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January 16, 2014 Comments Off on Three Gay Themed Plays Take Center Stage This Month Views: 2527 #Theater and Stage, Arts & Entertainment, Stage

Three Gay Themed Plays Take Center Stage This Month

Stephen Black, Greg Lyle-Newton and Andrew Russell star in Strawshop's production of Larry Kramer's acclaimed THE NORMAL HEART now through February 15, 2014. Photo:  John Ulman

Stephen Black, Greg Lyle-Newton and Andrew Russell star in Strawshop’s production of Larry Kramer’s acclaimed THE NORMAL HEART now through February 15, 2014. Photo: John Ulman

The gays are taking over Seattle area theaters in January…alert Westboro Baptist Church.

No, we’re not talking about the ACTORS, though we’re guessing there’s quite a few of the pole smoking persuasion on these stages and behind the scenes, (in fact, we KNOW there is…) but about content. Three major productions are opening in the next couple of weeks; two of the shows are well known but one is brand spankin’ new.

We’ll start with the well known because one of them is opening tonight. Seattle’s beloved Strawberry Theatre Workshop took off 2013 from actual production to raise money and focus on moving into their new 12th Avenue Arts home which should happen in the fall of 2014. They’re back, at the Erickson Theatre on Capitol Hill, with their eagerly awaited staging of Larry Kramer’s seminal AIDS play from the Eighties, THE NORMAL HEART. Directed by Sheila Daniels and starring Greg Lyle-Newton, Amy Thone, Andrew Russell, Rob Burgess and Peter Crook. The play examines:

The Normal Heart follows the journey of gay activist Ned Weeks as he attempts to establish an AIDS awareness organization in a city with an active and thriving gay population in 1981. The government and medical community’s refusal to acknowledge the virus as a crisis presents Ned and his colleagues with obstacles, and raises questions of ethics and human rights in these leading institutions. The resistance from government officials and medical professionals is reminder that the first step of an international political movement is individual action. At The Normal Heart’s core is the story of one man who refused to let doctors, politicians, and the press bury the truth of an epidemic behind a wall of silence, but also emphasizes the need for education and compassion surrounding the life-threatening virus.

THE NORMAL HEART was a hugely successful AIDS themed play over 25 years ago but had started to fade from public consciousness, much like awareness of HIV/AIDS itself, but a major revival of the play on Broadway in 2011 won acclaim and Kramer’s most important work was firmly established as an American theater classic. And, after years of Hollywood limbo, the play was adapted and filmed for HBO and will debut later this year.

Strawshop’s production opens Thursday, January 16 and runs through February 15, 2014.

Alex Garnett and Jeff Orton star in Arts West's production of THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED. Photo: Michael Brunk

Alex Garnett and Jeff Orton star in Arts West’s production of THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED. Photo: Michael Brunk

Another well regarded gay themed play opens next week at ArtsWest in West Seattle, but one that’s a bit lighter in tone. Douglas Carter Beane’s THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED is the highly acclaimed comedy from 2006 that examines life in a Hollywood closet. It was a Tony winning hit that also created a lot of buzz for its use of full frontal male nudity that at one point featured current “The Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki displaying all his goods and services…

We’re not sure how “Full Monty” the cast is gonna go; we have our doubts. After all, it IS West Seattle, but the website does caution there will be MALE nudity so hope for perverted fans of naked attractive male actors springs eternal. And, this production does have a promising and highly attractive cast: EmilyRose Frasca, Alex Garnett, Heather Hawkins, and Jeff Orton and a talented director, Annie Lareau who is also Arts West’s eagerly awaited new Artistic Director who replaced Christopher Zinovitch who was suddenly deposed last summer after  a lackluster couple of years for Arts West. They have something to prove. (Also, to make up for some really horrible productions like “Next Fall” and “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”….)

It sounds like a win/win. Saucy gay comedy, hopefully nude actors, clever writing and a new artistic vision. We’re giving it a “You probably need to schlep over to West Seattle to Check It Out”. For tickets to THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED, go here.

Jack Taylor and Michael Winters star in the world premiere of Seattle Rep's A GREAT WILDERNESS. Photo: Alan Alabastro

Jack Taylor and Michael Winters star in the world premiere of Seattle Rep’s A GREAT WILDERNESS. Photo: Alan Alabastro

The newbie in this big queer trio is over at Seattle Rep and their world premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s A GREAT WILDERNESS a work commissioned by the Rep and work shopped last year during their New Play Festival. It’s very timely plot should resonate with many members of Seattle’s LGBTQ community. From the press release:

A Great Wilderness centers on Walt, a man who has devoted his life to counseling teenage boys out of their homosexuality at his remote Idaho wilderness camp. Pressured to accept one last client, his carefully constructed life begins to unravel with the arrival of Daniel. When Daniel disappears, Walt is forced to ask for help—both in finding the missing boy and reconciling his past with the present. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter examines themes of homosexuality, religion and aging with gentle clarity and enormous humanity.

The work features many elements from playwright Hunter’s own life, the least of which is its Idaho setting. Northern Idaho native Hunter explains: “For me, personally, I wrote this play as an exploration of what my life could have been. I went to a fundamentalist Christian school growing up, and came out when I was 17. I was faced with two options: self-actualization, being the person I was meant to be, and trying to figure out how to reconcile that with the religious life I had always known, which gave me great comfort and structure; or denying that part of myself and embracing my religious life for better or worse. I chose the first option, and this work is my examination of the latter.”

Seattle Rep’s Artistic Director Jerry Manning has this to say about the play and its writer:

“If you were to ask me which play I’m most excited about this season, it’s this one…it has been a great many years since I’ve read a script and thought ‘This playwright is the voice of his generation.’ I really believe that is the case with Sam. With Wilderness, he has created a beautiful and important story.”

The cast includes Michael Winters as Walt and Ballard High School student Jack Taylor making his Rep debut as Daniel. Acclaimed stage, screen and television actress Christine Estabrook also makes her Seattle Rep debut. The actress is probably best known for her tv roles on the first season of “American Horror Story”, “Desperate Housewives” and as Joan’s mother on “Mad Men”. Associate Artistic Director Braden Abraham directs the cast which also includes local Seattle actors, Gretchen Krich, Mari Nelson and R. Hamilton Wright.

There will also be a number of opportunities for the community to engage and ask questions about this production and its themes with pre and post show discussions. The following is a list of those opportunities; purchase tickets for the performances that will feature these specific discussions.

Stage Voices:

Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 at 6 p.m.: Playwright Samuel D. Hunter will be interviewed pre-show by Artistic Director Jerry Manning, with a preview performance following at 7:30 p.m.

Speak Up! Series of Post-Play Discussions:

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at 2 p.m.: The Very Reverend Robert V. Taylor, former Dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral and the first openly gay Episcopal dean in the U.S., will lead a discussion on the intersection of religion and homosexuality.

Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at 2 p.m.: Artistic Director Jerry Manning will host a panel featuring members of the gay community and their own reflections on themes presented in the play.

Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at 2 p.m.: In partnership with the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), Rep. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds) and Artistic Director Jerry Manning will discuss the controversial practice of conversion therapy and Liias’ proposed bill to ban it in Washington State.

Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at 2 p.m.: In partnership with Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), hear from community leaders in the fields of gay youth outreach, search and rescue response, elder care, and social work. Jerry Manning will moderate.

Seattle theater couldn’t get much gayer…maybe an all drag production of THE WOMEN starring Jinkx Monsoon, Ben DeLaCreme, Robbie Turner, Jackie Hell, Mama Tits and Sylvia O’Stayformore?

Yes, PLEASE!!!!!

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