Interviews With Questionable Artists Series

WJ: Hello and welcome to another exciting oppurtunity to talk to some of the most cutting edge but questionable faces in the art community. Today I’d like to welcome Ted Johnson to the show. Ted made waves in the theater world when he started the world’s first all bubble-bath theater company. Welcome Ted.

Ted: Thanks Woe, it’s good to be here.

WJ: Before we dip our toes, so to speak, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, family, etc.

Ted: Well, where do I start? I grew up on a goat farm in Ohio. I was a fairly normal child, I didn’t really have any exposure to theater until high school. When I was in high school I was really into playing baseball. In my mind, I was going to grow up to play in the majors- I really was pretty good. Anyways, so during my junior year of high school I had a minor accident involving a large quantity of grain alcohol, 4-7 goats, and a tar and feathering incident. When I came to the next morning, I discovered I’d blown out my arm, I’m not sure how, but my baseball career was pretty much over. So, baseball was out of the question and there was this hot girl I was trying to bang, she was into theater, so I’d hang out a few days after school and watch her rehearse. Then we’d smoke weed and she’d give me a hand job in the loft or something. Over time, I got to know the theater people and they convinced me to try out for one of the plays. I went to the audition and low and behold, I was chosen to play Hamlet in Hamlet. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but by the first rehersal, I suddenly knew that theater was my calling.

WJ: That is just magical, absolutely magical.

Ted: The handjobs, theater, it was all magical.

WJ: And so, you went to theater school in NY where you started a theater troupe. Tell me about it.

Ted: Well, I was at NYU and by that time, I was over Shakespeare. Old news. I was ready to change the world, get avant. So I started this group of sorts, I named us the Visceral Vaudevillians. I considered it more of a movement than a group. We were just 10 idealists trying to find our way.

WJ: Did you?

Ted: Eventually. It was tough at first. I’m not a very talented writer and I really hated the classic rep so I was trying to come up with ways, limited by the scope of my skills, to take theater to a higher level. At first I tried to do classic plays but with no clothes, and that was a moderate success. But that got old at some point so I had to move on to classic plays with no clothes and rollerblades, moderate success. After that I think we tried only performing while we were Special-K, but after a few overdoses, the arts community started to lose interest.

WJ: I remember your production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with the special-K. It was riveting. The expression during Brick’s monologue was brought to a whole other level I didn’t know existed. Those were the days.

Ted: Those were the days.

WJ: And I remember that time at the glory hole themed cast party. I can’t go into details, but you remember.

Ted: Oh I do. I couldn’t even look at an eggplant without getting sick to my stomach for years after that.

WJ: Good times. Anyway, back to your career. So the Visceral Vaudevillians met their end in the mid 80’s and you got a teaching position at NYU. Around this time, you started to dabble in bubble baths- am I correct?

Ted: Yes, that opportunity really opened my eyes. NYU gave me a lot of freedom and really let me find my way. I started by just inserting bathtub scenes into plays that didn’t already have them. Eventually I was inserting more and more bathtub scenes into shows and it hit me- why not just do everything in a bathtub? I mean, it makes so much sense. And it really took off from there.

WJ: I remember your production of Our Town in 1992, completely in a bathtub. I usually don’t really enjoy that show, but that night- my god- I wept like never before. I was completely and absolutely touched.

Ted: I hate that show, but somehow the bathtub brought it to life. It was like all other productions of that show never even existed.

WJ: What do you think it is about a bathtub that works so well for theater?

Ted: I think it’s about humanism. We’re all just these tiny dots on the earth, and we all take baths sometimes. When people can experience a story in the context of a bathtub, they find a connection that wasn’t there before. The bathtub lets people find themselves. I get letters all the time about people who come to my shows and they write me saying they went straight home and took a bubble bath and cried tears of joy all night. It’s not a rare occurrence.

WJ: I take bubble baths all the time. I like to make myself an old fashioned, take a vicodin and just immerse myself in the experience.

Ted: It really is an amazing experience. I think that true happiness is really attainable through a bubble bath- and truth, both visceral and artistic, only exists in the bubble bath.

WJ: What’s next for you and the world of bubble bath theater?

Ted: Well, I’m having a theater built off-broadway that will be one giant bathtub. Theater goers can climb into the bath with the actors and share in this joint form of expression. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and I finally got the funding. I think this may be my masterpiece.

WJ: I can’t wait. I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for joining us today Ted.

Ted: Of course, it’s my pleasure.

WJ: And if you don’t mind, I can draw up a bath and maybe we could do some cold reads together?

Ted: Of course, that sounds wonderful.

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