When I was in my early 20’s, an actor I met on the set of a music video invited me to a “friendly gathering” later in the week. Thinking this might be a good chance to broaden my social circle a little, I agreed and made my way to what turned out to be the basement of a suburban townhouse, where eight other people had gathered to sip on expensive fruit juice and espouse it’s miraculous qualities. They played a series of videos designed to hype up the product, the health benefits… and most importantly, The Opportunity.
When the lights came back up again, it dawned on me that every other person there was already signed up and working hard on recruiting new members; I was a rack of lamb in a wolfsden. Out came the paperwork, the starter manual, and the promise that wealth, health and happiness would soon be mine, so long as I ensured two cases of the exotic fruit concoction were ordered and delivered to my door every month (to guarantee I had enough to hand out as samples for my prospective distributors, of course.) Some of the attendees, including the actor who had invited me there, were wearing dried acai-berry bracelets to signify the faith placed in them by their recruiters to “reach their full potential.”
Thankfully, I’d retained enough of my senses to backpedal out of that basement as fast as I could, leaving the eight of them mystified as to why I wouldn’t sign on the line. Many years later, the company in question folded into another, bigger multi-level marketing racket, unable to sustain their dwindling numbers. I look back on that meeting from time to time and think “Well, I dodged a bullet there.”
But what would have happened to me if I hadn’t?
MLM’s churn through a frightening number of people, young and old alike, every year. Many lose money, some barely break even. Only a few, a rare slim slice of a percentage, make the hundreds of thousands touted on their flashy advertisements and in their frenzied hype meetings; the rest wind up burning through reams of friends and contacts, souring relationships by pushing The Opportunity on anyone with a pulse and a pocketbook. If I had started down that path, who knows where I could have wound up, and who would have stuck with me through what would have been a decidedly lopsided decade. I’ve struggled trying to kickstart a play on the subject for years, but when another prominent MLM was shuttered by the Federal Trade Commission in August of 2015, I knew the timing couldn’t be better. A few months later the first draft was complete, and Keltie Brown-Forsyth was already organizing the first reading. And away we went.
This is a play about greed, deception, cutthroat competition and cult-like devotion to something intangible, always just out of reach. Above all else, it’s about faith, and the human need to always have something, no matter how far-fetched or unlikely, to believe in.
And juice. I suppose it’s about juice too.