WATCH: Steve Bannon's play about the 1992 Los Angeles riots is acted out by Hollywood stars

This has to be seen to be believed

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 1, 2017 1:15PM (EDT)

Steve Bannon   (Getty/Mike Theiler)
Steve Bannon (Getty/Mike Theiler)

Steve Bannon once wrote a rap musical about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and now someone has found the script.

The riots — sparked by the acquittal of four police officers charged with using excessive force despite their having been videotaped beating an African-American man named Rodney King — still represent a sensitive subject in the history of American race relations. Considering that Bannon is well-known for surrounding himself with outspoken racists, there has been a lot of speculation about what this play might have actually been like.

Well, it's as bad as you fear. Now This News got ahold of the script and did a table read of the work.

Bannon co-authored the play, titled "The Thing I Am," with Julia Jones in the late 1990s, according to a report by The New York Times. The play contains more than its fair share of wince-inducing moments, as Bannon and Jones tried to force their caricature of inner-city slang onto the Shakespearean dialogue of the tragedy "Coriolanus," which in turn is based on the historical works of Plutarch. Here is one choice example:

"They say! Fuck they! They hang out shooting pool and think they know what’s going down — who’s up, who’s out, who bounds, and if there’s crack enough. If I had my way, I’d make a quarry of these slaves."

At the same time, the hero of Shakespeare's original play (the titular Coriolanus) is made into a gang leader for the Bloods. This is intriguing to say the least, given that Bannon presided over Breitbart during the era when it used "black crime" as a separate tag. Because the complex Roman politics at work in the story of "Coriolanus" do offer a great analogy with the sociological dynamics that led to the Rodney King riots, the play's political message is somewhat muddled. In the end, it seems less like a profound political statement than something more exploitative — an attempt to create a histrionic, action-packed play based on a real-life tragedy that possesses only the pretense of intellectual respectability.

"When I heard that NowThis had the Bannon script and was planning a stage reading, I got really excited about it and had to be involved," Rob Corddry said in a Now This press release. "It’s one thing for NowThis to have been able to uncover the script, but to film it is another thing entirely. It’s pretty eye-opening to imagine Steve Bannon writing this. People need to see it to believe it."

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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump L. A. Riots Shakespeare Steve Bannon