Bread and Circuses

An Opera in Two Acts and a Wrestling Show

Libretto by Charles Ogilvie
Music by Liam Wade

Duration: 120 minutes

Bread and Circuses is set in the world of professional wrestling, telling the personal stories that have shaped the political culture which enabled the Trump presidency. It works backwards from his 2007 cameo on a televised wrestling event into a family epic over 30 years.

The show explores how Kayfabe–the portrayal of staged events within the industry of professional wrestling as “real” or “true”– might define an era. It isn’t about factual verifiability; it’s about emotional fidelity.  The text was born from a conversation about how thoroughly operatic American professional wrestling is: The scripted shows of the mainstream professional wrestling world use music, lighting and special effects to showcase skilled professionals enacting complex melodramas of courage, ambition, love and jealousy. Just as in opera, the disguises, deceits, asides, and grand rhetoric let the audience ignore logical inconsistencies on the way to an outcome they likely already know, whilst making abundantly clear who the heroes and villains are. As conspiracy theorist Alex Jones admitted to the NYTimes, kayfabe “rests on the assumption that feelings are inherently more trustworthy than facts.”
This could sum up the theater of wrestling, notable recent electoral campaigns, and much of the western operatic cannon.  It’s also a really fun, entertaining story – think WWE meets Pagliacci meets early Nintendo – with music that sits somewhere between opera, musical theater, and 90s electronica.