Over the past four years, Fly Steffens read all of Charles Bukowski’s work, as well as a few biographies written about him.
Inspired by Bukowski – a postal worker turned writer who penned poems, novels and short stories about drinking, relationships and the drudgery of work – Steffens wrote a play, "Love is a Horse with a Broken Leg Trying to Stand while 45,000 People Watch."
The play, which was also inspired by the work of James Joyce, will take place on two consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Sept. 3-4 and 10-11, on the patio at The Red Dot, 2498 N. Bartlett Ave.
This is the first time the East Side bar and restaurant has hosted a play.
"Emily Rindt, the director, invited me to brunch at The Red Dot early in the summer. She took me out to the patio and said, ‘This is where we should do your play,’" says Steffens. "It was perfect. I always intended for the play to be produced in a non-traditional theater space."
Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. There will be limited seating as well as table service for people who want to eat and / or drink during the performance. The play contains adult content and tobacco use on stage.
The work is divided into three separate one-act plays: "Goldfish," "And the Sun Wields Mercy" and "Love. Repeat." Steffens says all three are, loosely, about the inability to change.
"At the core of the play, there's an essence of something I witness in the world around me – especially in my peers – people not changing, watching other people not changing, preventing themselves from changing, giving up and giving in to their misery," she says.
Steffens says the plays are more like the experience of reading Bukowski rather than a reflection of his written work.
"As I continued to write and revise the play, it becomes more fragmented and transformed into something that's more like an experience of reading Bukowski, delving into the world he saw and the life he lived, and feeling how that fits into a life like mine," says Steffens. "Bukowski himself is not in the play, but his ideas are. There's also evidence of James Joyce's influence on my writing."
Steffens and Rindt have worked together before in "punkplays" and performed shows at Bucketworks and the now-defunct Cream City Collectives. They both studied theater at the Peck School of the Arts where Steffens is an associate instructor. She is also the lead singer of a band, Appleseeds.
Steffens' approach to theater is very similar to her approach to music. It’s a temporary collective of creative people working on a common artistic goal.
"Maybe we borrow gear from some other bands, jam and practice for a while, play a couple of gigs, maybe cut a couple recordings, and then move onto something else – maybe together, maybe not," she says.
Likewise, Steffens emphasizes that she and Rindt, along with the other actors in the show, are not a theater group even though they have worked together in the past and may so in the future.
"We got together because we're interested in creating this thing," says Steffens.
Steffens' theater and music worlds often overlap and have, over time, become symbiotic.
"I think the time I spend as a musician playing in bars, basements and living rooms in Milwaukee and across the country has influenced the look and language of my plays," says Steffens. "It's been fun talking about the play at punk shows, where the crowd doesn't really attend what is considered ‘traditional theater.’ It's always cool to cross-pollinate my creative social circles like that."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.