by David Kleinberg
The 2016 Rogue Festival is almost here. KRL has been featuring several Festival performer preview articles over the last couple of weeks, and have several more to go between now and opening day! This week we also have an article about the Festival itself. We will also be reviewing many of the shows once the Festival begins in early March, and we may even do some more video interviews. Check out our Rogue Performer event page for more information as it becomes available, and you can also check out the Rogue 2016 website.
In 1966, I was drafted by the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam as a combat correspondent. Today, almost 50 years after I first arrived in Southeast Asia, I am doing my solo theater work, Hey, Hey, LBJ!, about my experiences in that war – the most divisive foreign conflict in American history. I’ll be performing five shows at Mia Cuppa Caffé during the upcoming Rogue Festival in Fresno.
I arrived in Vietnam supporting the war, but over my year of duty, my feelings changed. In the end, I was in Bangkok on R&R when the rockets starting falling on my buddies back at Cu Chi. I returned home to protest the war.
A half-century later I am telling the stories of my buddies and how war taints everything it touches.
The work has been well received in San Francisco (where it had a full-house nine-show run last year at the Marsh Theater), New Orleans, Boulder, and in Washington D.C. where the Washington Post wrote, “Hey, Hey, LBJ! is as polished and moving a piece of theater as the Capital Fringe is likely to see (out of 119 shows).”
Mike Goldberg, ex-Rolling Stone Magazine chief editor and writer, said, “Hey, Hey, LBJ!” is “fantastic . . . powerful and moving . . . full house . . . standing applause . . . must see.”
Doug Konecky of SF Theater Blog wrote, “Normally, we would not post a review of a show in the developmental stage, but David Kleinberg’s ‘Hey, Hey, LBJ!’ is already a gripping piece of theater . . . (and is) as strong as . . . shows we’ve seen on larger (Bay Area) stages.”
When I returned from Vietnam in 1967, I thought I might write something, so I solicited detailed manuscripts from those who survived the bunker attack. But I never did anything. When I decided to write a solo theater piece 47 years later, I had source material to turn to.
This is a very powerful and riveting work. Even after all this time, I cried half the time I was writing this. I suppose some people would call this an anti-war work. But I believe — as I’ve written at one point in the script– that there are just wars, but I don’t think this was one of them. And it’s very interesting that when I tell people of my generation the title of the piece, Hey, Hey, LBJ! they smile in irony, knowing that the entire chant went, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” It was that bitter back then.
Hey, Hey, LBJ! includes video clips from President Johnson’s “Why Vietnam” speech; my 8mm film of American units destroying a Vietnamese village for no apparent reason; scenes from Bob Hope’s 1966 Christmas Eve USO tour to the Cu Chi base camp (Hope: “I just want to remind you, America’s behind you . . . 18 percent!”); CBS’ Mike Wallace at the base camp the day after the Cu Chi rocket attack to ask why the victims’ bunkers had no tops; and my 1968 anti-war speech at San Francisco’s City Hall (which later appeared in PBS’ “Berkeley in the ’60s” and PBS’ “American Experience: LBJ”).
Hey, Hey, LBJ! will be performed at Mia Cuppa Caffe, 620 E Olive Ave, Fresno, CA 93728. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at: roguefestival.ticketleap.com/heyheylbj.
Performance Dates & Times:
Friday, March 4, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 5, 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 6, 2 p.m.
Thursday, March 10, 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 12, 5 p.m.