In West Texas--in an imaginary town called Godsburg--there live, in August Schulenberg's Riding the Bull, a couple of awkward young people who are anything but holy. A rodeo clown named G.L. is a compulsive masturbator whose sexual fantasies, to his continual regret and pain, have gotten him excommunicated from the Church. His irreverent girlfriend, Lyza, is a 400-pound roundheel with a saucy outlook and an acute business sense. She also has a pet cow named Cyndi. As the couple dissect their world throughout act one, there is a rare theatrical joy in their acute dialect, their gawky charm, their zany obeisance to religious symbols, their Elvis-worship, and the overriding imagery of the cow culture, in which Lyza's similarity to Cyndi is not missed.
Of course, G.L. and Lyza have never spoken until Lyza decides one day to desecrate the town's nativity scene. Once they are acquainted, she begins to exert an almost magical power over him. There unfold sessions of prophetic sex, bull-riding scams, a search for the true Elvis, and cows that rise from the dead. Lyza turns G.L. into a millionaire in Act Two and there is a dramatic changing of places: the fat one becomes thin, the sinner becomes devout, the self-less becomes selfish, the unbeliever believes--they exchange each other's relationship with God. At one point, G.L. is gored by a bull named Suerte; at the end, he kills the cow, Cyndi, after discovering he has become too much like her mistress. You could get intellectual about it, but it ain't worth it. The author writes, "The idea of the play is more to have a good time, not to think so much about it, to laugh in the company of strangers and cry in the safety of darkness, and not have to worry too much about it once the play is done."
Playwright August ("Gus") Schulenberg, a Shakespeare actor who is moving gradually into playwriting, lives in Astoria, where he moved last year after a period in Philadelphia. Since 1998, he has written twenty or so plays (six of which he considers good) and all have been in different language styles. He tends to choose situations where you have permission to go as far as you can with language. (One of his plays is set in an imaginary island and written in a made-up tongue.) "Riding the Bull" came from "blind impulse," he says, adding that he prefers to write about things he does not know. American fundamentalist religion is one of them. His "Carrin Beginning" was nominated for a Newsday Oppenheimer award in 2000 for "Best New Play Premeiring Off-Broadway." "Riding the Bull" was workshopped at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2002 and was a Finalist in the Reva Shiner Full Length Play Contest. His "Kidding Jane" was a finalist in the Clauder Competition for Excellence in Playwriting 2001, a Finalist in the Playwrights¹ Theater¹s "Plays for the 21st Century" 2001, and a runner-up for the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship in 2001.
The actors playing GL and Lyza, Will Ditterline and Liz Dailey, are actually a husband and wife team, who act frequently at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and tour steadily in children's theater productions. Ditterline has also appeared at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival and has a second career as a puppet designer. Dailey also appeared at the Porterhouse Theater and spent three years selling swimsuits that help women of all shapes and sizes feel pretty. She is now a leader for a national weight loss program.
Director Kelly O¹Donnell has worked previously at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, the Arden Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, and West End Shakespeare Players. Recently, she performed in The Vagina Monologues at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood.