Despite growing up in what he called a “big time catholic family,” Marcus Kyd had lots of questions about what was being taught to him, especially about the Devil.
“The Devil was always confusing to me. My big question was, ‘Why would a creature like this exist?’ It’s scary when you are a kid,” he says. “It was never sufficiently answered for me. For much of my life I was questioning the meaning of faith and all the mythologies.”
As he matured, Kyd eventually started to understand a bit more but his curiosity about the Devil intensified.
“In 2001, I was reading Milton’s Paradise Lost, as I had exhausted all Shakespeare and was still hungry for classical literature, and the portrayal of Satan in that story was fascinating to me,” he says. “I had never seen such a thought-provoking, sympathetic portrayal and what Milton did really got me excited as he took the point of view of the character, the way a playwright would, and provided a motivation. He became much more than just this black-and-white mythological creature and started to seem human.”
After that, Kyd was hungry for more. His search for other works turned up an almost unlimited amount of literature about the Devil, as it seemed almost every famous writer had tackled the supernatural entity in some way.
“I started pulling my favorites out and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew there had to be a show in this,” he says. “I started fitting bits and pieces together to see if I could fit it into a narrative.”
The result is The Devil in His Own Words, a fast-paced tragicomedy that digs deep into the identity of humanity’s oldest villain.
In 2004, Kyd became one of the founding members of the Taffety Punk Theatre Company, and the group put on the show as its first-ever production.
“When we were first doing this, we didn’t have any space yet, so we would steal rehearsal space and all of the founding members were in the play—it was a lot bigger back then,” Kyd says. “The more we looked at it, the more we realized that what was unique about the Devil was that there was nothing like him—he was utterly alone in the universe.”
The company started to whittle things down and eventually transformed The Devil in His Own Words into a one-man show, which Kyd performed at its theater space in 2007 under the direction of Lise Bruneau.
“Once Lise stepped out to become director, it was the best thing that could have happened to this show,” Kyd says. “She could protect me from all the hogwash and moved it forward as dramatic text. Lise made the incredible decision to bring in other things, such as dress forms to be other people.”
Kyd calls the 2007 production “an exhilarating experience,” and although he humbly feels another actor may have been better in the part, he was thrilled to continue in the notorious role.
“Once you crank up the box and let it go, it’s exhilarating. You’re responsible for every beat, every scene, in engaging the audience and monitoring where they are at,” he says. “There are a couple of moments I can connect with them and really pull them in if they need some pulling. To me, the only thing comparable would be playing Hamlet as far as weight and drive of the show goes. It’s a very challenging part.”
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the show, Kyd will be donning the Devil’s persona once more as Taffety Punk presents The Devil in His Own Words from Sept. 12 to Oct. 4 at the Capital Hill Arts Workshop.
THE DEVIL IN HIS OWN WORDS
Sept 12 – Oct 4
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th Street, SE
1 hour, no intermission
Wednesdays thru Saturdays
Details and Tickets
“If this was a record, what we have done is pushed the pulse up on everything and took the most exciting tracks and cut all those that weren’t very good, and made it a much better experience,” he says. “With doing this a third time, the story is clearer, and it’s easier to understand why he’s jumping through time this much. It answers the question of ‘who is in control of his destiny?”
Kyd says that the research for the play has opened his mind to his faith, and that it’s come a long distance from when he was a child.
“What it’s done for me is it’s broadened my perspective on all faiths,” he says. “The Devil isn’t just found in Christian faiths, and I was actively looking for multi-cultural stories. I didn’t want it to be one-sided. It’s opened me up culturally, religiously and philosophically—it’s impossible to be the same person. It changed me very much.”