Salvaging my End Times Obsession

The three clowns fight over dog food in Salvage.


For the last six weeks I have had the privilege and honor to be working with some of the Bay Area’s finest circus performers on Kinetic Arts Productions’ Salvage; this original post apocalyptic circus is about a group of survivors compelled to reinvent their environment from the broken pieces of their recent past.

In this show I have been able to combine three of my favorite things in life: Buffoonery, Chinese pole and my apocalypse fervor. Its been a true blessing that I’ve been able to partake in this project with such giving, supportive collaborators. In the show, I get to eat cockroaches, become a monster and destroy the audience, do atrocious things with a toilet plunger and my character, Mutton, is a part of a twisted weird love triangle that you’re not gonna see in your traditional Ringling Brothers circus. Click HERE for dates, times and ticket info.

But Salvage isn’t my first End Times rodeo. Read on for a brief history of my artistic work in Armageddonland.


Salvage currently playing at Kinetic Arts Productions in Oakland. Photo by Eric Gillet.

I have always been fascinated by the apocalypse. Ever since I was a little boy I reveled in fantasies of being the last person on earth, of saving humanity and wandering among total annihilation. As a writer, what I’ve penned has been almost exclusively concerned with issues of global cataclysmic proportions. As I’ve gotten older and zeroed in on the thesis of my imaginative obsession, I’ve come to realize that what I’m most intrigued by is the extremity, high stakes drama and opportunity for prophetic social commentary that Armageddonland holds. 1984 anyone?



Poster for AW AHOY NAMTO!

The senior year of my BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design my thesis project was to create and produce a solo piece. My play was called Aw Ahoy Namto! (To Rebel Against) and used Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces and Hopi mythology as inspirations to create a mythological tale of good vs evil and a hero’s attempt to save the world. I was lucky to collaborate with Brian Macgregor on the visual world of the play. To see some pictures of the set we created click HERE and scroll right.

At the outset of the show I came charging into the theatre screaming “Close the doors! Lock the doors!” thus transforming the space into the ‘Oasis’ where my character, Waynumhoya, utilizing poetic storytelling, told of his call to adventure, refusal of call, road of trials, atonement of father and many other of the seventeen stages of a hero’s journey as detailed in Campbell’s book (a highly recommended read). Waynumhoya braved an epic array of internal and external obstacles to find an Enlightenment that would join ‘Dream Time’ and ‘Awake Time’ into ‘World Time’ once more, before the ‘Tainted’ could hold dominion over us once and for all. Sound convoluted? You bet ya it was! It was also heavy handed, idealistic, culturally appropriated and sentimental. I’m blushing, but here’s a monologue passage from my character Waynumhoya in the show:

Waynumhoya at the ‘Oasis’.

No way to stop the eye of the usurping doom fog from rising on the horizon
Flashing glare of vibrant crimson blinding
Explosion resounding deafening
Sullied yellow cloud descending
No way to stop it from covering the tainted face of the guilt patched earth
And my friends
That’s just not good enough
We must face the foolish, selfish, fellow-persecuting, fanatical minority of “Tainted” dream-destroyers
“Live as though the day were here”
Perhaps when enough people know
Live in unity under a common cause
We’ll open the box together
Dream Spirit and Awake Spirit will reclaim their usurped throne
Perhaps then we’ll live one hundred thousand years longer
Make Awake Time and Dream Time to be World Time once again!
Perhaps then we can all dance together again
The sweet music of Dream Spirit keeping us all afloat!”


Poster for Static designed by Andrea Orlosky.

After college I moved to Chicago. My second year there my one act play Static was produced at the Around the Coyote Festival. At the time I was binge reading Sarah Kane and the other In-Yer-Face playwrights of Britian’s 90’s, so Static was influenced with a heavy dose of treading on taboos and sticking the audience’s face in them. The play was about the last man and woman on earth and their disturbing existence locked in a basement after ‘The Invisible Bad Thing’ wiped out the rest of humanity.

Tammy Stackpoole as Woman and Kevin Mitchell as Man in Static.

These two characters stood for the two opposing arguments of whether to carry on the human race (Woman’s perspective) or finish it off for good and good riddance (Man’s perspective). Static, like Aw Ahoy Namto!, contained mythology and parable about the division of good and evil in society (oh that it were so simple). At the end, when the Man died, the Woman, after desperately and ineffectively trying to impregnate herself on his lifeless corpse in order to carry on the human race, began to cannibalize him, starting by cutting off his penis (yikes!). At one performance, during this extended death scene, an audience member hollowed out from the third row: “Die! Just Die Already! Die! DIE! DIE! Just Die!”


