Pieced together from over 300,000 miles of North American travel in a converted ambulance and hundreds of recorded interviews along the way, Freedom of Speech invites the audience to relive Schneiders cross-country journey, as she mentally assumes one personality after another, creating a psyche as frayed and confused as the country she portrays.
First, shes Jack Heart, a Chippewa artist selling beadwork on the side of the road. Art might be the thing that brings the world back together now, he says.
Then shes Vanessa, a hooker at the Mustang Ranch in Nevada. The state makes a whole buncha money offa this, says Vanessa. I dont think they want to shut it down.
And just as easily, she becomes Paula, driving with Eliza in the passenger seat to the Blessed Virgins Barn, where they kneel down and pray. Its all a test, she says, and the devils running out of time.
What started as a rambling senior thesis for her UCLA World arts and Culture degree became the crux of Eliza's life work, preserving the voices of her mother nation, and finding the one message that unites them all. In the last semester of her career at UCLA, Eliza shaved her head to get out of her contract with CBS, where she played Liza on the Saturday morning favorite, Beakmans World, bought an ambulance, and hit the road.
Hundreds of thousands of miles later, shes now a heroin addict (Its like a thousand orgasms combined with being back in the womb), his heartbroken girlfriend ("I just want him to control it, you know?"), two rival Pittsburgh gang members (Your daddys so skinny, he hang glides on a Dorito), a Vietnam vet on acid ("Fear? You wanna talk about fear?"), a fiddle-playing turkey hunter (Everyone should play the fiddle and kill his own food), an eleven-year-old cable-watching beauty queen ("After what I been through, I hate boys. I can't stand 'em"), a dominatrix (Youre not a sheep, and were not on a farm), a Lower East Side diner waitress ("I would not give up the Lower East Side for anything"), a Tex-Mex marine officer (Theres no such thing as a Mickey Mouse war), and a mushroom-taking cousin of President Bush.
Shes all of these things and more, because shes all of these things together.
We all speak different languages, says Shirley Northbird, a lesbian Navajo elder and the shows penultimate speaker. But were all one.
Asks Eliza: What happens when you believe in two conflicting philosophies? Or ten? Or hundreds?
Sat. March 6, 7:30 p.m.; HCC Mainstage Theater, Performing Arts Building; 2112 14th St., Tampa.