The Gospel According to Josh:’ creating awareness
Courtney Cox | Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A chair, a belt, a cell phone and sunglasses.
There was nothing else on the small stage in Geddes Hall on Monday night when New York-based playwright and actor Josh Rivedal stepped up to perform his one-man show “The Gospel According to Josh.”
The show is an autobiographical account of the time leading up to Rivedal’s father’s suicide, a subject he approaches with both humor and sincerity.
Put on by the Notre Dame chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI-ND) and the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education, the performance was meant to educate about mental illness. It does so in a much more enjoyable and clever way than expected, but the show never trivializes the painful results that can occur if difficult illnesses are left unattended.
Rivedal brings to life at least 20 different characters from his past to fill out the context for his life and his relationship with his father.
The show began with Rivedal portraying a Sunday school teacher instructing a young Josh on how to sing a song about obedience. Josh described his upbringing as an almost cult-like religious environment.
Punishments for even small mistakes at the Rivedal household were extreme, hence the belt on stage, he said, and Rivedal’s performance showed he knew he was being treated unjustly.
Through his time at church, however, Rivedal said he discovered how much he enjoyed singing.
His father was also a passionate singer who was very active in the church, but once Rivedal began to audition for plays, he said his father was discouraging.
He got through middle school and high school by ignoring his father’s request that he play football and trying out for as many plays as possible instead. When he was onstage, he said his whole world disappeared and he felt an incredible sense of relief.
After graduating high school, Rivedal moved to New York and began auditioning for Broadway shows.
After a summer tour in Pennsylvania performing “Footloose,” he moved to Rutgers and began working at Denny’s and Ruby Tuesday.
A self-proclaimed workaholic, Rivedal worked so much that he said he completely gave up on auditioning for shows until one day he was invited to audition for “Maury.” He landed the gig and was briefly famous for his stint portraying a white trash version of himself.
It was pithy anecdotes like these about the acting world that made the audience forget this performance was supposed to be about suicide until Rivedal’s parents get divorced.
His father enters a downward spiral and Rivedal said he did his best to visit him despite his current acting success. Then one day, he received a call from his mother with the bad news.
The end of the play was remarkably different from the charming beginning because in many ways it was so much more raw. Rivedal showed very clearly how an event like this can take a person’s entire world and bring everything to a crashing halt.
While Josh knew his father was having a difficult time with the divorce, he said he didn’t see this coming.
The performance is both Rivedal’s way of coping with the loss of his father as well as a way of raising awareness about the circumstances that often surround suicides, he said.
At the end of the show, Rivedal stayed and answered questions from the audience. He cited statistics on the issues he had presented in his performance, stating that approximately 90 percent of those who choose to commit suicide have an untreated mental illness at the time of death.
Through his performance, Rivedal reminded his audience to be attentive to those in their own communities who might need help with mental illness or who could be struggling alone. For the small audience in Geddes on Monday night, he got his message across.
Contact Courtney Cox at [email protected]