Saturday, April 13, 2024

Penny Arcade, Justin Elizabeth Sayre and more to play at LaMama

La MaMa Experimental Theatre welcomes playwright and performer Justin Elizabeth Sayre back to the revitalized Club Space with their new work, My Beatnik Youth: A Solo Riff

Fashioned after a Beat Era poetry reading, this play with music will be directed by Fempath,fresh off their success with Club Shortbus, a live adaptation of John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film. Musical director Tracy Stark will lead a jazz trio. Evan Spigelman serves as lighting designer.

This new solo work from Justin Elizabeth Sayre, who has debuted two other solo pieces at La MaMa (Love’s Refrain – 2016, To Build a Soul – 2021), tells the tale of a teenager obsessed with the Beat Generation named Jay. After a serious drunk driving accident, Jay is placed in the psych ward to avoid charges and contemplate what brought them towards this brush with death. During this month-long hospitalization, Jay will face their own demons and the demons of those suffering around them. Throughout this time, Jay draws upon the world of the Beat Generation, from works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to the incredible music of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.

Photo: Justin Elizabeth Sayre | Photo: Fempath

“While this play is a fiction, it remains a very personal work,” says Sayre. “For me, My Beatnik Youth is about poetry, mental health, and the ability to see the dark but still choose to see the light.” Sayre has written before about their own battles with mental illness. “But throughout all the struggles that are inherent in a piece like this, I believe I’m ultimately telling a story of hope. For me that’s what the Beat Generation was about. As is the case with any Romantic movement, the Beat Generation was looking to celebrate our humanity at the beginning of the Atomic Age. I think that message, especially in our digital age, has so much resonance. This play is celebration of the beauty and fragility of human resistance and the drive to find our own luminosity.”

My Beatnik Youth will feature different guest poets throughout the engagement including Candystore (4/14), Heather Johnson (4/15 and 4/21), Ayaz Muratoglu (4/16), Ianne Fields Stewart (4/17), Heather Denton (4/22), Ashley Escobar (4/23), and Matt Proctor (4/24). The schedule is subject to change.

The performance on Sunday, March 17, scheduled to be livestreamed on HowlRound, will feature a post-show talkback with downtown legend Penny Arcade.

My Beatnik Youth: A Solo Riff is written and performed by Justin Elizabeth Sayre and runs March 14 – 24, Thu – Sat at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3:30 PM at The Club at La MaMa, at 74 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. The show is roughly 90 minutes. Tickets are $30 for adults; $25 for students and seniors; first ten tickets for every performance $10 each (online, advance sale only; first come, first served).

Tickets available at or (646) 430-5374. Follow the show on Instagram @MyBeatnikYouth.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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