Juggalos, the face-painted, unashamedly low-brow fans of rap-rock band Insane Clown Posse, have been an object of morbid curiosity for over two decades. Officially listed as a “gang” by the FBI since 2011, the legion will once again convene for their annual Gathering of the Juggalos on July 31 in Springville, Indiana. If you can’t wait till then or just don’t want to get drenched in Faygo (if you went to their Brooklyn show in 2017, you know what I’m talking about), you may want to head to HERE Arts Center to catch a new play, American Juggalo.
“At the end of the day I don’t come here for music or parties or vibes, I come here for the family,” proclaims Juggalo Darren, played by Texan actor Cody Nash Edwards. “Like, everyone just accepts me and what I do and I love that a lot. Being a Juggalo doesn’t mean you’re not fit [for] society. Everyone here has a life outside of that. I mean, I met a brain surgeon– and he was on acid!”
These words are adapted from on-site interviews, the 2011 documentary of the same name, and the autobiography Behind the Paint by ICP co-frontman Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J. “My aim was to put people on stage that I don’t normally see,” said playwright Sean Pollock, who recently co-directed the screen-to-stage adaption of cult film Phantom of the Paradise. “Eighty percent of it are true stories including ones I heard when I attended last year’s Gathering.”
American Juggalo opens with scenes featuring beer funnels, privates parts shown in exchange for seeing other ones, and lots of foul language. (The show comes with a content warning about “extreme hate speech,” among other things.) At a campsite on the last day of the Gathering, Juggalos of multiple ages, race and gender, eventually let their emotions go as the booze runs out and the drugs wear off.
Jester, an older Juggalo portrayed by Linus Gelber, starts friendly but succumbs to prejudiced beliefs that do not go far with his new friends. “This is not about gangs and slinging and colors,” Darren tells Linus with conviction. “It’s a united nation. We claim the J-U-double G-L-O because we are not bigots. We are about peace, love and unity, we’re not gangbangers or Klansmen, we’re incredible fucking people and we are all Juggalos!”
Eventually all this yelling wakes up Porkchop, the third-grade son of Juggalo couple Barocko and Ashlee. Barocko, played by Jarrod Zayas, is protective of his son in a sea of partying adults. Much like the children of real-life Juggalo families that attend the Gathering, young actor Robbie Crandall, who plays the son, was having fun. He told me, “The play was cool because I had facepaint along with all the others.”
“American Juggalo” continues Feb 27, 28 and March 3 at HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Ave. in Hudson Square.
Correction: The original version of this post was revised because it misspelled the names of Sean Pollock and Dmitri Barcomi.