Desiree Gonzalez is thrilled to be working with Kokandy for the first time. She is a graduate of Carthage College with a BA in Musical Theatre and Minor in Dance. Since moving back to Chicago her recent theatre credits include Seussical (Improv Playhouse), West Side Story (The Center Theatre) Another Word for Beauty (Goodman (u/s-Ensemble)), Destiny of Desire (Goodman (u/s)), and The Ugly Duckling (Chicago Kids Company). She also made an appearance on the crossover episode Deathtrap of Chicago Fire and Chicago Med. Desiree would like to thank her friends and family for their love and support as well as the ladies at Big Mouth Talent for believing in her.
In this 4-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kokandy Productions’ BONNIE & CLYDE through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles, click here.
By Desiree Gonzalez
Ever since BONNIE & CLYDE debuted on Broadway in 2011, Bonnie has been a dream role of mine. I was fascinated with the story of these outlaws, much like the American public was in the early 1930’s. Now that I have the opportunity to dig deeper into the role, something I have struggled to deconstruct is the villain vs. hero image they were labeled with during the news media of the era.
Are they heroes? Do their circumstances justify their actions? I don’t know many people that would resort to taking a life, but then again I don’t know anyone who has experienced poverty and abuse quite like these two. Taking a life certainly fits the description of a villain. However, let’s not forget that there was a reason the American people hated the authorities and the government in this era: The Great Depression offered little opportunity for many Americans and less for folks already in poverty. Desperation was the mood of the country. If Bonnie didn’t waitress, her only options were factory work or prostitution; and she was lucky to have any work at all.
Many people in the Texas area Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow called home were losing their farms, and as a result moved to the cities – where they slept next to sewage and under bridges on the outskirts of Dallas. Clyde’s family was one of these. Bonnie held to the belief that their circumstances were temporary; she had a bone-deep belief that she would rise above poverty one day and live out her dreams as her idols did in the Picture Shows. Neither Bonnie nor Clyde accepted the fate that their circumstances laid out for them, so when they met, it almost seemed like the work of destiny.
Bonnie spent a lot of time writing poetry, and what is so fascinating to me is the evidence within these poems that the pair knew they were on borrowed time. They knew that they would face death at any moment, and still, they continued. As villainous as their reputation became, thousands of people attended their funeral. Whether the public idolized them for the entertainment they provided in their short lived spree – or they believed Bonnie and Clyde were making some kind of a difference – they were loved. They were each also both fiercely loyal to their families. In the midst of their crimes, they would risk everything to make trips back to Dallas to be reunited with their families before hitting the road again. This hardly seems to fit the description of ‘villain.’
Something our Director (Spencer Neiman) said in rehearsal the other day has stuck with me: he said that Bonnie and Clyde had to live 100 years worth of life in just three years. Finding that kind of desperation has been the biggest acting challenge for me. An important aspect of developing a character is non-judgment. It’s not my job to judge the actions that Bonnie took, but to find the why for them. Bonnie is someone who is in touch with her raw nature and acts without always calculating the consequences. In that sense, she’s quite brave. Both Bonnie and Clyde are part egomaniacs and part brave, in my eyes. I like to think we all have grand plans for our futures. When we’re little, adults often ask what we want to be when we grow up. The answers are often grand or fanciful: astronauts, scientists, movie star, or President. As we grow up, those dreams become smaller, more tangible ideas, and the dreamers in us are chipped away little by little. That never happened for Bonnie Parker. She held on tight to that deepest belief that she would someday be significant. Here we are seventy some years after their deaths, still telling her story – so who’s to say whether her dreams did or did not come true?
Kokandy Productions BONNIE & CLYDE runs August 27th – October 15th. For more information visit kokandyproductions.com.