A student of the writers Charles Gaines and Kurt Vonnegut, Talen has staged experimental plays, published essays and poems in Philadelphia, New York and California. At Life On the Water, a theater in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Theater, Talen presented artists such as Spalding Gray, Mabou Mines, David Cale, B. D. Wong, Holly Hughes, William Yellow Robe, the Red Eye Collective, Reno, John Trudeau, and Danny Glover reciting the works of Langston Hughes. This experience in producing led him to the confessional monologue. After studying with the cleric Reverend Sidney Lanier, Talen invented “a new kind of American preacher.” Lanier, the cousin of Tennessee Williams and subject of the work Night of the Iguana, was familiar with the re-staging of biblical narratives.
Talen moved to New York City in 1994, where the experimental preacher began his career with the other sidewalk preachers on Times Square. Specializing in exorcisms of sweatshop companies, and opposing the Disneyfication of the neighborhood, he set up his portable pulpit at the door of the Mouse. Soon, “moral soap operas,” also called “Retail Interventions” were staged inside the chain stores, principally Disney, the GAP, Nike, and Starbucks. The preacher was soon accompanied by singers, and began staging whole “Worships” in the tradition of ritual-based interactive plays of the day such as Tony and Tina's Wedding, Late-Nite Catechism, Blue Man Group and de la Guarda. The Reverend's developing theology became the “Church of Stop Shopping,” founded on a resistance to consumerism and a defense of independent shops, community gardens and local economies.
Under the direction of Savitri D, the Reverend and Choir have toured in Europe, Africa, South America and throughout North America. William Talen has won the OBIE Award, The Dramalogue Award, The Historic Districts Council's Preservation Award (for leading demonstrations to save Manhattan's Poe House) and has been jailed more than 50 times.