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Scott Turner talks about "Johnny Reb," playing at The Firehouse Theatre.

Journey Man

Scott Turner's "The Sad Ballad of Johnny Reb and His Beautiful Wife Cecile," opened at The Firehouse Theatre Friday, Oct. 29, to an audience of three, myself included. But the small turnout only intensified the powerful and surreal qualities of Turner's performance.

This show is a one-man explosion. Turner portrays all the characters and the narrator. He also plays several acoustic guitar tunes, and is the show's writer and director.

"Sad Ballad" is about the spiritual and physical journey of a young, uranium-mining, redneck family man named Johnny who is eaten up with hate. Johnny begins the play as a stereotypically racist and in-your-face "cracker" from Georgia whose world begins to crumble when his wife takes his son and leaves for California.

After his loss, Johnny literally and figuratively sees the light, and subsequently, the error of his ways. He travels through the desert from his home in rural Arizona to Los Angeles to regain what he has lost. The spiritual journey along the way leads Johnny to discover that life, with all its "hows" and "whys," is more complex than he thought.

Turner, a recent transplant from Chicago, took time out to talk to Style about his show.

Style: What inspired you to write "Sad Ballad?"

Turner: About half the songs were written as pieces in and of themselves. And then half of the story line actually came from stringing together those songs once I came up with the "Johnny Reb" song and said, OK, well, there's a story in this song. And then I already had written the "Uranium Eyes" about a different situation, and a couple of the other ones, and they all sort of fit together, and they all rolled out from there.

Style: Why did you make Johnny Reb, with his truck, gun rack, hound dog named Blue, such an over-the-top stereotype?

Turner: To set up a fable situation where it is a stereotype, or an archetype. He's an archetypical, Southern, racist, jerk, and that was the intention. And then — what happens to a guy like that?

Style: Have you ever met a Johnny Reb?

Turner: Plenty, plenty. I've worked all over, worked in a sawmill in Kentucky. First day the sun came up, and KKK was spray-painted on all the beams. ... There's plenty of Johnny Rebs and I'm sure you have some in Richmond, too.

Style: What do you want the audience to walk away with at the end of this play?

Turner: An emotional understanding of this type of character. He's not a likable guy, but I like to play with the concept of, you take a character that is outside of the norm, and then you first you poke fun at it, as your standard perception would be, and then you flip it around on the audience where they actually begin to have a shared emotional experience with that character.

Style: What are you working on now?

Turner: A novel. It's a sort of Gen-X tragic love story mixing LSD and

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