The Reindeer
Monologues Mural

"Scandal erupts at the North Pole when one of Santa's eight tiny reindeer accuses him of sexual harassment. As the mass media descends upon the event, the other members of the sleigh team demand to share their perspectives."
He totally nailed it! -Elizabeth Gilman

October 1998

I had just finished doing the sets for the Cleveland Public Theatre's production of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing', a large scale affair in downtown Cleveland produced by James Levin (read all about it the 'Design and Décor Work' page). I was tired, sick, and exhausted. Worse, I needed time off to write the script for my own musical production 'Noches de San Juan' (which I was also set designing and directing). Then James Levin came knocking.

Jeff Goode's raunchy, fractured adult fairytale of Santa cavorting with reindeers was being staged as CPT's Christmas holiday venue (ho, ho, ho...). Jacqui Loewy was directing and they needed a mural as the set piece. Their take was that the press and the "Paparazzi" had come in droves to the North Pole to report on the court proceedings. After all, Santa's sex scandal was bigger news than President Clinton's sex scandal.

the cleveland public theatre The Cleveland Public Theater (2017)

The play was being set at CPT's smaller, more intimate stage: a simple courtroom with an enclosure, a witness seat and the audience. But what about the press and the paparazzi? -No budget. I should take care of that in the mural. I thought of saying no but Mr. Levin is a master at getting favours (he is also my attorney and gets me out of jail). To be fair, the idea of doing something irreverent appealed to me. So I agreed to read the script and do something.

the reindeer monologues mural by John Rivera-Resto, 1997

The Reindeer Monologues Mural, by John Rivera-Resto, 1998 (left side detail)

Like all directors, Jacqui Loewy is an eccentric. She did not want the painting on a backdrop glued to the wall; she wanted the mural painted directly "on" the plaster wall. It wasn't worth the argument so I told her to get a couple of people to pose for some Polaroids (no digital cameras yet). During rehearsals I took a few minutes to photograph Jacqui and one of the actors doing various poses. I was not about to do a masterpiece, just a quick painting with latex house paints and I was out of there. I did the mural in three days flat (long, cold days). I took no pictures, kept no record; I didn't even go to see the play. I have other things to worry about. I forgot about it.

My production of Noches de San Juan staged at the Gordon Square Theater was a huge hit with a limited run. I was still feeling sick so I stayed at home for a few weeks. One day friends called to congratulate me on the "fantastic" mural at CPT; everyone was talking about it and I was being singled out by the press. They mentioned the newspaper articles, and here's a paragraph from my favourite piece by Keith A. Joseph writing for the Scene:

"One look at John Rivera-Resto's mural of outraged deer consorting with mike-wielding reporters, while deranged elves jig with malicious glee and haranguing lawyers gather at the North Pole, lets us know that the sugar is off the plum and the berry is off the holly. With Santa in the same quagmire as our Commander in Chief, the only miracle on 34th Street will be if he's left a single Barbie or erector set for sleigh side distribution."

I thought, maybe I should go back to the theater and take a picture, but by the time I did, the wall had been painted over for the next show. I am thankful to my friend Jean Francis for providing this photo of the mural. A part is not showing but you get the idea. By the way, Jacqui Loewy is the one with the white scarf standing at the extreme left listening to a reindeer.

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