David C. Hayes will gross you out with American Guignol | Bleader

David C. Hayes will gross you out with American Guignol


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And disgust you. And appall you. And maybe make your skin crawl. And that would please David C. Hayes immensely.

Hayes is now based in Michigan, but he lived in Chicago for a number of years. While here Hayes was deeply involved in the theater community, particularly with Sweetback Productions (now known as Hell in a Handbag Productions), with which he performed in such staples as Scarrie—The Musical, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, and Joan Crawford Goes to Hell.

Also notably (notoriously?), 'Gator Bait, written by Hayes. Here’s a portion of the 1999 Reader review of 'Gator Bait:

'Gator Bait concerns a family of ignorant bumpkins trying to take revenge on a buxom hick who supposedly killed one brother and cut off another's nuts. And since Sweetback is the company that also produced Scarrie—the Musical and Joan Crawford Goes to Hell, one doesn't expect anything pithy or remotely intelligent. But this production is so gleefully repulsive, so incredibly infantile, and finally so uninteresting that it threatens to redefine the word "awful." In a larger auditorium one might have been able to tune out some of the many shit and semen jokes, but in the SweetCorn Playhouse there's no way to focus on anything but the high jinks onstage: at any point, anyone in the theater might get nailed with stage blood or semen.

"Gleefully repulsive" also applies to the content of Hayes's recent story collection, American Guignol (Blood Bound Books). The opening story, "Glamgina," concerns a boy growing up gay in a small Illinois town. Reginald runs away to join the carnival, where he feels at home and at ease, welcomed. He falls under the mentorship of a transvestite performer but in time Reginald's own show (as "Regina") grows more popular. Reginald/Regina hits upon an idea of how "the salivating, pecker-pulsing fans that came to see her" could be separated from even more of their money: moonlighting as a prostitute. Things eventually go amiss when Regina collapses onstage in a pool of blood, is rushed to the hospital, and the doctors discover that . . .

I'm sorry. I can't go on. It's too gross, disgusting, and appalling.

The remaining 19 stories vary in length (from a page or two to 10 or 15 pages) and levels of disgust. Some are even quite charming, in a Twilight Zone sort of way, like "Agnes, a Love Story," in which a kindhearted, philanthropic lawyer is aided by his office photocopier (the titular Agnes) in knocking off his shrewish, drug-addled wife. In a more Night Gallery-ish vignette, the short script "'Neath," a little girl shows the monster under the bed who the real monster is. "Carb Friendly" tells of a Detroit homicide cop on a very restricted diet; when he comes across the burned body of a homeless man in an alley, the "sweet smell of roasted flesh, marinated in a cheap wine, danced around his nose." I think you can see where this one goes; it's totally sick. (Disgustingly well played, Hayes. Ugh.)

The closing piece is the script for "Swamp Ho." According to Hayes, it's a reworked 'Gator Bait. He says, "It started as 'Gator Bait and then was refined over the course of a few years. I really jumped the gun staging it way back when. It had a little revival in 2006 in Chicago at ARFTCo and then, after the changes and the retitling, it played Off Broadway at CringeFest in New York in 2009." It ends with a triumphant, empowering speech by "gorgeous Bayou wildcat" Renee:

When the world of men realizes that, finally, a woman's undefeatable will is stronger than their guns . . . stronger than their machismo and much stronger than their own balls, there will be no need for this senseless violence. When misogyny bends to me, and my ovarian sisters across the globe, then, and only then, will we be proud. Proud of the peace we have created. Proud of the good will that pervades the planet and, finally, proud to call ourselves . . . swamp hoes.


Hayes also performed in some admittedly “bad movies” while here, for example Back Woods and Blood Orgy of the Damned. [Full disclosure: Hayes married a friend of mine, and at the reception, bonding over shots of some sort of liquor, I agreed to “act” in Back Woods. The movie is something awful. But don’t just take my word for it: read the highly accurate review at Something Awful.]


Hayes's current movie, A Man Called Nereus, will play at the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival this month, in Jerome, Arizona.