Louisville playwright Larry Muhammad grew up watching professional wrestling in the 1960s. He loves the sport because it’s over the top and larger than life – in other words, perfect for the stage.
“I grew up watching people like Gorgeous George, who was one of the first national entertainment figures. He wasn’t that great of a wrestler but he was a fantastic showman,” says Muhammad, a retired Courier-Journal reporter who writes plays under the name Cisco Montgomery.
Muhammad’s new play “Booty of the Year” goes inside the world of female professional wrestling to find the backstage drama just as explosive as the show in the ring. The play taps into wrestlings’s storied entertainment legacy while roping in the styles of the newer guard of wrestling superstars (like wrestler-turned-film star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Louisville’s own Ohio Valley Wrestling, which plays a key role in the regional pro-wrestling circuit.
Pro wrestling’s come out of the guilty pleasure shadows recently, starting with Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 gritty drama “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke as a veteran wrestler battered by life and his work. Rourke won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for his performance. On stage, “Booty of the Year” comes on the heels of Kristoffer Diaz’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” which was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and ran at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2012.
Directed by Phillip Cherry, “Booty of the Year” was developed in the Playwriting Intensive Program at Sarah Lawrence College. The play tells the story of two sisters – professional wrestlers Nasty Girl and Miss Longcar – embroiled in a violent case of sibling rivalry. They’re jealous of each others’ professional successes and romantic rivals for the ring announcer’s affections, but they’ve never faced each other in the ring.
When their boss goes on a nationwide search for “a fabulous derriere,” he starts to see what a financial windfall he might have in the feuding sisters.
“He’s recruiting professional cheerleaders, lingerie models, but he notices these two sisters who work for him, that they’ve been a problem,” says Muhammad. “He notices they hate each other and traps them into fighting for the title in a grudge match. So does the love between sisters prevail or have they turned into the heartless demons they portray in the ring?”
Muhammad’s plays include “Murder the Devil,” “Boomerang” and “The Magnificent Stephen,” which received a staged reading at the National Black Theatre Festival.
“Booty of the Year” runs Friday through Sunday in the Kentucky Center’s MeX Theatre.