Interview with Jenna Kuerzi of Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism
This week marks the beginning of Philadelphia Theater Week, a makeshift festival which doubles as an opportunity for creatives all over the city to independently produce shows unlike what one would typically see in the area. Our very own Jenna Kuerzi is co-writer, co-director and star of Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism. To help give you an idea on what to expect from a show that promises to be weird, hilarious, and scathing, Jenna graciously offered her time to answer a few questions. Plus, if she refused, I would just withhold my half of the rent, which nobody wants. That’s capitalism, folks.
Cinema76: Tell me a bit about Philly Theater Week. What can someone expect from the festival overall?
Jenna: Philly Theatre Week is an event put together by Theatre Philadelphia to get people out and at the theatre during the doldrums of winter. It's only in its second year, but it is free to be included, so why not make something? Big theaters also participate (there are discount incentives. All shows are either free, $15, or $30), but it's nice to champion the fringe artists that make Philadelphia a DIY destination.
C76: Can you give us a basic overview of your show?
J: As per our show blurb: "Join Johnny Depp — preteen heartthrob turned spousal abuser — for a retrospective on every film of his entire career, even the ones we didn’t watch, in order to ask...what the fuck happened? Bring your Edward Scissorhands poems, your Gilbert Grape anecdotes, and Jack Sparrow memorabilia to toss onto the shrine turned dumpster fire Depp has created for himself. Part ritual & part drunken singalong, Johnny Depp: a Retrospective features rum, promiscuity, and $30,000 worth of candles by which we can pay to watch the rich consume us all."
So basically, it's a low budget roast and a TedTalk and a tea circle all in one.
C76: How did Johnny Depp become the focal point of your piece?
J: My co-writer and actor, Val Dunn (local Philadelphia playwright - www.valdunn.com), had sent me an email about doing a show that we would write, because we are both fans of each other's work and of each other as people. As we were brainstorming things we loved, we discovered that we both had dressed up as Jack Sparrow for Halloween in middle school and high school. From there, the roast of Johnny Depp came to be.
C76: How does “late stage capitalism” tie into the piece?
J: Val is very interested in exploring big political issues in her plays, as well as creating theatrical rituals. She wrote a play for Fringe called Now More Than Ever that was a roast of Mike Pence. Late Stage Capitalism, according to a quick google search, "describes the hypocrisy and absurdities of capitalism as it digs its own grave." Johnny Depp's life also fits nicely into this definition.
C76: Johnny Depp has changed from a dynamic character actor to a meme, and a pretty monstrous one at that. When did it occur to you that he was in a sort of downfall?
J: I realized his life was spiraling when the abuse allegations from Amber Heard started evolving from whispers to screams. His appearances on talk shows and in interviews have been weird and drunk over the past five years, and his work has suffered from it. I think the garbage that is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first sign of troubles to come. That movie sucks.
C76: As it becomes clear that Depp has given into his demons, going so far as a comically large wine habit and not at all comical allegations of spousal abuse, is it possible for him to be redeemed? Is he worth redeeming?
J: I think everybody deserves a second chance if they are willing to admit they were wrong. People can, and do, change... but after digging into Johnny's life more for this piece, he doesn't believe he's done anything wrong.
He brags about his wine habit being "much more" than $30,000 a week. After much video evidence, he still insists Amber Heard is blackmailing him. Johnny just settled a $25 million lawsuit against his former business managers before it went to trial because there was definitely some garbage he didn't want dragged up in court. He loses more money than he makes, and he makes a TON of money.
And now he's been dropped from the next Pirates sequel, rumored to have punched a PA on set. His legacy and his bread and butter is slipping away.
There are so many talented actors in the world, and I think it's time to let him quietly retire to a farm and drink his wine and become Hunter S. Thompson where he can't hurt anybody. His output has been so disappointing, and we can make way for great character actors who are also nice people and not pieces of shit.
C76: Hear, hear! Personally, when did you first fall in love (per se) with Depp? When did you fall out of love?
J: I may still love Johnny Depp in a Patty Hearst way. I find him fascinating and I was OBSESSED with him, as most 14 year old girls were. I collected memorabilia, I wrote letters to my friends as Captain Jack Sparrow, and I saw all of his movies. In truth, I wanted to be him and I wanted to create the same beautiful loners he had dedicated his early career to. After that second Pirates movie, I started to see the strings a bit more and drifted away from anticipating his movies or following his personal life.
C76: What is your favorite/least favorite Depp role?
My favorite Depp role has to be Ed Wood. He's so grounded and honest and the movie is so beautiful and well done. It's the peak of the Burton/Depp collaborations. Close second is his other famous Ed, Edward Scissorhands.
I haven't seen a lot of his newer movies because they all look so stuuuuupid, but my least favorite is the Mad Hatter in both Alice in Wonderland movies. It's one of those rare performances that make you wonder if you should quit acting because performances like that get rewarded with millions of dollars for being complete shit and you're doing a show for literally $0 in a West Philly living room because art.
C76: Finally, what is it you wish to accomplish with your piece, and how do I go about getting free rum?
For starters, we want to have a good time. The challenge was to create low brow art that could potentially lead to high brow thought. If it's just an entertaining mess of 45 minutes, so be it. If it's any good? Even better. This is a workshop production of shorts. We'll then go back and revise for SoLow Fest (another neat DIY festival here in Philly) in June.
If you want free rum, just show up. There are opportunities throughout the piece to get prizes (Rum. Autographed items, etc.). For extra rum, purchase a ticket for Valentine's Day. Swings before the show on us.
Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism is playing for one week only, so don’t delay. Grab a ticket, gather your memorabilia, and come support some truly unique theater.
When: February 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th: 7pm nightly
Where: 233 South Melville Street, Philadelphia, PA 19139
How to get tickets: $10 in advance: https://www.todaytix.com/x/philadelphia/shows/14278-johnny-depp-a-retrospective