by Richard Dodds
The daily headlines are a sorrowful place to dwell these days, and the governor of Texas and candidate for president just lent cause for another tear to roll down many American faces. "Rick Perry urges New Hampshire to repeal gay marriage law," report news services as our possible future leader goes stumping for votes in the Granite State. That the reversing of civil rights gains can be proffered as a noble cause by a credible contender for the White House makes two upcoming productions that reflect back on gay-rights pioneers seem particularly relevant.
At New Conservatory Theatre Center, the founding of the Mattachine Society by Harry Hay and his colleagues in 1950 is at the heart of Jon Maran's critically acclaimed The Temperamentals, starting performances Nov. 4. The following week, Theatre Rhinoceros will open its season with an encore production of SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience, John Fisher's meta-theatrical look at San Francisco's own queer with a cause who shook up the city's repressive ways in the 1950s and 60s.
The Temperamentals, first staged in New York in 2009, takes its name from the term Hay borrowed from 1920s slang for homosexuals. An ardent member of the Communist Party, he formulated a manifesto that identified homosexuals as an oppressed minority. Playwright Maran, best known for the Pulitzer-nominated Wicked Little Things, explores the creation of the Mattachine Society largely through the personalities of and romantic relationship between Hay and rising fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, as well as the men they try to recruit for an organization originally dubbed Bachelors Anonymous.
F. Allen Sawyer is directing NCTC's production with a cast that includes Steve Salzman as Harry Hay and J. Conrad Frank as Rudi Gernreich, with Justin Gilman, Seth Thygesen, and Jeffrey Hoffman as a variety of other characters, including Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli, who recommends retention of the discreet coded language long used by homosexuals.
The Temperamentals will run through Dec. 18 at NCTC. Tickets are available at 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org.
Theatre Rhino's Artistic Director John Fisher first staged his play SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience at Mama Calizo's Voice Factory in the spring of 2010. He wanted to return to the play, hoping to broaden its audience and also to improve the play itself. "I'm going to tighten it up, make it better," he said when Rhino's new season was announced.
The venue this time is the SoMa performance space CounterPulse, though much of the original cast will be back. Tom Orr and Jean Franco, who play variations on Sarria, will be joined in this outing by Carlos Barrera as the third Sarria persona in a production that not only tells Sarria's story but also plays with the conventions of live theater.
Donald Currie is also back as a kind of surrogate for the audience as he observes, at first with disdain, and then with respect, Sarria's flamboyant journey from a waiter and drag performer at the Black Cat Cafe to politician and gay rights defender who goes on to found the Imperial Court System, which became a major fundraiser when AIDS struck the city.
SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience will run Nov. 10-27 at CounterPulse. Tickets info at www.therhino.org or (800) 838-3006.
All about Eve & Rita
As Berkeley Rep prepares for the exit of the opening show of its season, it has announced a special attraction that will close it out in June. Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, the current attraction, has added another performance to an already extended run. The autobiographical play with music, created by Moreno and Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone, will now conclude its run on Nov. 13 – less than a month before Moreno's 80th birthday.
The newly announced production is the world premiere of Eve Ensler's Emotional Creature, set to run June 15-July 15. The author of The Vagina Monologues is adapting for the stage her recent book I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Ensler based the collection of fictionalized monologues on actual encounters as she traveled the globe after The Vagina Monologues became an international sensation.
"Emotional Creature is about being a girl in the world in 2011, and about discovering the girl in each of us," Ensler said. "It is about changing the verb from 'please' to 'create' or 'defy' or 'resist' or 'imagine.' It is about telling secrets and breaking taboos and building a posse." A cast of young women, directed by Jo Bonney, will perform the monologues and interpolated songs.
More info at www.berkeleyrep.org.