Justin Elizabeth Sayre's New Solo Play MY BEATNIK YOUTH: A SOLO RIFF to Debut at La MaMa

Performances begin Thursday, March 14 and run through Sunday, March 24.

By: Feb. 27, 2024
Justin Elizabeth Sayre's New Solo Play MY BEATNIK YOUTH: A SOLO RIFF to Debut at La MaMa
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La MaMa Experimental Theatre will welcome playwright and performer Justin Elizabeth Sayre back to the revitalized Club Space with their new work, My Beatnik Youth: A Solo Riff.  Fashioned after a Beat Era poetry reading, this play with music will be directed by Fempath, fresh off their success with Club Shortbus, a live adaptation of John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film. Musical director Tracy Stark will lead a jazz trio and the show will feature different guest poets for every performance. Evan Spigelman serves as lighting designer. Performances begin Thursday, March 14 and run through Sunday, March 24. Evening performances are at 7:30 PM and matinees at 3:30 PM. Tickets available at LaMaMa.org.
This new solo work from Sayre, who has debuted two other solo works at La MaMa (Love’s Refrain – 2016, To Build a Soul – 2021), will tell the tale of a teenager obsessed with the Beat Generation named Jay. After a serious drunk driving accident, Jay is placed in the psyche ward to avoid charges and contemplate what brought them towards this brush with death. During this month-long hospitalization, Jay will face their own demons and the demons of those suffering around them. Throughout this time, Jay draws upon the world of the Beat Generation, from works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to the incredible music of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.
“While this play is a fiction, it remains a very personal work,” says Sayre. “For me, My Beatnik Youth is about poetry, mental health, and the ability to see the dark but still choose to see the light.” Sayre has written before about their own battles with mental illness. “But throughout all the struggles that are inherent in a piece like this, I believe I’m ultimately telling a story of hope. For me that’s what the Beat Generation was about. As is the case with any Romantic movement, the Beat Generation was looking to celebrate our humanity at the beginning of the Atomic Age. I think that message, especially in our digital age, has so much resonance. This play is celebration of the beauty and fragility of human resistance and the drive to find our own luminosity.”
My Beatnik Youth: A Solo Riff is written and performed by Justin Elizabeth Sayre and runs March 14 – 24, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3:30 PM at The Club at La MaMa, located at 74 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. The show is roughly 90 minutes. Tickets are $30 for adults; $25 for students and seniors; first ten tickets for every performance $10 each (online, advance sale only; first come, first served). Tickets available at www.lamama.org or (646) 430-5374.

Justin Elizabeth Sayre

is a playwright and performer who Michael Musto called, “Oscar Wilde meets Whoopi Goldberg.” Sayre is a fixture of the downtown cabaret scene in New York, first with their long-running variety show, The Meeting (Bistro Award winner and two MAC nominations). They are currently in residency at Joe’s Pub at the Public with their new variety show, “Assorted Fruit.” As a playwright, Sayre’s work has appeared at Dixon Place, The Wild Project, Celebration Theatre, Dynasty Typewriter, and La MaMa Experimental Theatre. Their 12-part-epic Ravenswood Manor, a camp-horror-soap-opera, was called “a sharply written and well-acted exemplar of the horror-comedy genre” by The Los Angeles Times. Sayre has written a series of YA novels, Husky, Pretty, and Mean, released by Penguin Books, and From Gay to Z: A Compendium of Queer Culture, just released by Chronicle Books. Sayre has written for television, working with Michael Patrick King on his hit CBS comedy, “2 Broke Girls” and Fox’s “The Cool Kids.” Sayre also appeared on HBO’s “The Comeback” with Lisa Kudrow. They are NYCLU artist ambassador and a 2023 MacDowell Fellow. 
Fempath is a director, writer, performer, and intimacy choreographer based in New York City. She is the creator of the monthly event Club Shortbus: An Immersive xxperience (@club.shortbus) adapted from John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film Shortbus. In 2018 her critically acclaimed auto-biographical protest play Jet of Blood premiered at Zoo Venues, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (“This might not be justice, but it’s as powerful a response as an artist can give” – The Stage). In 2021, she directed the world premiere of Jonathan Dawe’s erotic opera Being Ariodante at the Italian Academy. As a performer, highlights include: America in John Cameron Mitchell’s radio musical Anthem, “Sasquatch” in Roddy Bottum’s Sasquatch the Opera, and a principal role in Adrienne Truscott’s (Still) Asking For It at The Public Theater. Other collaborations include: Lincoln Center, Guthrie Theater, The New Group, Ars Nova, Geffen Playhouse, Powerhouse Theater, New York Stage & Film, The Tank, Theater for the New City, and La Mama. SAG-AFTRA, SDC Associate Member. MariMoriarty.com. @Fempath.