Since 1968, Wichita journalists have slammed local, state and federal leaders and business leaders with impunity in a turkey of an affair called Gridiron, proving that government of, by and for the people can be absurd.
The 2015 satire of Gridiron is scheduled for April 16, 17 and 18 at its home of the last 14 years, the historic Orpheum Theatre. This year’s show is dedicated to the late randy Brown, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a fixture among Wichita media for four decades—newspaper, television and later teaching future scribes at Wichita State University.
Randy spent nearly 30 years (on and off) as master of ceremonies for Gridiron, always starting the show with. “Let’s get this turkey in the air.” So, in his honor the theme of the 2015 show is “Let’s Get this Turkey in the Air.”
Gridiron is staged by the Kansas Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for the purpose of generating cash to provide journalism scholarships to deserving and talented Kansas college students.
But for full disclosure, the journalists performing in the show get no small degree of pleasure poking fun at those in power.
And make no mistake, people whose turn it is to be in power (political office is a temporary job) attend the show, if for nothing else to see if they are the topic of Gridiron jokes and breathing a sigh of relief when the cast ignores them.
Other political leaders have enjoyed starring roles courtesy of Gridiron cast members: the late Gov. Joan Finney, former Kansas Governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Presidents Bill Clinton, ronald reagan and George W. Bush, Kansas congressional representatives, Wichita mayors and City Council, the Wichita school board, the Sedgwick County Commission and, of course, Gov. Sam Brownback and captains of industry. The qualification to be a topic of Gridiron humor? Simple. The bar is not high. Be a newsmaker.
Many of these same folks have been the Gridiron mystery guest—a segment that has brought memorable moments over the years.
The cast? Just average Wichita media folks (and some others). Among the stars of this year’s show: Bonnie Bing (the ageless Fairy Tale Princess), Ted Woodward, Bucky Walters, Sierra Scott and others.
And while the show will poke fun at leaders and us, the purpose of the show is summed up in the lyrics of the closing song: “Your money trains more just like us!”
Forrest Gossett is a recovering journalist, former national board member of the Society of Professional Journalists and former weak player in Gridiron who now works in the St. Louis area as a corporate communicator.
8 p.m. April 16, 17 and 18
Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway
Tickets: $24 -$32 through Select a Seat, selectaseat.com