive, talented and insanely fearless as Hunter S. Thompson can turn the coverage of a horse race into an incisive, and savagely funny, snapshot of a society in all its glory and miseries.
As it happened, three days before the running of the Kentucky Derby in May 1970, Thompson, a Louisville native, pitched a story on the race to the editor of Scanlan's Monthly, a short-lived but feisty political magazine. He got the assignment and was paired not, as expected, with an American photographer but with an English illustrator, Ralph Steadman.
The resulting story, headlined The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, was Thompson's first "gonzo journalism" piece and a warning shot announcing a powerful new voice in American journalism. He went on to write other influential works including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, and The Rum Diary.
The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved will be brought to life in all its hallucinatory splendor at The Town Hall in New York on Friday May 5 by an extraordinary production team comprising actors Tim Robbins and Brad Hall, producer Hal Willner, composer and conductor Bill Frisell and actor and director Chloe Webb. Featuring a live cast, Steadman's original artwork and a superb music ensemble performing Frisell's original score, all of whom performed on the original 2012 CD release -- Ron Miles (trumpet), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Hank Roberts (cello), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Doug Wieselman (woodwinds), Eyvind Kang (viola) and Kenny Wollesen (drums) -- the show's East Coast premiere takes place on the eve of this year's Kentucky Derby.
"This is such a great piece. People try to define it: Is it music? Is it theater? What is it? And I tell them that it's performance art - and entertainment," says Webb. "It's almost like vaudeville. The music is beautiful, the words are funny, the story is ridiculous - but it's all very pointed in terms of what is happening now. More than 40 years later, what is different now? It's still about the rich ol' white boys in their private boxes and the rest of the people raising a ruckus down on the field. It's an exploration of 'So, what's your excuse for bad behavior?'"
Robbins and Hall play Thompson and Steadman, respectively, and Webb notes that "this piece is in great part about Hunter meeting Ralph and the beginning of their partnership." An American madman and brilliant writer meets an Old World gentleman with a penchant for drawing observant but horribly unflattering portraits -- an odd couple from the beginning, yet the start of a remarkable and fruitful collaboration.