The Smell of Teen Spirit: Theater to Resurrect Kurt Cobain

Categories: Theater
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Chances are if you're between the ages of 28 to 38 you were a fan of Seattle band Nirvana. So it's likely that your teenage reality was significantly shaken when you heard that frontman Kurt Cobain put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger on April 5, 1994 -- 17 years ago today.

Every year since his death, a local group of artists, deeply affected by Cobain's legacy, present The Smell of Teen Spirit, a live theater project commemorating his death and the "impossibility of his suicide."


The play, written by Karin Valecillos, revolves around Cobain's fans after the alleged suicide, and incorporates video, music, photos, and theater to create a very intimate relationship between actors and audience. Director Abiram Brizuela says it is important to keep Cobain alive.

"Kurt Cobain was the leader of a generation that learned to say what they thought with no censorship. Unfortunately, 17 years later that same generation which once yelled and roared euphorically at Nirvana's concerts is now sitting behind an office desk working for the establishment more than eight hours daily. I think it is time to bring back the smell of the teenager spirit."

To Abiram, Cobain and his music are still relevant almost 20 years later. We spoke to him about The Smells of Teen Spirit.

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New Times: How did the show come about?

Abiram Brizuela: The show started on April 8, 1994 when an electrician found Kurt's body lying on the floor with his head blown out by a gunshot supposedly made by Kurt himself. Since that day, the media hold the theory of suicide. However, millions of fans affirm there is a conspiracy behind Kurt's death. On the basis of this controversy, Karin Valecillos wrote a very intimate piece about the life of Nirvana's fans after the death of Kurt.

How would you describe the show?

The Smell of Teen Spirit is an unusual play that evolves in a studio apartment without time changes and the audience sitting at a short distance from actors, thus creating a very close audience-actor relationship. In general, it is a very emotive and touching piece of work. In fact, we are planning to make an indie film -- well, if Courtney allows us to, ha, ha. In any case, we are staging this play as a co-production with Live! School of Music so there will be lots of good music and, very probably, live music.

Why is important to do a play about Kurt Cobain's death almost 20 years later?

We feel we owe this to the current generation of teenagers. It seems as if emotions are just something of the past, as if the right to express yourself has become something ridiculous. I am firmly convinced that the human being must question everything that happens to him, around him, to challenge what is said to him, and to be rebel enough as to think by himself and come out to shout to the world what he thinks.

Do you think Courtney Love killed Kurt?

Well, the answer to that question has been changing as time passes by. During the pre-production of our play, I contacted some of the people who were closest to Kurt and Courtney, including Jennifer Precious Finch and Gil Chaya. After talking with Gil, I understood that Kurt had lots of reasons for killing himself. He was very, very depressed, with a broken relationship and a crushing drug problem. I think there are too many unanswered questions in Kurt's case and, for the sake of justice and out of respect to the memory of Kurt and his fans -- including Courtney, the case should be re-opened in order to clear up a number of issues that remain unsolved. In any case, the death of Kurt is still regrettable, no matter who the person or persons responsible for it may be.

What do you think about the suicide letter he left?

It is a beautiful and emotive song, and it was written by Kurt, no doubt about it. Now, the question here is, is it really a suicide note?

Did you ever get to see him perform live?

Unfortunately, I didn't. I grew up in a poor neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela. For teenagers like me, it was absolutely impossible to travel to the U.S. to see a rock concert. We just watched them on the MTV channel or got together at the place of those friends who got a hold on illegal videos of rock concerts.

What is the most important aspect of the legacy that Kurt left behind?

After all these years, the smell of teen spirit still remains the same -- the need to be rebel, the call for questioning everything. Kurt left a battery of ideals that are worth bringing about once again. In fact, after his death, many fans came forward adopting his ideals as a life philosophy. As far as there is youth, Kurt's legacy will be alive. It surprises me that teenagers who were born in the year Kurt died find a reason for living in his music.

The premiere is planned for the fall of 2011. Details regarding venue, date, and time, have not been finalized yet. Auditions are already being held for males and females between the ages of 25 and 35. Visit thesmellofteenspirit.com. To contribute to the project, visit their Kickstarter page.

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5 comments
Carolina G
Carolina G

Thank you so much to The New Times for supporting this project!

Juanpetrucci
Juanpetrucci

Can't wait to see it! by the way there's a typo on the link to Live! school of music. please fix it.

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley changed my life with their music. I paid homage to them on the anniversary of their death today with my portraits of them on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot... Drop by and tell me how you were influenced by their work and lives.

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