semantikon feature literature
Dec. 2005
Anthony Barnett
Tony Barnett is a free-lance actor/director living in Middletown, Ohio. Besides his BFA from Wright State, Mr. Barnett received an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Army in 1985. He has been involved in community and semi-professional theatre in the Cincinnati/Dayton area for the past 20 years.
About Artist:

anthony barnett, a night for magic, the doors, scripts, playwright

This is a short explanation of the evolution from concept to script of a one-man show about Jim Morrison, the poet and lead singer of the 60’s rock group, The Doors. Thanks are in order to many people and if in the short telling of this I leave anyone out, I apologize.

I was a BFA Theatre Arts student in the Acting/Directing Major at Wright State University in 1986. As a junior, I had an important project to complete; my senior thesis project proposal for a one-man show. Due before the end of the term in June, I had been wracking my brain for an idea that I could not only get excited about, but also actually do! As usual, nothing was coming to me so I was in the middle of April with absolutely no idea what I was going to do. Laying on my bed late one night listening to the radio, the idea hit me so hard it was literally a “Eureka!” moment when “Roadhouse Blues” started and I realized that Jim Morrison would be a perfect subject. One of the rules of the writing was that an historical figure had to be deceased. Morrison fit that! All I knew at that moment was that whatever I came up with, it was going to work!!!

So, armed with little knowledge of Morrison and even less of the origin of “The Doors” I wrote my proposal that has so little resemblance to what actually happened that it’s not even worth reading! I thought, “OK, now that that’s out of the way, I can actually figure out what I’m going to do!” I spent the summer reading everything I could get my hands on (which in 1986 was not nearly as much as there is currently), and listening to every recording and seeing every video I could find of The Doors. I was really surprised by how confused the image of Morrison the rock star was from Morrison, the poet. The man was probably one of the most well-read and educated rock stars ever. Some of the stories told of him being able to have people pick up any book in his room, turn to any page, start reading from the book, and him being able to tell the title of the book and the author were impressive. He also went to college in Florida and he went to the UCLA film school in the mid 60’s. The effect “The Doors” and Jim Morrison had on society and the culture of the late 60’s was lost on a generation that had not known war or protest. He was rock and roll’s first American rebel. “The Lizard King” and all the imagery of excess and immersion in the senses were very disturbing to a generation caught up in the strict morality of the times. Arrested on stage in New Haven, Connecticut; his behavior at a Miami concert set off the massive “morality” protests organized by Anita Bryant, among others. The trial and conviction on two charges made Morrison and “The Doors” one of the most dangerous groups in music and began the first use of the “fuck” clause in concert contracts. His death in Paris at the age of 27 and the mystery surrounding it sealed his image. When you read this play and some of the things that Morrison has to say, you’ll realize just how controversial his ideas are; even in our day and age. I realized that a show about him had to be completely opposite of what I had thought. It had to be a Dionysian ritual, just like the original Greek plays. It had to have live music so a band was going to be necessary and I was going to have to sing. It couldn’t center on a single event so I decided it had to be a concert interspersed with monologues and his poetry. So, armed with that concept, all my notes, books and music; I sat down and wrote the first version of the show that I titled “The Electric Shaman”.

One fortunate thing that had happened was that I had met a musician by the name of Chuck Evans who I was working with on a show called “Is There Life After High School”. I had asked him if he’d be interested in doing the music for a show about Jim Morrison and The Doors. He told me yes, but to wait until the current show was over before we started talking about it. The first week of September started my senior year at Wright State and I took a copy of my script and gave it to every member of the acting faculty for their opinion and evaluation. The first day of acting class I let it be known to my instructor, Dr Robert Britton, that I would like to be the first person in the class to perform my one-person show. Most of the class was very happy to allow me to do that and to be the only show that night. I got some great responses from my script but two of them were really helpful in pointing out the next step. My faculty advisor, Mr. Mark Olsen, pointed me in the direction of physical characterization with trying to introduce more imagery instead of explanation in the dialogue. My voice teacher, Ms. Deb O’Donnell, gave me the idea of breaking up the repetitive nature of the script: talk, song, talk, song. The end of September saw me begin to rewrite the script with the idea of using concert segments where three or four songs would be done together. The other idea was to throw out what I had written, and instead use Jim Morrison’s own words from bio’s, interviews and recorded and written poetry. It was much easier to let Jim Morrison explain himself rather than me trying to explain him. The title changed, too: “A Night for Magic”.

“A Night for Magic” was performed on January 26 and 27 of 1987 in the Celebration Theatre of Wright State University. Chuck Evans put together a band for me and we rehearsed all the music for 2 weeks. Mr. Evans played guitar, and saxophone on “Touch Me”; Pete Hayes played keyboard, and harmonica on “Roadhouse Blues”; Don Alt played the drums; Martin Moon played the bass. The theater was a black box so I put the seating on three sides and had an open area in the center with the band on risers in the fourth side. The open area was to give me the space to walk around and to invite the audience up to dance during the second concert “segment. The interview portion was obviously going to be an improvisation if the “interviewer” didn’t stick to the list of questions I gave them so I armed myself as best I could to answer the way Morrison would. The first night of the show had few people in the audience due to a WSU Film School movie opening but the second night had an overflow crowd of about 125. It was extremely well received by faculty and students; received an “A” for both script and performance, and I graduated from WSU with my BFA in 1987.

The idea came up a couple of years later to turn the show into a full two-act show. I added a couple of songs, some more poetry and put the intermission after the song “When the Music’s Over”. I also went back to the original title “The Electric Shaman”. Unfortunately, I could never get the financial backing to restage the show.

I hope you enjoy the scripts and would enjoy feedback. Thank you for the opportunity to share this work with you.

Anthony Barnett
December 2005