Stories The Jammer by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Published on January 25th, 2013 | by DerbyLife

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The Jammer by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Derby Goes Back in Time with The Jammer

By Roxy Dallas

The Jammer opens in 1958 Bushwick, Brooklyn, just as Jack Lovington’s roller derby dreams are coming true. It just so happens that 55 years after Jack, I am also living out my roller derby dreams in Brooklyn. Jack’s New York Bombers are my Gotham Girls, and I’ve never been paid to tour with a professional team, but like Jack I am finding my footing in a tougher, faster world. Like so many of us, Lovington (Patch Darragh) just can’t ignore the call of the track.

Though the roller derby of the 1950’s was a co-ed affair, with male and female squads alternating jams, I couldn’t help but be surprised by a male lead in a roller derby story. I’ve grown so accustomed to the female superheroes of modern derby that I found myself watching the rollergirls of The Jammer closely. In their supporting roles, Beth Nutterman, Cindy Gums, Lindy Batello (freshly sprung from a psychiatric hospital), and Carol “Big Tickets” Moreland (a fiesty cardboard cut out) won my heart.

The brash ladies of 1958 would fit in nicely on the teams of 2013. When Lindy hops on the tour bus, still in her hospital gown, and has some choice words for Cindy Gums, Gums lets Lindy know that she’ll “rip your heart out of your chest and eat it in front of your face.” Lindy’s response? “I like her.”

The fixed, farcical boxing match on skates that is roller derby in The Jammer is far removed from the blood, sweat, and tears athletics of today, but any modern derby girl (or guy) can sympathize with Jack’s need to roll. The emotional roller coaster of chasing your derby dreams is familiar to anyone who has gone to a boot camp, tried out for a league, or tried to pass their minimum skill tests.

While watching Jack’s story unfold you are rooting for him, but you are also rooting for roller derby itself. As the actors “skate” out during bout scenes, you can see in their exaggerated strides the drills we use to find and hone our edges. Perhaps it is foreshadowing of the derby revolution to come when their coach, a slick businessman played by Billy Eugene Jones, lets Jack know that roller derby is a show not a sport, rigged not real: “You want to know what real gets you? Pain.” We can all attest to the pain of training, of losing a bout, or of taking a ride on an opposing blocker’s hip check.

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This isn’t a play just for the roller derby initiated, it’s a hilarious and charming 90 minutes that can easily be appreciated by anyone who has ever made sacrifices for their passions or just likes a good laugh. In fact, it can serve as a great icebreaker for, say, a skeptical parent or friend who’s been putting off seeing an actual bout, as long as you let them know to expect less elbows to the face. A handy program insert lists local women’s and men’s leagues to check out. Go early to check out the exhibit of old-time roller derby stars, gear, and photos beautifully displaying the history of people becoming enthralled by the “nightmare of speed on wheels and mixed mayhem!”

“The Jammer” runs through Feb. 10 at the Atlantic Stage 2, 330 W. 16th St.

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