Conceptual drawing for Winter Famine of Wererabbit by John Ross Wilson.

My first full length play, Winter Famine got a first draft reading at Chicago Dramatist Theatre, a developmental workshop at Stage Left Theatre and was a Semi – Finalist for the 2007 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. But it has never been produced. Here’s the synopsis from when I was shopping this play around:

Conceptual drawing for Winter Famine of Falcon Faced Man by John Ross Wilson.

“In a dark future age where all the earth’s natural resources have been run to the ground and there is violence, war, torture and tyranny everywhere one looks, a famine plagues the world unlike any before it. Nobody is to be trusted and nothing is as it seems in this fractured reality where “The Falcon Faced Men” rule with an iron fist of oppression.

On the outskirts of this bleak existence, Susan and Bo, two brothers, are outcasts secluded in their cabin in the woods of Colorado where dark secrets from their past in the walls and under the floorboards haunt them. At first they seem to be living out their own trivial isolated day-to-day drama, but as their stories unfold and their intentions and motivations are laid bare it turns out it isn’t such a routine day for them after all. And tensions escalate when Susan divulges that a Wererabbit has come to help his brother and himself to repent for any bad things they may have done in the past and to restore them to their right path in life; a path for the greater good of all, a path from which they were knocked so long ago.”

There ya have it. Super proud of this one. It’s crazy weird. Would love to get it produced some day. Hint, hint producers out there!


A huge storm in the middle of the night.
Thunder, rain, lightning and wind.
WHITE PLAGUE stands in the middle of the storm, naked and covered with tattoos and blood.
He holds a little black baby in one hand and a squirming sack over his shoulder with his other.
He’s breathing heavily.
His eyes pierce through the darkness.
He’s indignant.
A bolt of lightning streaks across the sky.
The WHITE PLAGUE runs off.

Thus begins my post apocalyptic, race war, vampire epic of Shakespearean ambitions. I’ve only showed this piece to a few close confidants. I wrote it out of inspiration from working on Miguel Pinero’s play The Sun Always Shines For The Cool with Urban Theatre Company in Chicago. I was understudy to Fearless Fernando for the role of Willie Bodega (who I got to go on and play twice, one of the most exciting performance experiences I’ve ever had.)

In the world of Blood Orange, religious wars have decimated the earth followed by resource wars and race wars. Vampires have come to rule ethnically split societies, taking away books to keep the underlings from the Bibles, Korans and knowledge that caused so much trouble in the first place. The Whites are cast as the bad guys, living on a hegemonic island ruled over by a cruel vampire dictator named the ‘White Plague.’ It’s here where they feed on the flesh of captives of color that they steal from the mainland in order to survive.

On the mainland, we are introduced to the characters of non white ethnic background, with names like Tick, Dawg, Magle, Sodomy, Dame Backrow and the boss of their society, a vampire who goes by the name of (Gulp) Fuck Christ. He is actually Judas, who has been doomed to walk the earth for eternity after betraying Jesus. At some point he picked up his blasphemous moniker after years of seeing Jesus’ message misinterpreted and defiled. The course of the play follows FC and his society as they prepare to retaliate against the ‘White Plague’ and his denizens for their most recent abduction of food captives, which included Fuck Christ’s daughter.

As a white person of privilege I’ve struggled with my right to appropriate and write the people that I did in this play but it was a fun exercise and I got to write some crazy characters and scenes and made up my own phonetically spelled dialect. Here’s a sample scene for your enjoyment:

