The Ted Bundy Project
I’m starting a new project. It’s sort of to do with this guy:
Ted Bundy, described on Wikipedia as an “American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper and necrophile”. I’m fascinated by him and how people reacted and still react to him. And I’m fascinated by how I react to him.
Several weeks ago, I spent a week in Manchester at Contact Theatre with a group of amazing solo artists doing workshops and eventually pitching a show for the Flying Solo commission. I pitched this project and I’m thrilled and honoured to say that my piece was chosen, so will be supported for the next year through the Flying Solo commission by Contact, MC Theatre (Amsterdam), The Albany and Fuel. I’ll be performing the piece as part of the Flying Solo Festival 2014 at Contact and MC Theatre. The piece is also being wonderfully supported by Ovalhouse, where I’ll be performing a first work-in-progress experiment on 24th and 25th May.
Here’s a streamlined version of my Bundy pitch from the Flying Solo week:
Hi, I’m Greg Wohead–I’m a writer and performer from Texas–and my show is called love, Ted. My work in the past has been described using words like ‘lovely’, ‘heart-warming’, ‘whimsical’ and ‘nice’.
This piece is about me and Ted Bundy–as Wikipedia describes him: an American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper and necrophile.
The idea for this show came in October, just a few months ago:
I’m home alone and I get sucked down a YouTube rabbithole at like 2 in the morning. I eventually come across the confession tapes of Ted Bundy. Right there on YouTube. I know he’s a serial killer, but I’m compelled to find out more, and quickly learn that Ted confessed to killing 30 women between 1974 and 1978–he confessed to 30, but some people think the real number could be as high as 100. He would often put a cast on his leg and walk on a pair of crutches or wear a sling and pretend his arm was broken and stumble up to a girl–always young, pretty with hair parted down the middle–while trying to carry a briefcase or box. He would ask the girl to help him to his car–a brown Volkswagon Beetle. Once there he would hit her over the head with a crowbar he had stashed behind a tire, load her in and take her to a hidden place, usually in the mountains nearby.
Once there he would rape her, then strangle her to death. He would then revisit the body over the coming days, applying make up, shampoo-ing the hair, having sex with the body until decay made this impossible.
So I’m reading about all this at 2am and getting a little freaked out.
These were awful, horrific details and images. I didn’t want to look at them or to find out about them, but I couldn’t stop watching, I couldn’t stop reading about it. And I’m a nice guy, really.
And I had this simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion to finding out details about serial killers and their victims; to having a peek at gory crime scene photos, which are freely available on Google image search.
As a serial rule-follower, I’m curious as to why breaking the rules can seem so attractive.
With this show, I’m curious about what happens with an audience when I try to channel Ted Bundy or mesh the two of us together–the rule-breaker and the rule-follower. It’s a show that will use real-life material–bits of my own stories, Ted’s confession tapes, video interviews, real crime scene images, letters from Ted Bundy’s fans and groupies, songs of the 70s, Ted Bundy memorabilia (like a glass Ted Bundy once drank out of for sale online for thousands of dollars). The development of the show will be about finding potency in the real–me in a room with an audience, talking with them, doing true-crime re-enactments, giving crime-scene lectures.
Love, Ted is a show about Ted Bundy and me. It’s a show about labelling someone a monster–and what that says about the people doing the labelling rather than the person being labelled. It’s about the nature of charm and the tension between attraction and repulsion. How our relationship with death might affect our relationship with killers and corpses.
The crime writer Ann Rule wrote a book about Ted Bundy, and in it she publishes letters he wrote her–letters of what seems to be real friendship at the time; a relationship–however manipulated–between a killer and someone with an interest in him. Each letter he signed the same: love, Ted.
This is a piece about me and Ted Bundy breaking things together. It’s a piece about why we can’t stop looking at dead bodies, and it’s a piece that deliberately looks for the monster in us all.
I’m not totally sure what this piece will wind up being in a year’s time. Who knows how much it will resemble my initial thoughts.
I don’t have an official title for the piece yet, but I would love for you to join me for The Ted Bundy Project (a work-in-progress) at Ovalhouse on 24th & 25th May at 8.15pm. It will be a first experiment with Ted Bundy’s confession tape, a wig and a slideshow.