For good luck before a show, people usually tell actors to break a leg. Rahul Joshi took the expression one step further and broke his arm.
The 23-year-old actor was rehearsing a superkick, a move where a wrestler does a high kick to the head of another while keeping one foot planted on the ground, Jan. 14. Both of his feet slipped out from under him; he fell to the ground and landed on his forearm.
At first, he thought he injured a ligament. But after about 10 minutes, Joshi realized it was more severe. His doctor told him he had broken his radius a day later and would need to get a metal plate put in his arm. He underwent the surgery Jan. 16.
Joshi, whose one-year work visa expires this upcoming March, was unsure if he could go through with the show. Soon, it became a no-brainer: He told The Hippodrome Theatre artistic director Stephanie Lynge he wanted to perform.
“I was just stressed about ‘Will I be able to get to do the show? Will I leave the U.S. having not done everything I wanted to do?’” he said.
Joshi plays the role of a professional wrestler in “The Elaborate Entry of Chad Deity,” a dramatic comedy that follows a group of professional wrestlers and their experiences with capitalism, masculinity and how racial stereotypes are exploited in America. The play will run at the Hippodrome from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12.
Joshi plays Vigneshwar “VP” Paduar, a professional wrestler in the 2010 Pulitzer-finalist play written by Kristoffer Diaz.
The 45-year-old playwright specifies in the script that the actors need to be actually wrestling and not stage fighting. To adhere to the authenticity, the Hippodrome built a 12 foot by 12 foot wrestling ring to use as the stage of the play and had professional wrestlers teach the actors how to do moves safely and authentically.
Joshi’s message to Lynge was clear.
“Regardless of what happens, I am willing to do what needs to be done,” he told her.
He returned to rehearsals the day after surgery, Joshi said. To accommodate for his safety, they had to alter some harder movements.
The work environment among the production team helped Joshi persevere through the injury, he said. He knew he could be honest with the team about his limits.
“It gave me courage to be able to do it,” he said, “because I know that there's such a strong safety net belonging and that safety net is everyone in production and is everyone in the cast.”
Joshi wasn’t the only one moved by that sense of belonging.
Jose DeGracia, a professional wrestler and actor who plays “The Bad Guy” in the play, also felt the power of this supportive environment and saw how that energy carried into the play itself.
DeGracia didn’t ever consider himself to be a manly man, he said. Now in his 30s, he recognizes the difficulty of having adult friends.
His experience in “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” has shown him how important modern male friendships can be, both in the show and in his real life.
“Male friendship is the basis for the majority of this play,” DeGracia said. “There are things that guys can be — they don't have to be competitive with one another and they can find support in their male friendships.”
Like their on-stage characters, the actors have found that support and friendship in each other.
Jonathan Bangs, who plays Chad Deity, noticed the irony of wrestling strengthening the relationships between the actors. As they bodyslam each other, it could be easy to assume animosity from the outside — in reality, it does the complete opposite, he said.
“It unifies you so strongly and you’re looking out for each other,” Bangs said.
The relationships among the actors directly mirror the relationships among the characters they play. Like the actors, the main characters have to put on a show and wrestle each other, but they have a more complex relationship outside of the ring.
The director, Alberto Bonilla, said he recognized the essential role of male friendships in the play and how they make the characters three-dimensional.
“When you're watching the wrestling match, it's a macho man thing,” Bonilla said. “Then when we get to the backstage, we see the friendship these two have. They're very vulnerable about their dreams, about their hopes, about wanting to change society.”
That trust continues when they’re out of character; it’s what allows the actors to perform these moves as safely as possible.
“It's about me looking good,” Joshi said. “It's about the other guy making me look good. And both of us have to be invested in the same thing. There's very little scope for ego or any of the other masculine themes.”
Although Joshi won’t be fully recovered for another four to six weeks, he looks forward to performing as VP — broken radius and all.
“It's going to be really fun,” Joshi said. “I almost don't feel the pain anymore.”
Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenWhid.
Lauren Whiddon is a UF journalism senior and the multimedia editor. When she's not writing she is updating her Letterboxd account or reading classic literature.