Playing in Traffic

Greg Walloch walks down the wrong streets talking to strangers

Monologist Greg Walloch’s show at Sweet Rhythm and at HOT! The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture mixes storytelling with humor, and is a remarkable odyssey through Walloch’s experiences as a gay man with cerebral palsy.

“A lot of my work is about being a gay disabled guy, talking about these things, but the show is for everyone, not a specific crowd,” Walloch said in a recent telephone interview. “Whether it is the gay community or the disabled community, we’re working so hard to define ourselves to our own community and to the community outside, that self-definition is important to articulate, but [one must] also be malleable. I think my work is helping redefine the image of disability. We are funny, and smart, and have sex, and say dirty words. There is humanity there. It is an interesting journey.”

While his semi-autobiographical act has been recorded in the film “F*** the Disabled,” Walloch should be seen live to get the full impact of his performance.

“People always say, ‘The book is better than the film,’” he said. “I feel like my show is the original, that it’s better than the film. Seeing my work live gives people a direct hit, a live and unfettered experience.”

And the thrill of performing live motivates Walloch who explained he enjoys the interaction he has with different audiences.

“It’s a very warm and personal show,” he said. “I talk directly to the audience, and so naturally it changes night to night and audience to audience.”

Walloch said that although his show is very conversational, it allows him to form an intimate bond with theatergoers. And he is always open to the excitement of the curtain being raised. Walloch, however, confessed to at least one unpleasant experience onstage.

“I stepped off the wrong part of a raised stage in the dark and fell six feet, but hey I already had the crutches, so there’s a bright side to everything,” he joked.

Walloch’s sense of humor is unerring.

“You have to laugh in this world to keep from crying,” he said. “Pleasure, pain, funny, and sad are all so close. I can always find the funny thing in the saddest situation and the saddest thing in the happiest events. Either way it makes me a fun guy to invite to your wedding.”

Perhaps it is the suspense of what will happen in any given night that will make seeing Walloch such a rewarding experience. The writer-performer improvises certain segments of his act, because, he explained, “What is most important is working on the honesty in a performance, then you don’t really have to worry about jokes, because the truth in a story is what is actually funny.”

As his stories—about going to a church in the South, or auditioning for a role on “Sesame Street”—from his show “White Disabled Talent” proved that Walloch finds humor almost without trying. While his “art” is steeped in reality, the writer does not go in for angst-y navel gazing.

“I walk down streets I probably shouldn’t, talk to strangers on the bus, and have engaged in various sexual situations just so I could write about them,” he admitted. “Writers watch and listen, but they also like to play in traffic.”

Walloch is also not afraid to get political.

“It’s not the time to be timid about who we are,” he said with passionate conviction. “This is not a time to hold back because there are already other forces that are doing that.”

A contributor to the Lammie-winning anthology “Queer Crips,” Walloch recently completed work on the film “Steam Cloud Rising” set at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island at the time of the nuclear power crisis there. He was pleased with the opportunity to appear in the film because it offered a change of pace for him.

“I play the best friend who’s super smart about nuclear power,” he said. “It was interesting to make because I wasn’t being Greg Walloch. I was actually acting.“

Yet the film experience was eye opening for Walloch for reasons separate from his work as a performer.

“It is interesting, traveling around to see that the world is not New York or L.A.,” he said.

He recalled a conversation that described as being all about disconnects with a woman he met in central Pennsylvania.

“She was grappling with her own son’s sexuality,” he said. “She rejected him for being gay, but she said she loves Rosie O’Donnell. It goes back to breaking thought the barrier of being defined by these elements.”

In addition to acting, Walloch, currently single, has other ambitions.

“I would love to be knocked off my feet by a man,” he said dreamily, but also with a good measure of determination.

“I want to learn to play the saw,” he added.

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