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David Crabb Is A Bad Kid

The popular storyteller and his collaborator, Josh Matthews, discuss their new show at the Axis Theatre.

David Crabb in Bad Kid
(© Dixie Sheridan)
Two-time MothSlam winner David Crabb co-produces the popular live storytelling show and podcast Risk! and co-hosts another live show, Ask Me Stories. Through these venues, he has developed a series of vivid characters from his high school years, who were instrumental in shaping his identity as a queer goth kid in rural Texas.

He recently turned these stories into Bad Kid, a one-man show co-created with his friend Josh Matthews, now at the Axis Theatre. TheaterMania stopped by a recent rehearsal to talk with Crabb and Matthews about the development of the show, how the real-life people feel about their portrayal in it, and the role that physical theater played in bringing those people to life on the stage.

THEATERMANIA: Which characters from Bad Kid originated at the Moth?
DAVID CRABB: My dad was in one of them. And I think both of the Moths I won to do the GrandSLAM were stories about Roxanne (an older friend who was his gateway to drug experimentation).

TM: What does she think about your work?
DC: I'm still in touch with her. It's funny telling these stories over and over again about this person who kind of lives in infamy to the people who've heard these stories, but she's not bothered at all. She says to me, "Bitch, that's awesome. People in New York know that I did that to you? Did you tell them I fed you cat shit that time?" She's still a bit crazy, but I think she's mellowed like everyone, or she'd be dead.

TM: You end the show saying you hope your parents never see the show. Are they aware of it?
DC: I think seeing it could send my dad into a padded cell. He'd be proud, but I think it would drive him crazy for a short time afterward. My mom would love it, but afterwards she'd be very concerned about the drug use.

TM: Your descriptions about taking drugs are particularly vivid in the show. Did they evolve throughout the creative process?
DC: The words - all of my stories even at the Moth - start as writing. If anything, the writing is often too flowery. It doesn't convey onstage; you have to ditch like 40 percent of your writing because there's a much more interesting way to show someone physically than what they'd read on paper. A lot of those feelings about the drug trips were there as text, but a lot of what's up there came from working with Josh.

TM: How did you guys go about that editing process?
JOSH MATTHEWS: The first part of it was really sitting in a room looking at these stories and deciding what they were about and then getting rid of the stuff that didn't serve that. And then going from there and making sure the descriptions were as full as we wanted. Once we got into the space, we were able to see if the words are matching the movement or if we still need to edit back or add something. The physicality of the show really came out of making the characters into real physical beings. So much of storytelling often happens as a description, but David is so good at being able to bring that into a physical place.