He's written novels, comic books, movies, documentaries, and plays. He's written songs and is also a brilliant radio personality. Oh, and he wrote for the Tulsa World for a generation. Seriously, is there anything that he doesn't do?
John Wooley is one of Oklahoma's most talented natives, which explains why Slouching Towards Barnsdall: Wisdom and Whining From John Wooley and Barry Friedman is one of the most anticipated shows in the SummerStage series this year.
Barry Friedman was born in New York but fell in love with the Sooner State and realized that Oklahoma was the place for him. Friedman has performed as a comedian in venues across the U.S. and has also appeared in national commercials and movies. He has written two books and continues to write for many local and national magazines and journals, as well as appearing on Public Radio Tulsa. So it's safe to say that Oklahoma loves him, too. Having a very impressive comedic history, the combination of Friedman and Wooley will be nothing less than highly entertaining.
This is not this brilliant and thought-provoking duo's first rodeo.
How long have they been taking Oklahoma by storm, you ask?
"I would have to say at least 25 years," Wooley said. "Actually back in 1990, I shot a film in Tulsa, and Barry had a role in that, and I think that was when we kind of became friends."
Director Vern Stefanic has been a good friend of the pair for many years as well.
"Vern comes as part of the package. He and Barry are good friends; we're all three good friends," Wooley said. "We spoke about how the pieces could compliment each other. The show was conceived with me and Barry up front and him as a director. We are very lucky to have him."
Working as individuals and collaboratively, they have cranked out some brilliant work, some of which is still shown today. Time Changes Everything is a project of Wooley's that is still performed at venues all over Oklahoma.
"I had a show a few years ago that I wrote and co-produced. I wrote the show with Thomas Conner, and he knew a lot about Woody Guthrie, and I knew something about Bob Wills, and we compared how they were different and how they were alike," he said. "We wrote Time Changes Everything, which was essentially two imaginary meetings with Woody Guthrie and Bob Wills. We still do the show a couple times a year and at different venues; obviously around Oklahoma."
Practice makes perfect as expertly exemplified by Wooley and Friedman alike. The witty show is comprised of works from both men, spanning several years.
"Barry and I have been writing for several decades. We're going to take some of the stuff that we think is the best from over those years and present it in an alternation fashion. We picked some things about Oklahoma to present," he explained.
Both men have been writing for a very long time, and with Friedman being a stand-up comedian, Sloucging is guaranteed to evoke laughter.
This show was definitely not a spur-of-the-moment creation. The pair has been working to create this masterpiece for quite some time now.
"Barry and Vern -- well, all of us -- we all go back a long ways. We've talked about doing something like this for a long time. Barry is used to being on stage because he is a stand-up comedian as well as an actor," Wooley said.
With Friedman's stand-up and theatrical background, being on stage just comes naturally. For Wooley, though, it's a different story.
"I'm horribly intimidated by it, honestly," he said. "I do a lot of book signings and those sorts of things, and I have a radio show so I'm not unaccustomed to speaking to people, but this is out of my comfort zone."
Being talented at (what seems to be) just about everything under the sun, acting is sure to come with just as much, if not more, success.
The show's title, with its simultaneous allusions to Keats and Didion, was not always set in stone. After mutual agreement to do the show with the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust and originally giving the name Slouching Towards Barnsdall, the idea of naming it Slouching Towards Bushyhead was thrown around. When the attempt was made to change the name, it was a little too late.
"It's to evoke the idea of essayists and essays; basically referring to the Joan Didion book. Barry is very funny and maybe took a humorous twist on her book," explained Wooley.
Surprisingly, for most of the show, it will just be Friedman and Wooley on the stage. With a powerhouse pair like these gentlemen, probably not much else is needed. But that is not to say that they don't have a trick up their sleeves.
"Overwhelmingly, it will be the two of us. But, there will be a surprise," said Wooley excitedly.
With the assumed success of the show, one wonders if it will hit the road or slouch out of the PAC and into obscurity.
"We may just end up leaving Tulsa without the show. Let's see how many people show up to it," joked Wooley.
Slouching Towards Barnsdall: Wisdom and Whining From John Wooley and Barry Friedman runs June 28 and 29 at 7:30pm in the Tulsa PAC's Charles E. Norman Theatre.
Tickets to this and all SummerStage shows are available at the Second Street box office, by phone at 918-596-7111, or online at tulsapac.com.
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