During the busy pre-Easter season at the Broadway Market earlier this year, playwright Steve Roylance and his assistants set up shop in the bustling local landmark and conducted taped interviews with more than 100 visitors.
Roylance boiled down the oral histories of that large and colorful cast of characters into a 30-minute play, “The Kielbasa Diaries: The Butter Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” which attempts to capture the enduring appeal of the market and its place at the center of a changing neighborhood on the city’s East Side. It will premiere in the market at 3 p.m. Saturday as part of a fundraiser for the market.
Despite its cheeky title, Roylance’s play stems from a desire he shares with market boosters to give voice to the characters of a neighborhood and a generation whose insights might otherwise have been lost to history. The play features recollections of better days, ruminations on the precarious state of the market in the 21st century and the traditions and rituals the market represents to its stalwart supporters.
Roylance was quick to point out that his play also features plenty of bad jokes.
“Some of them literally go to the market every day it’s open,” Roylance said of the market’s regulars, “and they kind of have a coffee klatch and hang out and BS with each other and tell bad jokes. There’s a scene where the four of them are at the table having coffee talking about the state of the Bills and some memories of the market, and some very corny jokes that hopefully people laugh at.”
Another story in the play involves the wedding of two Broadway Market employees inside the market, which coincided with the grand opening of the building’s new escalators.
“This was on the news, but unfortunately all that stuff is gone for the ages, so I kind of tried to re-create the newscast of a newscaster interviewing them about what it would be like to get married at the Broadway Market. That was by far the most bizarre story we heard,” Roylance said. “The kicker was that the escalators in the market were brand-new, so after they got married they came down the escalator and it was almost like a double wedding-slash-escalator opening.”
The project came together after Scott Behrend of Road Less Traveled Productions, which is producing the show with the Broadway Market, asked Roylance if he’d consider mounting a theater piece there. Roylance had taken an oral history class as a graduate student at the University of Toronto, so he devised the idea of a play based on first-hand accounts – a sort of more comedy-conscious version of the journalistic plays Anna Deveare Smith is known for writing.
The play is part of the market’s larger 125th anniversary celebration and is slated to be performed again in the spring. The market’s 125th anniversary gala is scheduled for Oct. 18.
“Hopefully, this gets either a new crowd to the market or a crowd to the market when you normally don’t expect one,” Roylance said. “Also, more important, I think, is to bring theater to people who might not normally go see a play or a show.”