Artist Experience: John Jarvis – What were you doing at 27?
John Jarvis, who is currently performing in Orlando, reflects on an unbelievable adventure from when he was 27 years old! Hitting the stage shortly after Orlando is a brand new concert, The 27 Club, capturing the music, stories, and legacies from a staggering number of musicians who tragically left us at the age of 27. We are thankful John is here today to tell this tale…
When I was 27 I traveled to Peru and the Amazon basin in search of, well, everything. It was in the off season of my time at Stratford and I was about to play Silvius in John Hirsch’s brilliant production of As You Like It. It was a golden time indeed.
In the town of Cusco, in the Peruvian mountains, I found a guide, a man by the name of Juan who agreed to take me up the Rio Maldonado to a camp in the jungle. It was a short plane ride down to the river’s edge. Juan, I think he had hoped to find a bigger group of people to take up the river, but he only had me. We settled on things and headed off in one of those flat bottomed boats with a hand held motor. It was four hours of the real deal, villages of people gazing, going about their lives living in the forest, and connected only by the great river.
On the fourth day of endless, amazing things we were cutting our way through the jungle, when we came upon a dugout canoe. Juan instructed me to take my wallet out and wrap it in a big green leaf and then bury it by a tree and leave it there until we returned from a nearby Village, where a meal awaited us. We stepped into the canoe and pushed quietly out through the thick branches and leaves. Then, suddenly, Kaboom! A shot gun blast! Then quiet. Then a deep voice rumbled from the depths of the forest. “Guaaaaatipa!” something like that. “Back, back amigo” Juan murmured with a whispered intensity. We arrived back on shore and looked up to see two men staring down at us. “Juan!” the older one says in that deep assured forest voice. “It’s good to see you. Don’t take my canoe! But come with me for some wild boar!” A great guffaw and off the two men go down the trail and off we go in pursuit of where our hunger would take us. Now, I had been a vegetarian for ten years at that point so you can imagine my surprise when I saw the wild boar being brought into the village on a big pole over two sets of shoulders. “Go with them to the river and watch them clean it” the head man says. The family gathered in the shallows of the water and with surprising ease the dad takes a large machete and begins the task of cutting the most extraordinary lines through the hide. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen – children gently taking the heart and liver in their hands and washing them before passing them to mum for her to do her thing. Every organ carefully preserved and the meat cut and stored. I was overwhelmed and perhaps never more so than when I was sitting down to a lovely meal in the hot afternoon with a plate of fresh roasted boar crackling before me. With smiles around the table we all dug in with relish and great delight.
It was something else I’ll tell ya. Now that story occurred a week after I turned 27.
– John Jarvis