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Boy finds Jesus, boy loses Jesus

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Daedalus Howell/Index-Tribune

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For some, the 1970s were a hurly burly of hot tubs and hedonism. For playwright, performer and local journalist David Templeton, it was puppets and Christian Fundamentalism. He eventually outgrew both and shares the life lessons learned along the way with comedy and heart in his one-man show, “Wretch Like Me, or How I Was Saved from Being Saved.”

Templeton performs the show, one night only, this Monday evening at the Sonoma Community Center.

Monday’s performance is a fundraiser to mount a two-week run of the show at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe (colloquially known as the Fringe Fest), hosted annually in Scotland, to which Templeton and a skeleton crew have been invited to bring the production. He is also running a concurrent campaign on IndieGoGo to raise the $10,000 (at least!) necessary to make his Aug. 1 curtain call at the the Surgeon’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Surgeons Museum in Edinburgh.

“With all the cutting I had to do with script, it’s appropriate to perform in a place that’s also seen its share of blood,” Templeton says drolly.

The lanky, bearded and bespectacled poly-hyphenate, who many will know from his theater reviews in the North Bay Bohemian, has performed the show more than 75 times throughout the Bay Area where it first hit the boards in 2009. He’s since honed it into a lean, mean theatrical machine, full of poignant laughs and life lessons that are relatable beyond the scope of the religious experience that inspired it.

“It’s about my childhood and teenage years, which were typical in that I had to have a lot of crap thrown at me before I figured out who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Templeton, who’s proven adept at finding the universal in personal experience in this and other works that draw inspiration from his autobiography. “It was unusual in that, in my case, it happened in the crazy running-away-to-the-circus vibe of Christian fundamentalism in the ’70s of Southern California.”

Templeton recounts how the “Jesus Movement” he joined evolved from a community born of the idealism of “surfing hippies,” and started moving toward the religious right, which was contrary to his own tolerant beliefs. Suddenly, the “Jesus Club,” which accepted nerdy guys (Templeton had a puppet ministry – enough said) became something he needed to escape.

“I had to have this ‘coming-of-age’ where I had to leave the only community I ever felt safe in. I no longer felt like I was a part of it,” recounts Templeton, who, a few decades hence, used the experience to craft “Wretch Like Me.” He succinctly sums the plot as, “Boy finds Jesus. Boy loses Jesus. Boy finds himself.”

From its inception, Templeton’s goal was to bring “Wretch” to the Fringe Fest, which is to theater professionals what the Sundance Film Festival was once to filmmakers – a place to launch one’s work onto the world’s stage.

“From the beginning, we announced that that was the goal,” says Templeton. “That’s where shows get found. Where they get a chance to tour, see London or New York, get publishing opportunities. All kinds of things happen there.”

To get there, however, Templeton needs to raise the funds. At present writing, he’s raised more than $2,000. With his crowd-funding deadline hovering at a minute before midnight on May 22, he has 35 days to go to raise the rest.

As explained on the production’s IndieGoGo page (a link to the campaign can be found at wretch-like-me.org, or you can search “wretch” at IndieGoGo.com), “Team Wretch must raise a minimum of $10,000 dollars. That amount will fund the remaining rental, insurance and licensing fees, plus travel and lodging costs for a basic skeleton crew. Were the Team to raise $15,000, it would allow David to pay for advertising in the published Fringe program … and to bring his full crew to Edinburgh, all of which will help ‘Wretch’ have its best chance of success in Scotland.”

Until then, it’s all about Monday’s performance and the comedy and catharsis that Templeton ably brings to the stage.
“There’s always people in the audience that I realize have had the same experience, because they’re laughing in a very knowing way, or they’re sobbing in the moment I have to make the break and I think, ‘they’ve been through the same thing,’” says Templeton. “That happens at least once in nearly every show. I’m confessing a lot of stuff that most people would be embarrassed to confess but that allows people to reach out and bond with me a little bit, which makes what happens in the story all the more powerful.”

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David Templeton performs “Wretch Like Me” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 21 at the Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit wretch-like-me.org.