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Jennifer Childs will not 'go gently'

In her new play, a has-been rock star tries to reclaim the spotlight.
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    Jennifer Childs writes and stars in 'I Will Not Go Gently' running from now until |Mark Gavin

Late last month, in a South Philadelphia recording studio, British rock icon Sierra Mist threw a tantrum – a series of them, actually.At one point she could be found banging on a bathroom door, complaining about her bassist bringing his young son to the session. Later, she had a meltdown because the sound of her turn-of-the-millennium comeback song, “Y2K,” wasn’t “spooky” enough.

If you’re scratching your head over why you’ve never heard of Sierra Mist, wonder no more: she, and her fits of rock-star rage, are purely fictional –the invention of 1812 Productions (Philadelphia's All Comedy Theatre Company) artistic director and founder Jennifer Childs. The recording session, on the other hand, was completely real, and will result in a Sierra Mist “greatest hits” package being released in conjunction with “I Will Not Go Gently,” 1812’s new show telling the story of Mist’s rise, fall, and redemption.

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While comedy is nothing new for Childs, who wrote and stars in the show, living the life of a rock star for a day was a novelty. “We’ve all sung into our hairbrushes at least,” she says in the stairwell outside Buckeye Studio during a break from recording.

“Hanging out, drinking bourbon and ‘laying down tracks’, as they say, is great character study.”

Sierra Mist was born as Childs, turned 47, and found herself facing – if not exactly an existential crisis –then at least a series of “existential musings,” as she put it.

“I know 47 isn’t not old, but I thought, ‘Wow, I’m at the beginning of the second half of my life.’ I feel like comedy about growing older is reduced to just, ‘My boobs are sagging’ or, ‘I take Viagra,’ but there are much more interesting complexities to look at.

”To explore those complexities, Childs worked with Barrymore Award-winning sound designer and composer Christopher Colucci to create a character whose music resembles that of Joan Jett or Liz Phair but whose celebrity and occasional pretensions draw comparisons to “Truth or Dare” era Madonna. “I wanted a character that wasn’t just a one-hit wonder but was part of the pop culture zeitgeist for a long time, who soundtracked a generation,” Childs explained.

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That soundtrack ranges from early folk-rock numbers to the raunchy hard rock of “Jack in My Box” to the aforementioned career-destroying “Y2K” concept album and subsequent comeback attempts. All of these and more will be available via download or at performances on CD – 30 years of music created in ten hours of studio time.

I Will Not Go Gently
Through May 15th
Plays and Players Theatre
1714 Delancey St.
$28-$42, 215-592-9560
1812productions.org

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