Bertolt Brecht and Wallace Shawn represent two kinds of political theatre; Reverend Billy represents a third, more raucous and comic variety. The activist persona of Bill Talen, Reverend Billy, it must be said, does not preach to the converted: for almost twenty years, the good Reverend, accompanied by his Church of Stop Shopping Choir, has gained an international reputation for his form of guerrilla political theatre, occupying shopping malls, building atriums, and Times Square to present his anti-corporate message — ever dashing, ever musical, and always thrilling.
All this to mention that the Reverend’s new book, The End of the World, is scheduled for publication by O/R Books in February. In the words of the Web page for the book, “With soaring parables from protests as far apart as the bank lobbies of Barcelona and the underground police cells of New York City, our preacher raises a resounding ‘Earthallujah!’, turning back the devils of debt and destruction, rallying those of radical faith to save themselves and save us all.” Over the past few years, I’ve noted a more surreal, more apocalyptic tone entering the Reverend’s rhetoric, and am looking forward to seeing how far the new perspective reaches. The End of the World is available for purchase here.
The Reverend Billy Project, written by Savitri D and Bill Talen and edited with an introduction by Alisa Solomon, is a fascinating account of the comedian/activist’s career. He was also the subject of the last review I wrote for The New York Times in 2006. His Web site, with much more information, can be found here.