Friday, October 12, 2007

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam'

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam' www.azstarnet.com ®

Published: 10.12.2007

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam'

By Levi J. Long

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

When Dean Cameron got an e-mail from a Nigerian con artist, the actor didn't immediately trash the forwarded scam letter. Instead, Cameron turned the tables on the con man, wrote him back and turned nine months worth of e-mails into "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam," a comedy detailing the unusual correspondence.

After more than 150 national and international shows, Tucson audiences can get a glimpse at the curious e-mail messages that make up "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam," opening Thursday for a three-night run at The Invisible Theatre.

In the spirit of the play, the Star conducted its interview through a chat program with Cameron from his Los Angeles home.

Why did you decide to write the play based on the e-mail?

"Initially, I'd just been sending the e-mails to friends. After a couple of months, they were telling me 'You must do something more with these . . . a play or something.' So I did. We tested a version which was way too long but was a proof, a concept sort-of-thing. When the correspondence finished, I trimmed quite a bit of it and worked with Paul Provenza, the director, on the actual script."

Everyone I know has gotten one of those spam e-mails. What's been the reaction from audiences when they hear about the show?

"It's odd. When I first began performing the show a couple of years ago, I had to spend quite a bit of the intro explaining the e-mail and the scam, as not many people were familiar with it. Now folks are quite aware of the '419 scam,' as we all get several of them a week. So when someone says 'Nigerian Scam' they know what I'm talking about. But to answer your question more specifically, they love it. They're always amazed that I was able to keep this guy on the line for nearly a year, but when you see the show or read the correspondence, you see that the 'Dean Cameron' (character) I was writing as was just crazy enough and just rich enough for the scammer to hang in there."

And for nine months, "Dean Cameron" was a sexually confused Florida millionaire, who loved cats and had retained Perry Mason as a personal attorney. Why and how did you come up with this persona?

"Only my shrink understands; it just happened."

Was it hard to keep that up?

"No, frighteningly simple. The difficulty was in keeping stuff straight, especially at one point (when) I forwarded a scam e-mail from another scammer to 'Ibrahim,' my original scammer. . . . 'Ibrahim' began posing as this other scammer so then I began writing 'Ibrahim' posing as 'Donald,' knowing that it's 'Ibrahim' . . . and now as the scam has evolved with others, I have 'Perry Mason' working with another person to scam me out of money. . . ."

Wow, that's about as complicated as a 'Days of Our Lives' storyline. How did you guys communicate?

"E-mail. . . . Eventually I called 'Ibrahim' and was talking with the voice of 'Dean' and the voice of 'Perry Mason.' I also have been talking to a woman in Peru who apparently loves me and just needs a few thousand bucks for her father's operation so I called her. It's nuts. I also sent 'Ibrahim' a package of goodies."

So what's become of the real "Ibrahim" and does he know about "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam" production?

"He does now. About six months ago, I sent him a press pack for the show. What's interesting is this: He still thinks that Perry Mason is real. So Perry has been working with 'Ibrahim' on his writer royalties for the show as, technically, 'Ibrahim' wrote half of the show. His (real) name is Josef."

Preview

• "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam"
• Presented by: The Invisible Theatre.
• Playwright: Dean Cameron.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. next Friday-Saturday.
• Where: The Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $25, discounts available.
• Information: 882-9721 or www.invisibletheatre.com.
• Running time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
• To find out more about 419 scams: Go to www.419eater.com.
● Contact reporter Levi J. Long at 573-4179 or llong@azstarnet.com.
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