Back in August of 2013, Josh was awaiting the print version of his book, The Gospel According to Josh: A 28 Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah (based on his one man show). He asked me to join his team to promote the book. When I finally read it, I was so moved and was excited about seeing the performance. Tada! The show is returns with an all new script based on the book. So, I decided to reprint his interview today. If you are interested in joining my merry group of supporters for opening night, comment below and I will get in touch with you.
The Gospel According to Josh is back in NYC Off-Broadway. May 16-18. Fresh of of an international tour and with an all new script based on his book. Josh is a writer for The Huffington Post, an actor, author, and public speaker.
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.
Tickets for friends of Josh, HERE: http://ow.ly/vVY8Z
About the show:
The Gospel According to Josh is a 30 character, 7 song one man show.
By the time Josh Rivedal turned twenty-five, he thought he’d have the perfect life—a few years singing on Broadway, his own television show, and his face on the cover of the National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Instead, his resume is filled with minor league theatre and an appearance on The Maury Povich Show—a career sidetracked by his father’s death and a messy lawsuit from his mother.
Tortured by his thoughts, he finds himself on the ledge of a fourth floor window, contemplating jumping out. In turn he must reach out to the only person who can help him before it’s too late.
The Gospel… is a true life tale of one young man’s passage into manhood—his twenty-eight year Gentile bar mitzvah.
Proceeds will be donated to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A panel discussion on suicide prevention and mental wellness will follow each of the four performances. Featured panelists will include industry leaders from The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Men’s Health Network and more. Dates in May: Fri. 16 at 7pm, Sat. 17 at 2pm and 7pm, Sun. at 3pm.