“You’re Already Dead” comes to life at Kleinau

By Karsten Burgstahler

There is nothing original; there is no progress.

At SIUC’s Kleinau Theater this weekend, there is only anarchy.

“You’re Already Dead: A History of No Future” will take residency at the theater beginning Thursday. The show examines the early American punk movement through a series of histories and autobiographies from the movement.


The title is a response to a work known as “Just Kill Me,” a collection of oral histories director Nichole Nicholson drew from heavily while compiling the show.

Nicholson said she considered the punk rock idea that there is no future, and that we are always dead and always alive, in the designing of the title and the performance.

“There’s always the question of, ‘Is punk rock dead?’ or ‘Is rock and roll dead?’” Nicholson said. “This is a show about history. It’s not a contemporary show.”

The show follows a band, named by the cast as “Abandon Your Babies Here,” as they prepare for its first gig. Most of the show consists of the band’s fight about what the gig should look like.

“They’re really just fighting about, ‘OK, now we have a gig. What do we do now?’” Nicholson said. “The very end of the show, you get to see the gig.”

She said “Dead” is twice the length of her previous shows, last year’s “Orphan Annie Eyes” and “Try This At Home.”

The show’s writer and director said she loved punk rock as she was growing up and would attend shows in Chicago. She said she started with pop punk, but she soon became interested in hard-core and historical punk from the late ’60s and early ’70s.


Nicholson said she was able to understand her studies through the punk rock lens with her performance art classes and by studying avant-garde and different art movies.

“Punk rock didn’t exist in a vacuum,” she said. “The movement developed out of a really long history of people who believed in resistance and revolution.”

The show deals with themes of anarchy as it concerns the movement, Nicholson said, as well as the idea of autonomy in relationship to the government. The performance also questions whether there should be a government at all, which is a major theme of the punk rock movement.

“Dealing with what it means to be an artist who makes political work is a huge part of this (show),” she said.

Andrea Baldwin, the Theater’s publicity director, said one of the show’s unique elements is the amount of performance art the show honors.

“It’s very in-your-face. It’s very intense, but it’s intense in a very fun and exciting way,” she said.

Baldwin said Nicholson does a good job of showing both genders’ contributions to the punk rock movement.

“We think of punk as this masculine kind of thing,” she said. “Both sides speak really strongly and intensely about political issues, which is what punk really does.”

Samuel Sloan, doctoral student in speech communication from New Orleans, stars in the show as band member Mamadada. He said he hopes the audience comes away with a taste of the show’s surrealist themes and punk elements.

“Maybe it’s not something that you’re meant to get, but something that you’re meant to feel,” he said. “I think it’s more of an emotion, or more of a feeling that we’re pushing to come away with.”

Amanda Nelson, a graduate student in speech communication from Murphysboro, stars as band member Johnny Rotten, which is a reference to the Sex Pistols’ frontman. She said the character’s dedication is one of the most important parts of the show for her.

“If they didn’t have that dedication, none of this would make sense,” she said. “Each character has to go 200 percent into what you normally do, because you have to push that level that you normally have.”

“You’re Already Dead” does include adult themes of nudity and language, so the show is intended for a mature audience. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Kleinau Theater.