Why did Joan Rivers elect to perform a workshop production of “The Joan Rivers Theater Project” at San Francisco’s Magic Theater?
“It was the view,” the veteran comic explains. “I could see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from my dressing room window. If the audience hated my play, I had a choice: jail or jump.”
Based on a true (and terribly unpleasant) incident, the four-character play, co-written by Rivers, Doug Bernstein and Denis Markell, takes place in Rivers’ dressing room 90 minutes before she hits the red carpet to host an Academy Awards preshow. Script combines Rivers’ frantic preparations with her reflections about her personal life and career, including husband Edgar Rosenberg’s suicide, her fallout with Johnny Carson, the failure of her latenight Fox talkshow, reign as the diva of the red carpet, plastic surgeries and sex after 70.
“I admire performers who tell the unvarnished truth about what they have been through,” Rivers says. “That’s why I loved ‘Elaine Stritch at Liberty.’ It was fearless. The workshop allowed me to gauge how far I could go. The audiences came to laugh, but they also listened, and that encouraged me to tell a lot more, and that’s exactly what I’m planning to do.”
The Aug. 16-Sept. 2 Magic Theater run was SRO, warranting an additional three perfs. Rivers capped the run with five latenight standup comedy shows at the Empire Plush Room.
Chicago-based Jam Theatricals takes a revised edition of the script to Los Angeles’ Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse in May. The engagement marks the first leg of a national tour. Rivers will also perform comedy shows at venues along the way.
“Of course, I’m thinking of eventually bringing the play to New York, but not until it’s good and ready, and if I have to stay on the road for a year, so be it,” she says. “If I get it right, I might even be able to turn my life story into a movie. I think Ashton Kutcher would be wonderful in the role of the young me.”