Monday, October 19, 2009

Artsies and The New Century

Posted by Bruce Miller
Everyone seems to have had a grand time last night at the RTCC Awards presentation at the historic Empire.

For me it was a little like hosting a party for 500 people in my home. We almost immediately had to restock the toilet paper and paper towels in the ladies room. (Thanks Erin and Jackie for the heads up.) I sat through the entire evening praying that no one would fall into the pit. (Note to self: next year, make sure that railings are on BOTH sides of the stairs leading to the stage.)

The mics seemed to work almost perfectly (give or take about 2 seconds of feedback), which was a miracle considering there was virtually no rehearsal. The stars twinkled with maybe a little too much enthusiasm. (Was it just me or did they start twinkling even faster whenever Audra Honaker came onstage?)

Many thanks to all who helped to make it happen without a major hitch.

Prior to the Artsies, I headed out west for The New Century and the Triangle Players. Here’s what I liked:

* Getting to see HATTheatre for the first time. I know, I should be embarrassed and I am. HATTheatre has occupied its intimate headquarters since sometime in the 90s. I’m ashamed this is the first time I’ve made it to the western border of Henrico County to enjoy the space. I love seeing new theatrical digs in Greater Richmond—even if they’re “new” only to me.

* Experiencing first hand and for the first time the expert comic timing of Annie Zannetti. This woman is a pro at delivering a punch line for maximum effect. She absolutely knows what she’s doing. I look forward to the honor of working with Annie sometime in the future, should I be so lucky.

* Every word that came out of Jackie Jones’s beautiful mouth. Not only do I love Jackie Jones, I also preferred her section of the play, entitled Crafty. It was sweet, and warm, and funny. This says more about me than it does about the rest of the play or the performances.

To be honest, I didn’t “get” about 25% of the rest of the play. I know; I’m old and unusually un-hip. Every time I trick myself into believing I’m “with it,” I discover I’m not. I sort of hate to admit it, but with the exception of Crafty, the playlets in The New Century are more “insider” and “New York” than I am. I didn’t really understand about a quarter of what they were talking about. All right—maybe a fifth.

A catchphrase much bandied about at Richmond Triangle Players is “if we didn’t do it, who would?” In the case of The New Century, and many other Triangle productions as well, I think they’re right. And that's all to the good.

Other theatres in town have produced more “mainstream” theatre with gay themes. Barksdale and Theatre IV have presented The Boys in the Band, The Normal Heart, The Fifth of July, Love Valour Compassion, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Laramie Project (co-produced, Phil Crosby reminds me, with RTP), and The Little Dog Laughed. The Firehouse has done Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The New Century, in my opinion, is a little more “niche” than any of those plays. If Triangle Players didn’t do it, I expect no other theatre in Richmond would.

I also loved the exuberance of my buddies Michael Hawke and Matt Hackman, who threw caution to the wind and gave everything they’ve got to their two roles.

If you love gay comedies, don’t miss The New Century. It’s loaded with laughs, leather and lasciviousness. It's not for everybody, but what theatre is? I applaud Richmond Triangle Players for making professional theatre in Richmond broader and more inclusive.

--Bruce Miller


Philip Crosby said...

Bruce -- Thanks for coming to "The New Century"! No one is as supportive of Richmond theater as you are and it is much appreciated.

Just want to point out that "If we didn't do it, who would?" is RTP's catchphrase (not Firehouse's) and that RTP was a co-producer on Barksdale's "The Laramie Project" -- probably one of the best productions I have ever seen in town. Same there were no Artsies then!

Keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Exactly what is a "gay comedy" I think you do a huge diservice to the Triangle Players and to the gay community when you make a statement like "if you enjoy gay comedies".Yes the show was gay oriented, however you fail to mention the deeper meanings of the play. A mother coming to acceptance of her gay son so wonderfully portrayed by Jackie Jones. Or even the character of Sean who though appearing dim witted is the one that truly realizes that everyone has to be true to themselves. Now with that all said I agree that this is not of of Rudicks best plays by far, but please do not label plays as "gay comedies" .

Bruce Miller said...

Thanks, Phil, for catching my mistake. I meant to say "Richmond Triangle Players" and instead I stupidly typed "Firehouse." It was early in the morning and I was rushing to make it to staff meeting on time.

Thanks also for reminding me that RTP co-produced "The Laramie Project." Without RTP joining as a co-producer, we would not have been able to put together the financing we needed to do the show.

I've corrected both mistakes in the original post.

Regarding my calling "The New Century" a "gay comedy," I appreciate and respect the perspective of the anonymous commenter. But I don't agree with the perspective. I never intended to marginalize the play by applying a label to it. From my perspective, the term "gay comedy" is one that can be worn as a badge of honor.

I suspect our difference of opinion is based on our ages. I'm 59. I lived through the period when out gay playwrights began to embrace the label "gay playwright" as a source of pride, and began to champion "gay theatre" and "gay plays" as their right, a victory won after a long-fought battle.

Since then, things have become more "politically correct."

Just for the heck of it, I Googled "Paul Rudnick" (the playwright of "The New Century") and the label "gay theatre." I immediately found this Rudnick quote from an April 1999 issue of the Boston Phoenix. Rudnick was asked by his interviewer about the chances that plays by out gay artists had in the commercial marketplace.

"I really think the chances are good," Rudnick said. "Gay plays are no longer seen as marginal. Now they're seen as plays, good or bad."

Intending no disrespect, I'm keeping my original phrasing the way it is. If it's good enough for Paul Rudnick himself, then it's good enough for me.


Anonymous said...

Paul Rudnick = gay playwright.

He writes gay plays.

Deal with it.