Lights up on “DAME BACKROW’S House of Sin”.
There’s a group of HOES huddled up and gossiping.
BLONDE’S ear is pressed up against a door straining to hear what’s going on on the other side.
SODOMY is pacing,
TITS is sewing her stockings.
EYES is changing a little broken one-legged dolls diaper.
Bitch! Why ya always be talkin bout da end a da worl?
Cuz it be close, ho. Look roun ya. Dat Venom Rain juss won’ stop fo yeahs. Da Smog Lake so luted dat alla da fish eitha dead an floatin on da top o dat shit. O dey mutated inta all kines a Lake beast’s wit like fouteen eyes an growin legs an shit. Dey’s already started ta come up onta lan. Dey’s Liz’rd Dogs an Fish Rats fo cryin out loud! Soon dey gonna tack us fo fuckin up dey habitat! Dey gonna take back ova. An den ya got alla dem fuckin battles dat be gettin waged an shit. Shit is gettin mad thick hoes! An now we got dis new plague an it’s prob’ly gonna be unlike any a dose befoe. We be fucked!
Eye’s … Wha da fuck ya doin hoe? Wha’chya got dere?
A baby.
Bitch, dat ain’ no baby. Dass a broke ass doll. How many times I gotta tell ya. We been sterilized bitch, we can’ have no babies!
Tits! Le huh have huh fantasies fo cryin out loud!
Blonde! Take yo blonde ass wig an shove it down yo troat bitch befoe I come ova dere an cut yo face off!
Fuck you!
Don’chya make me come ova dere an whoop on yo ass! Don’chya make me skin ya an make a nice new jacket!
Shit! Eyes, bitch, ya doin dat all wrong hoe! Heah, le me hep ya.
Bitch! Don’ fuel huh delusions!
(SODOMY gives TITS a foul look and then goes over to EYES and shows her how to put on the diaper correctly.)
How y’know how ta do dis Sodomy?
(SODOMY smiles but doesn’t answer. She finishes with the diaper.)
Dere. Now ya gonna wanna fine huh some clothes an shit too, cuz dis li’l shit’ll freeze ta deat in dese kinda elements. An ya gonna on’y wanna feed huh breas milk, aight?
Oh fo cryin out loud bitch!


Zooka Splat up close and personal.

From 2010 to 2013 I was one half of Naked Empire Bouffon Company, a company solely dedicated to the research and performance of the satirical physical theatre form of bouffon. As the first project during my tenure with the company I convinced the Artistic Director to work on solo pieces. Mine was a continuation of work that I had started in Giovanni Fusetti’s month long bouffon intensive in Boulder Colorado in 2009. Apocalyptika was a satirical romp that takes a sledgehammer to the convenient stories we tell ourselves about how our world will end. Here’s a quote about the show from Nicole Gluckstern’s column The Performant:

“Ross as Zooka burst into the room, screaming a war cry and dressed in tattered camouflage. He circled the crowd knowingly, leaping on the backs of the sofas they sat in, leering at their shock. Like a one-man Mad Max, he ably deconstructed the post-apocalypse genre of action films and doomsayer surrender in a series of vignettes that mapped out the bizarre terrains of alien abduction, zombie uprisings, nuclear holocaust, and macho bullshit.”

Here’s a clip from the show where my character Zooka Splat mocks greed, gluttony and the every man for himself mentality in the face of global catastrophe:


One of my specialties as an actor is as a motion capture performer. I get in a black wetsuit with lights all over it and move around while cameras capture my movements and immediately transfer them onto animated avatars. It’s like putting on a virtual mask – so cool. A few years ago I did all of the motions for this post apocalyptic animated short:


FINALLY! … For many years I’ve been working on this piece that I will be premiering in 2016. This play is set in a futuristic world where violence has become love and a Man and Woman play pitch dark satirical games, creating their own mythologies in order to persevere in the face of the violence they have suffered. It asks the question; What happens when violence becomes so overwhelming and commonplace it loses its meaning and context?

Here’s an excerpt of the play. Stay tuned for more details!:

Kiss me one last time.
I can’t.
Why not?
My lips.
What about them?
They’ve been … booby trapped.
No matter.
I’m warning you. They’re strapped with enough nitroglycerine to take out an entire city block.
You’re worth it. I’ll enjoy the taste of acidic powder on your breath. The rough sensation of my lips on the protective casing of yours. The sound of the trigger tripping the detonator behind your tongue. The subtle click and that split second when I’ll feel my face blown to smithereens starting at my teeth. My lips peeling back over my face. The thousand fragments of shrapnel and bone as they split my head in a billion pieces releasing streams of blood in a trillion different directions. The twinge of nerves dying in rapid succession, synapsis blacking out as my mind disintegrates and all my memories up until now dissolve into oblivion. Splattered organic matter. At one moment a person, the next, the newest descendant into the unknown. Silence. Bliss.
Mmm. Now that’s devotion.
What can I say? That’s how infatuated I am with you.
You’re such a romantic.
It’s simply how deep my love goes.


They Kiss.


Thanks for reading! And I hope to see you after the dust has settled at Salvage!
Ross Travis
Artistic Director
Antic in a Drain