WHAT IS A MONOLOGIST / DISEUSE (some say DISEUR) and who is DAVID VASS?
A Monologist, or interchangeably Diseuse, is a solo artist who recites or gives a series of verbal segments (also referred to as episodes) that are usually written and experienced by the performer, although this form of theatre is more flexible than it was in the 19th and 20th centuries and now may include true stories that were not self-experienced.
While the title Monologist carries no pronoun, in the 20th century Diseuse referenced female Monologists and Diseur males. In much the same way ‘actress and actor’ have mostly merged into ‘actor,’ so have Diseur and Diseuse merged into ‘Diseuse,’ which no longer implies a pronoun reflecting either sex.
A little known art form now making a resurgence, are a series of ‘standalone’ episodes explained by the spoken word and usually written by the performer. A Monologist is not to be confused with a soliloquy (a long speech within a play) or a Storyteller (an artist who may or may not write their own material, which can easily be in the form of a fable or other verbal mode beyond the possibilities of being materialized). Both Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg began their careers as Monologists, and the best known and most revered Monologist, Ruth Draper, who had huge popularity in the USA and the UK in the early-to-mid 20th century.
Vass prefers to be referenced as Writer, Diarist, Performer and Monologist, as all the episodes / segments he verbalizes come from over 70 diaries he kept since he was seven years old.
The first third of his life was in show business, mostly behind the scenes working as a lighting and sound designer, then a road and tour manager for a large variety of Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Emmy winning performers. When Disco ‘hit,’ many timeless celebrities who specialized in singing and performing the Great American Songbook and Broadway Classics fell by the wayside – dropped by posh nightclubs, theatre producers. agents, managers, and record companies.
David left show business for his second chapter on a quest for money, realizing ‘the business’ no longer paid well for his skill set. He spent 36 years as a luxury tour executive for the world’s foremost posh destination management company, traveling the world and putting together programs for the very wealthy on all seven continents: safaris, wonders-of-the-world, immersion, authentic-experience, and eco-programs. Over those years he traveled to 141 countries and flew over seven million real air miles. In 2019 he was awarded the travel industry’s top honor - a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to global travel.
Chapter three was always meant to be, in Vass’ mind, a return to show business as a Writer and Monologist, recapping the many stories of his colorful, artistic, and sometimes horrific experiences in ‘the business’ and also watching and participating in the gay liberation movement from its birth to the present day. His series of monologues is for mature audiences as they contain coarse language and sexual references. Various reviews when his show ran live (NYC, London, San Francisco, Miami as some of the iconic stops), just before the onset of CoVid reference him as a ‘cringeworthy’ or ‘shock’ monologist, albeit with a unique and masterful way of telling his tales in a raconteur style.
The onset of the pandemic closed the venues David played, and he found himself a monologist with nowhere to offer his talents. He used those two years to rewrite the stage play and write a movie script of the show, ‘What Could Go Wrong?’, thinking “if I can’t perform live for the people, a movie version will afford them an opportunity to see my material via a PPV film in a safe environment.”
The movie was filmed in NYC in June 2022. It is 81-minutes long and contains many but not all of the episodes of the first half of his diary material. Assuming the success of the movie and the live performances, now returning to stages across the USA, he is writing ‘part two’ and hopes to perform and film those chapters and experiences in 2023.
David has had to reach into his retirement fund to underwrite the live shows and the movie. While nervous about the financial future, things like CoVid and the ever-changing attention spans of some of the younger generations have reinforced to Vass that old adage ‘it’s called show business, not show art.’
With a dearth of agents and managers willing to handle controversial material and stand up for our First Amendment rights, it becomes ever harder to make a living in entertainment containing adult material, suspect verbiage and controversial material.
An elder at 72, David continues to travel the show and promote the movie, to keep the kind of material he has lived through and presents on stage, available. The goal is to offer thought-provoking material, further the use of verbalizing words to paint pictures and to authentically and honestly give a slice of the 50s through the present from his unique and not always politically correct point-of-view.
To purchase the PPV movie, visit the website, which has links to the streaming platform: www.whatcouldgowrong-theplay.com.
If you are an agent, manager, theatre-venue decision maker or social-media decider within ‘The Industry’, Vass asks for assistance in establishing contacts who are able to assist him in moving ‘What Could Go Wrong?’ forward. He feels it is worthwhile, politically timely and contains historical information on many areas including the history of gay liberation from its infancy, strippers in the early 60’s (a genuine artform), timeless celebrity gossip and his take on sex in the 70’s and heartbreak in the 80’s. He feels it deserves to be seen and preserved, and will raise the consciousness, with a good share of laughs, for those who see it. Alas, he can no longer afford to self-produce himself without using up the remainder of his modest retirement fund. He muses at dinner parties “I may be the oldest and poorest wannabe in show business, please pass the meatloaf!”