Talen was surprised to learn he had been chosen to receive the Alpert Award in Theatre. He doesn't think of himself as a solo theatre artist. He says theatre is an art form that has disappeared from public life.
Along with his partner, director Savitri D., and the Church of Life After Shopping, their choir, Talen sees Reverend Billy's work as a series of actions, creative campaigns, interventions, and responses to the hijacking of American Democracy.
In the 1980's and early '90's, before going on to write and perform his own monologues, Talen produced avant-garde theatre artists such as Mabou Mines, Holly Hughes, and Spalding Gray at Life on the Water theatre at Fort Mason in San Francisco. His life changed when he met Reverend Sidney Lanier.
Below is a conversation with Reverend Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping, Reverend Sidney Lanier (co-founder of the Church of Life After Shopping and the Foundation for Conscious Evolution) and Santa Barbara radio station KCSB programmers Jill Cloutier and Ted Coe. On September 28th, 2008 they discussed the collapse of the wall between church and theatre, how the Church of Life After Shopping was born, whether or not the “Shopacalypse” is upon us and much more.
“You're basically a Calvinist preacher in disguise,” the minister, theatre producer, and cousin of Tennessee Williams, told him, coaxing Talen out of his “life-long resistance to all things religious.“ He began to study the work of prophetic social commentators including Jesus and Gandhi as well as that of performers Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor, and Lenny Bruce. Listening to televangelists and street preachers, and moving to New York, he found “the music in talking.”
"I suddenly started seeing stages everywhere, scaffolding, windows, stoops, sidewalks -- the whole city is made up of stages,  and audiences appear, and dramas unwind..." Billy Talen