On May 29, storyteller Jeff DeMark turns -- get ready, Humboldt -- 60 years old! Gasp! Uh oh. I know what you're thinking. Reaching this soul-crushing milestone means the jovial, freewheelin' raconteur will be forced to, like, grow up? Hardly. He's still having too much fun working through the events of his childhood, onstage and for your pure entertainment. Call it "thrill therapy."
See what I mean on Friday when Jeff will, once again, verbally nail his past on a wall for your perusal as he presents Writing My Way Out of Adolescence on the hallowed Redwood Yogurt stage. Topics discussed include experiences from his Catholic upbringing in Racine, Wis., nudist camps, '60s psychedelia, jail and the relationship between father and son. And there's a one-eyed nun in there somewhere.
In many ways, this is Jeff's most personal show, drawing heavily on his relationship with his father and voyages of a '60s youth from which his family wasn't sure he'd return.
"At the end," Jeff says of the show, "it's my dad saying some things that make the journey worthwhile to me." Though the show used to be presented more frequently, it's taken on more of an annual event status. You know, to keep it special, or as Jeff puts it: "It's almost always a once-a-year show to kind of blow out the psychic carbon in my soul."
The story had a long gestation period. Portions of Adolescence were developed in front of perhaps Jeff's toughest audience: classrooms of bored children. In 1991, DeMark began substitute teaching for Eureka City schools and spun tales of his youth to engage restless kids, garnering a reputation as "the story guy."
"In a way," Jeff says, "I rehearsed the first half of that show for two years, not knowing I was doing it."
Jeff's Adolescence was first put on full display before an energetic, sold-out audience at Dell'Arte's Mad River Festival in 1993. Being used to performing for much smaller audiences in art galleries and coffee shops made working a theatrical stage daunting at first. On the night of the first show, Jeff recalls, "I was so wound up that (the director) Don Speziale and I thought there was an equal chance that I would either freeze up and bomb or it would go great." It went great.
Writing My Way Out of Adolescence plays one night only, Friday, May 27, at 8 p.m. at Redwood Yogurt, 1573 G St. Arcata. Celebrate Jeff's 60th year of adolescence with him. If you see him this week, wish him at least a decent birthday. Oh yeah, Paul too.