This week, Josh Rivedal, answered some of my tough and hard-hitting questions about his one-man show and it’s transition into a book. The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah will be released on September 24th. During this exclusive pre-release through the 23rd, 15% of the sales goes to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Canada.
And without further ado:
Malini: Josh, you know I love your book. I devoured it one night the way I devour a bowl of pasta. My readers know that I respect those who share their truth. It is difficult to do that. Who really wants to admit their shame or expose their vulnerability? And you’ve shared your truth and vulnerability in two forms: performance and the written word. What was the catalyst in writing the book version of the show?
Josh: Great question. I really wanted to make this story more accessible. In three years I’ve reached about ten thousand people with the show version. But I can only do so many performances in a week or month. With the book it’s low cost and able to be consumed at a pace that suits the audience member. It’s much more easily shared as well. You can hand someone a book but I can’t live in someone’s pocket and put on a performance at a minute’s notice.
The book is also loosely structured as a three act play. It has one more act than the one-man show version. During the final act, the book shows my own spiral into clinical depression and suicidal thoughts a few years after losing my father to suicide. Additionally it shows my recovery from depression and bouncing back from rock bottom. In society we are constantly presented with pictures of people who are struggling but rarely are we shown someone in recovery. I wanted people to see someone who is in recovery and living a well-adjusted and productive emotional and professional life.
Malini: One of my favorite parts in the book, without giving anything away, is the use of voices and dreams. I found that they really enhance the story. How did you come up with that concept?
Josh: Thank you and… damn, that’s a tough question!
First on the conceit to use of dreams. I was having dreams on a consistent basis about my father for over a year after he died. I could understand things he was saying and these dreams drove me, in part, to write my one-man play The Gospel According to Josh. However these dreams were freaking me the hell out and it contributed to my deteriorating mental state. I thought I was going crazy (not true) and didn’t talk about it for a few years. The dreams were also a way for me to say goodbye to my father, something I never got a chance to do.
The voices. I think it came to me one day early in the writing process. I was taking a shower and was trying to think of a way to break up the exposition and give insight to my inner thoughts. We all talk to ourselves throughout the day, sometimes aloud, and often when we think no one else is listening. It’s more normal than you think. My thoughts often sound a little ghetto fabulous. I also quote Bible verses at myself because of my Evangelical youth. And I swear a lot in Spanish in my head. In the context of the book, these three voices (religious, ghetto, Spanish) are my friends and enemies. They’re vulgar, compassionate, needling; and they break up and lighten what can be some serious subject matter. They’re probably the most risky part of the book (as a writer) but they’re my favorite part too.
Malini: You discuss your first performance in the book and you are still touring the show, which I think is great. What has shifted for you, if anything, as you continue to carry your message?
Josh: I think the thing that’s shifted is that this message, carried out with compassion and humor, is snowballing. People are embracing it all over the U.S. and Canada. It’s taken a few years but it’s happening. And I’m somewhat known as “the suicide prevention guy” which is interesting. Not something I ever thought I’d be known as when I got into show business ten years ago. But here we are and I’m totally cool with it.