President John F. Kennedy, moments before he was assassinated back in November 1963.
President John F. Kennedy, moments before he was assassinated back in November 1963.
Wikimedia Commons

Deus Ex Machina Satirizes the JFK Assassination on Saturday During Picnic on the Grassy Knoll

Jeff Falk has something of a minor obsession with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

It's only natural, considering that fact that the local spoken word and performance artist watched the fallout from the tragic event unfold on live television as a child back in November 1963, including JFK's funeral and the killing of alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

"To me, the JFK assassination and its aftermath was one of the seminal moments of American history," Falk says. 

He also admits it was traumatizing to witness such things at such a young age and that images from the event continue to haunt him to this day.

Instead of partaking in countless hours of therapy, however, Falk's found a more creative way of exploring his feelings about the JFK assassination: He engages in an evening of satirical and experimental theatre (as well as bit of spoken word and performance art) along with his friends and fellow artists at Grand Avenue gallery Deus Ex Machina every year.

The event is entitled Picnic on the Grassy Knoll and makes fun of and sends up the various conspiracy theories, myths, and hoopla that's been built up over the years surrounding the JFK assassination.

While it might seem unusual to make fun of such a dark day in American history, Falk admits it's just his way of coping with a tragic event.

"To me, I could either go crazy and say, 'Gosh, it's a drag that one of our best presidents was killed,' or I can try to deal with it through humor," he says. "I have to laugh about it because otherwise I might start getting depressed."

And there will most definitely be some crazy theatre taking place as a part of Picnic on the Grassy Knoll. Since there was so much gunfire involved with the killing of both JFK (who was shot during the infamous motorcade through Dallas, Texas) and Oswald (who was shot before he could be brought to trial), Falk will be conducting "ballistic tests" where he will blow up heads of cabbage and small watermelons with M-80s.

He'll also recount and poke fun at some of the various conspiracy theories stemming from the assassination, some of which are "so strange and bizarre that they're downright funny."

Meanwhile, Richard Bledsoe (a resident artist at Deus Ex Machina) will present a Wizard of Oz-like play called Jack Ruby Slippers that satirizes the Dallas businessman who infamously killed Oswald on live TV. Theatre in My Basement organizer Chris Danowski will also stage a "touching yet absurd" bit of avant-garde theatre about JFK and the 1960s.

Falk doesn't feel that either he or any of the other artists involved are twisted for making light of one of the darkest days of American history.

"As the Dadaists might have said, 'It is not we who are crazy, it is the world that is crazy.' In other words, we're making fun of this thing through some crazy theatre because we have to something to keep our sanity and make sense of an insane event," he says.

Backwards Theatre: Picnic on the Grassy Knoll will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Deus Ex Machina, 1023 Grand Avenue. Admission is $3.

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