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BWW Review: PORN ROCK Offers Great Reminders of the Right to Freedom of Speech in America

One of the basic rights of freedom in America is the right to free speech. This allows for anyone to state an opinion or belief whether or not anyone else likes what is being said - and hopefully to not be threatened or attacked. Certainly the ability to express yourself and believe in what you want to believe is a basic human right in American society.

But challenging those who disagree with what the "majority" believe often causes outrage and sometimes even violence against those who have the right to say whatever they want. Such is the case right now, given the political scene leading up to the Presidential elections this year, as well as the uproar over Muslims being able to state their Anti-American opinions without being attacked by the media and/or society? Now certainly seems to be the perfect time to remind everyone that no matter how much you disagree with anything someone else has to say, they still have the right to say it.

"PORN ROCK: An Unintentional Comedy" now playing during the Hollywood Fringe Festival was adapted from the 1985 Senate hearing transcripts by Lawrence Meyers, directed by Frederick King Keller with a clear understanding of who these people were and how to present each of them accurately, allowing the comic edge to shine through.

While most of the testimonial dialogue is authentic, Meyers has taken some liberty with presenting the historical characters, a ploy that adds much humor born of the idiocy demonstrated by those attempting to censor musicians' ability to write songs and sing about whatever they want, even if you don't like it. Just don't listen. But what about children being exposed to explicit lyrics?

In 1985, Tipper Gore (Liesel Kopp) and 3 other women with strong ties to Washington politicians formed the Parent's Music Resource Center (PMRC), a group that wanted to slap warning stickers on certain heavy metal albums that had content "inappropriate for children." The PMRC got a Senate Committee hearing presided over by Sen. John Danforth, a Republican from Michigan (Edgar Allan Poe IV); Sen. Ernest Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina (bow-tied Dennis Delsing); Sen. Paula Hawkins, a conservative Republican from Florida (Elizabeth Dement); and Sen. Al Gore, a Democrat from Tennessee (Don Schlossman) who seems more interested in the melting ice caps and his sex life with Tipper than the issue at hand - and the Congressional record was never the same. Each of the politicians are presented as buffoons, perhaps even more so than they appeared to be at the hearings. Such is the joy we can take in making fun of politicians via our right to free speech.

The play recounts how on C-SPAN, and in front of international media, the PMRC provided examples of the very language and imagery to which they objected. Consequently, the filthiest, most outrageous, most ridiculously over-the-top explicit rock lyrics were read aloud into the Congressional record. The unintentionally hilarious transcript reads like a 1985 version of a hot S&M novel, with phrases that should have been reserved for a BDSM Satanist cult meeting. In fact, as the lyrics are read by the conservative politicians, you can't help but laugh at their repugnance to the material which seems so run-of-the-mill today.

Called to testify their opposition to the PMRC's desire for album stickers were three of our country's most famous musicians at the time - the late Frank Zappa (Drew Fitzsimmons whose smirk speaks wonders), Dee Snider of Twisted Sister (Terry Tocantins under the iconic long locks), and the late John Denver (Scott Nelson whose bespeckled gentility perfectly represents the well-loved folk singer who had to answer just what "Rocky Mountain High" he was promoting). With each of the actor's physical resemblance to their characters and totally authenticity in mimicking their individual speaking styles, they present this unorthodox trio's blistering testimony decrying this infringement on the First Amendment with intelligence nad lots of mockery aimed at the Senators and Tipper Gore.

From Denver's respectful, soft-spoken, yet vehement comparisons to Nazi Germany to Snider's forcefully sarcastic jabs at his attackers while calling himself a good Christian, to Zappa's scathing rancor at the group's stupidity, the artists delivered an unforgettable blow against government over-reach into their artistic lives. It seems harmless now because labeling is standard procedure and lyrics have become exponentially more explicit. However, in 1985 it caused an uproar and musicians saw this as an infringement on the First Amendment, and that it would cause some bands to be stigmatized with their music removed from store shelves.

Lawrence Meyers' script really should be shared with school students today to remind them about what it takes to protect their basic rights and how Americans cannot allow the government or any industry to attempt censorship, and how important it is to allow others to state a differing opinion without stooping to violence against them. Be and let be. Why is this always so impossible?

PORN ROCK is for everyone who believes in free speech, for the rights of artists and citizens everywhere to speak their minds, and for those who just like a good laugh at the government's expense. Come on smart producers - take this show on a national tour!

Production photos by Lawrence Meyers


Sen. Hawkins (Elizabeth Dement - R) testifies before the committee consisting [L to R] of Sen. Danforth (Edgar Allan Poe IV), Sen. Hollings (Dennis Delsing) and Sen. Al Gore (Don Schlossman)


Tipper Gore (Liesel Kopp) testifies before the committee.


Frank Zappa (Drew Fitzsimmons) listens to the committee as Tipper Gore looks on spitefully.


John Denver (Scott Nelson) speaks his mind as the committee considers his words.


Dee Snider of Twisted Sister (Terry Tocantins - R) gives the committee a piece of his mind.


Snider shows his attitude towards the committee.


The Narrator (playwright/producer Lawrence Meyers) introduces the scenario.


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