Rock and a Hard Place

2006

Single channel video (22 minutes, DV and VHS video, stereo)

"JT Leroy was not the first of his kind. Anthony Godby Johnson was a thirteen-year-old boy who was reportedly severely abused and used as a sex slave by his parents and their friends, becoming infected with HIV in the process. He wrote a memoir, A Rock and a Hard Place , which detailed his miserable family life, his escape and learning to love again, and his battle with AIDS. Like JT, Tony also sought free therapy and editorial advice from established gay writers - in Tony's case, Armistead Maupin, who fictionalized his own experience into The Night Listener . In fact, the woman claiming to be his adopted mother had invented Tony, and the ruse was kept going by a coterie of conspirators who felt that America needed a Tony to believe in: he was the product of pure faith. Through its collage of voices and images that never fully add up to a complete picture, Joshua Thorson's portrayal of the case (also called A Rock and a Hard Place) perfectly captures how any potential real boy that may have existed becomes clouded in an impenetrable miasma of desires and projections."

— Jon Davies, "Bad Boys: What JT Leroy Knew About Being Fucked Up," March 2007.

The script for Rock and a Hard Place was done as a research-based cup-up piece, with fragments taken from Newsweek articles, Oprah specials, a piece in the New Yorker, and an Armistead Maupin novel, all relating to the phenomenon that was Anthony Godby Johnson. The actors read the fragments directly from the pastiche script in front of them, a gesture formally mirroring the main thematic issue of the believability of the characters' written and spoken words.


Music by Nick Hallett, Sara Marcus, and Joshua Thorson

With Kevin McGarry, Dale Hoyt, Jill Zimmerman, and Pat Palermo

Premiered at Rotterdam International Film Festival, 2006.