When Jo Carol Pierce wrote and performed the semi-autobiographical one-woman musical comedy Bad Girls Upset By The Truth 30 years ago, she became a local legend and the show became a cult classic. That might be a little surprising, considering Pierce says she never even really wanted to perform the show herself.
“I really wrote it for other people,” she says. “I mean, I love to compose, but I just didn’t really feel like I was the kind of performer that could pull it off.”
Not everyone agreed with Pierce about that -- despite not being a professional performer, she soon found herself with plenty of fans, including many local musicians. “When I first started doing it, there were all these young champion musicians in Austin who loved it.” Pierce says. “So they did a tribute record to me [even though] I was not dead or famous.”
Years later, though, a younger generation of Austin music fans – including actor and singer Lauren Meckel – remained largely unaware of Bad Girls. That changed for Meckel when she got her hands on an old videotape of the show.
“I discovered Bad Girls through my husband, actually. At the time he was a factchecker for Texas Monthly… and he was working on a piece about Jo Carol,” Meckel says. “[He] came home with a VHS of Bad Girls Upset By The Truth, and we just so happened to have a VHS player. And he said, ‘this is going to blow your mind.’”
Meckel’s husband was right. “I thought, this woman is a legend and everyone should know about her,” she says. “Especially young people who are growing up in Texas listening to music… and feeling like you have a grip on the Texas music scene and then having something like this come out of the woodwork and just blow your mind. I mean, it was actually life changing for me because I then a year later decided I wanted to revive it.”
Meckel reached out to Pierce via email and was surprised that she didn’t need to do much convincing. “I mean, it didn’t take any persuasion at all,” Pierce says. “I just knew. ‘Cause I’ve tried to get it out to young women before – [I] really always saw a young woman doing it – but never found the right one. Never found one that I thought could pull off all the humor as well as the sadness.”
Pierce says she’s loving seeing Meckel’s revival of Bad Girls. “She’s so different from the way I did it, and it was really surprising and disorienting for about two minutes,” Pierce says. “She just does the show with everything she has. It’s amazing. And I just felt like this was what I’d always been looking for.”
Meckel says she’s tried to create her own version of the show without changing its essential Jo-Carol-ness. “It has become something – I think and I hope – very true to the essence of what the play really is,” Meckel says. “You fall in love with this person who is really struggling and you want her to succeed even though the things that she does might not necessarily be beneficial to herself and the people around her.”
Pierce chuckles at Meckel’s description of the character. “My favorite thing to elicit from an audience is disturbed laughter,” she says. “That’s what I’m after.”
Bad Girls Upset By The Truth will be performed March 10 at Hyde Park Theatre, March 21 at Spider House Ballroom, and March 29 at The Continental Club.
From the producers of Bad Girls Upset By The Truth:
Although actor Lauren Meckel, director Marea Colombo and Jo Carol Pierce are excited to bring "Bad Girls Upset by the Truth" back to Austin, the well-being of the audience is of the utmost importance. In light of the spread of COVID-19 and the advice from the City of Austin regarding large gatherings, their team has decided to postpone all March shows until later this year.
The Bad Girls crew is currently working with Spider House Ballroom and the Continental Gallery to schedule new dates. Tickets will be valid for these shows. More information to be announced.
As Jo Carol said today, "We will come galloping back!"