The Renegade Rip

Jack of All Trades

Phillip G. Kopp

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a series spotlighting BC and local artists who are talented but “unsigned” to any major company.

He’s the mastermind behind the first Internet comic book, two self-distributed albums and the first musical remake of the classic cult film, “Spider Baby,” and he still has time to clean the house.

Enrique Acosta isn’t your average musician/artist. He actually doesn’t even use the term. He’s an Action Folk Singer who takes his passion of music and comedy to a level rarely seen. After being a DJ at KBFK in Los Angeles, where he directed radio dramas in the early 1990s, Acosta moved to Bakersfield with his wife, Helen, who took a job at Bakersfield College.

Enrique Acosta attended BC in 1995 and graduated with an associate’s degree in theater arts where he was able to display his acting talents. However, Acosta didn’t see a future in teaching the craft and decided to commit to his greater passion: writing and performing music.

“To be a successful actor you have to do a bunch of parts you don’t like,” Acosta said. “I didn’t enjoy acting as much as I did singing because I got to be myself.”

Acosta quickly took his act on the road, touring everywhere from the West Coast to Canada. He took regular gigs in coffeehouses and performed at various concert halls and festivals around the United States. With his work becoming more popular, Acosta has been getting regular gigs in L.A. and Oregon. Even with all the work and touring, money was scarce. Acosta was bringing in as much as he was spending and had to cover his own expenses.

“A lot of people have this idea that before they perform they have to get paid,” Acosta said. “That’s the wrong attitude. You have to do it free for years and get the product out there. Blues Traveler took 10 years before they started attracting people.”

While working on his Web site, www.actionfolksinger.com, Acosta looked at the idea of making money through merchandise but didn’t want to do the same old hat and T-shirt routine. Instead, he collaborated with various artists and started his own Internet comic book, “Action Folk Singer.”

The comic illustrates Acosta on various adventures against super villains and finding out his cousin-in-law is a superhero. The comics display a range of artwork and comedy.

After Acosta’s Ring of Fire tour, he took a break and searched for a copy of the cult horror classic, “Spider Baby.” After watching the film, he became inspired to turn the old black-and-white film into a musical. Acosta got in touch with writer/director Jack Hill, who was open to the idea and gladly gave permission for the adaptation.

“Jack told me that a lot of people had come before me but never did it,” Acosta said. “He asked what made me think I could do it, and I told him I wasn’t making any money.”

Acosta pitched the idea to The Empty Space where it quickly got the “go ahead” and was soon cast. The musical extended Acosta’s career as a songwriter and got help from fellow musician Brent Simms, who wrote half the music.

“The play has been a nice change of pace,” Acosta said. “It’s a great cast, and everyone has been willing to listen to every silly idea I come up with. It’s been a great collaborative process.”

The play has been drawing good-sized crowds. It closes this weekend, and Acosta has not stopped with new ideas. Anyone attending on closing night Oct. 30 wearing the best costume can win “Spider Baby” merchandise.

Acosta has also been working on taping the performance and making it available for sale and rent on Netflix.com and has also been talking to L.A. theaters about bringing the show down there.

Acosta isn’t your average fame seeker who is constantly looking to chase down compliments and praise. He speaks about how there is not a lot of support in his work or riches, but he has never been in this for the money.

“I’ve never been good at making money,” Acosta said. “I leave that up to my wife, who is much better at it. She’s been my biggest supporter and what has kept me going all this time.”

Acosta is currently planning his upcoming tour after “Spider Baby” ends and is writing a play about 40 years of comic book history. Even through his ups and downs, Acosta still looks forward to a bright future.

“It’s kind of like wading in crap,” he said. “You often find a diamond, which is enough to keep you going.”

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Jack of All Trades