By Dana Casadei
The Westboro Baptist Church has been challenged before for their vile hate mongering, and now two brothers – Dave and Scott Dambacher of Port Huron – are about to take them on, too, with, well, what else but fabulousness.
Sitting on the back patio of the St. Clair Inn, Dave and Scott chat about their latest project, “The Freaka in Topeka”: “This piece is gonna be a celebration of diversity,” Scott says. “They’re kind of the epitome of intolerance. So why not go right for the jugular?”
The “they” Scott speaks of is the Westboro Baptist Church, who have their home base in Topeka, Kan. (Note the show’s title.)
The show will also premiere in the Sunflower State, hopefully in late spring 2014, they say. The idea is to do a short run, with one show Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re gonna take a bus and a truck with the set and drive right into their town and do it,” Dave says.
Though the show will premiere in Kansas, everything else about it will be connected back to their homestate. The music will be Detroit influenced – think Iggy and the Stooges and Jack White – and the cast, which includes Scott, will all be local. There will be an open call, probably in February, to fill the rest of the 15-20 roles.
“Late spring in Kansas should be nice,” Dave says. “I’m sure the people of Kansas are just awesome, cool people – except for the WBC.
“I think the old guy (Fred Phelps) that runs the joint, he’s gotta be dying soon, right? His daughter (Shirley Phelps-Roper) is kind of being groomed to take over, and I think she’s even wackier than her father. I think it’s time to start countering their influence on people.”
The group, which held its first public service in 1955, is constantly making headlines for protesting pretty much everything, from gays to a 5-year-old’s lemonade stand.
“God hates lemonade,” Scott laughs.
“God hates lemonade, God hates fags, God hates America,” Dave adds. “God hates everything. God’s gonna hate me eventually if he doesn’t already.”
It’s easy to joke about something so ridiculous, but the guys get serious when asked what they think will happen when they arrive in Topeka, and how the Westboro folks will react.
“I’m hoping that … I’m not sure. I don’t know what I’m hoping,” Dave says. “I don’t want to pimp it like they do.”
But if the group did protest the show, Dave said that it would be a plus.
“It would be fun, because I’d really like to see them in person and meet them,” Dave says. “(I’d say) ‘Come on in and see our show. Check it out, we might change your mind.'”
The show, which Dave describes as a “rock ‘n’ roll piece,” is currently being written by the brothers, with Scott working on the story and Dave doing the score. The duo will also be working with their other brother Brian and his fiancee, Sarah, making this the fourth project for the group.
Scott said the first act will mainly be introductions to who the characters are, including the story’s protagonist. They will be people who are targeted by a group like Westboro, and then outed by that group. The second act will follow that story and have the protagonist get involved with a “freaka” group of people.
The setting of the show will probably take place at “a happening” or festival, with a diverse group of people. “Artists, musicians, freaks, everybody,” Dave says. “The original concept was like Burning Man, but much cooler, much gayer, and way shorter – and free.”
“The Freaka in Topeka,” which has the tagline “fight fire with fabulous,” may be free for the public to attend, but Dave estimates that it will cost about $50,000 in total to produce. The plan is to hold some sort of fundraiser; one idea is to fund it through Kickstarter that would have awards. If the fundraiser doesn’t raise enough, they will fund it themselves.
Both brothers agree that this has been more ardous than previous shows, but the payoff is immense.
“We’re not playing into that hate thing,” Scott says. “We live in such a crazy time. To parody that, along with these Westboro people, and fighting against intolerance and celebrating freedom, I think it’s an important thing to do right now.”
Once they have more material written, they plan on putting bits and pieces of it on their website and Twitter account. The idea is to post musical ideas, story lines, etc., and then have an online community give input as the show progresses. This way the show would “almost (be) written as a collective thing,” Dave says. “Everyone would have some sort of ownership. If someone sees our piece or hears about it and they think, ‘Wow, that’s a really cool idea, I’d love to be a part of that,’ then I would love to have them be part of it.”
When discussing the possibility of this going worldwide, both brothers beam with pride, with Scott adding that this could be a “revolution through art.”
“It’s lofty,” Dave says, “but I would like to change people’s viewpoints.”
Hey, you gotta start somewhere.
For more information on “The Freaka in Topeka,” visit http://www.freakatopeka.com.