For fans of the Netflix documentary, “Wild, Wild Country,” who have always wondered what happened to the 64,000-acre central Oregon ranch that acted as a home base for the Rajneeshees’ cult — yes, the ones who tried to poison residents of The Dalles, Oregon, by spiking local salad bars with salmonella — Camas native Simone McAlonen has got a story for you.
“I had been doing comedy for about five years, living in L.A. and was super involved with the Groundlings Theater, so doing a lot of acting, writing, standup and storytelling when ‘Wild, Wild Country’ came out,” McAlonen said.
The documentary reminded McAlonen, a 2005 Camas High graduate, of a strange chapter in her life: the time her father got a job running a Christian youth summer camp in central Oregon and moved the whole family to the property during McAlonen’s middle school years. The story wouldn’t have been so strange if not for the fact that the Christian summer camp was located on the former Rajneeshpuram, where cult members had once plotted murderous deeds.
McAlonen, who had been keeping a diary since the age of 6, knew she needed to re-read her middle school diaries and see what her 12-year-old self had to say about this chapter of her life.
“I’d expected to read the diary entries and write a play,” she said.
Instead, she realized she’d already struck comedic gold.
“I realized I couldn’t write something better than my 12-year-old self,” McAlonen said.
She took pieces of her diary entries and did a reading at a small cabaret theater in Los Angeles. The show sold out both nights.