Phil Crosby on Richmond Triangle Players’ 2016-2017 Season and the importance of gay theatre: “We are all storytellers”
Richmond Triangle Theatre states in their mission statement that they “deliver adventurous and entertaining theater as the leading voice in the community’s explorations of equality, identity, affection and family, across sexual orientation and gender spectrums.”
Now in their 24th season, RTP has grown from a “gay” fringe theatre company who performed on the hard to find, slightly scary second floor of Fieldens Bar to being housed in a 4000 sq. ft. brick and mortar fully equipped theatrical space.
I recently had a very enjoyable interview with Phil Crosby, the Executive Director of the Richmond Triangle Players, and asked him to answer the question: “What role does a gay theatre have in 2016 as the broader community seeks acceptance?”
Crosby readily admits and accepts the responsibility for RTP being an artistic venue for social change for the gay community through the Art of Theatre.
“Every community needs to know that there are many different threads that make up the fabric of society,” he said. “As a singer is but one voice that contributes to the beauty of a choir, so gay theatre is but one voice that contributes to the beauty of theatre.”
Crosby theorizes that the move from Fieldens to their current home on Altamont Avenue has had a great influence of bringing the public at large to RTP.
“At Fieldens (seen above via Crosby), you didn’t get many patrons outside the gay community. At our current home, the space is inviting. It is well lit, well furnished, has all the amenities the public might expect. The theatre is intimate and comfortable,” he said. “There is a large bar and big social space where people can gather, talk and meet friends before going in to see the show.”
Crosby said these amenities make it more comfortable for any member of RVA to feel at home – LGBTQ or otherwise.
This, in and of itself, plays a role in exposing gay culture and themes to the widest possible audience,” he said.
“The role that gay theatre has in this or any year as the broader community seeks acceptance is that it is a forum to tell stories. All cultures start with the storytellers. We are the storytellers,” he said. “We don’t only tell stories for the benefit of the “straight” community. We do it for the entire gay community as well. They need to see themselves on stage as well as the many variations of sexual orientation that exist.”
We talked about how his upcoming season answers the main question:
Perfect Arrangement – Through the secret door
September 28 – October 22, 2016
Written by Tropher Payne
Directed by Amy Berlin
It’s 1950 and new colors are being added to the Red Scare. Two U.S. State Department employees, Bob and Norma, have been tasked with identifying sexual deviants within their ranks. The twist: Both Bob and Norma are gay, and have married each other’s partners as a carefully constructed cover. Inspired by the true story of the earliest stirrings of the American gay rights movement, madcap “I Love Lucy” sitcom-style laughs give way to provocative drama as two “All-American” couples are forced to stare down the closet door, confronting the very struggles facing society today.
Crosby says that the historical lesson is important to remember.
“People don’t remember the “Lavender Scare” when known homosexuals were forbidden by law to congregate. Or when along with rounding up communists, the government rounded up homosexuals as “subversives” and as “morally corrupt.” This took place up to the late 60’s.”
Scrooge in Rogue – Draggy Christmas Carol
November 16 – December 17, 2016
Written by Ricky Graham and Jefferson Turner
Directed by Shon M. Stacy
A smash- hit when RTP produced it in 2009, it returns with its entire original cast. Scrooge in Rouge is a Victorian-era music hall version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which 17 members of the Royal Music Hall 20-Member Variety Players have taken ill from the cast party the night before, leaving only Charlie Schmaltz (Kirk Morton), an animated character actor, Lottie Obligato (Steven Boschen), a bubbly, over-the-hill ingénue, and Vesta Virile (Lauren Leinhaas-Cook), a male-impersonating diva, to play and sing all the parts in the show. There’s a man playing a woman, a woman playing a man (the “trouser role)”, a man playing a woman playing a man and a surprise guest.
How does this play answer the question? Campy, vampy fun has always been part of the gay culture and nobody does it better. Does it help in the quest for broader acceptance? Yes, in that the gay community can make fun of itself like anyone else.
Choir Boy – To be young, Black and gay at prep school
February 22 – March 18, 2017
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Margarette Joyner
In collaboration with The Heritage Ensemble Theatre
The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is dedicated to the creation of strong, ethical black men. Pharus wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary gospel choir. Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? “The sweet harmonies of classic spirituals unite the sometimes fractious voices of the young men in Choir Boy… but when they raise their voices in unison, they offer a glimpse of a world in which the cruelty that can divide and destroy is dissolved in a graceful, embracing order. [An] affecting and honest portrait…of a gay youth tentatively beginning to find the courage to let the truth about himself become known.” —The New York Times.
Maybe more than any other play this season, Choir Boy speaks to the role of a Gay Theatre Company in helping the broader community gain acceptance. In holding a mirror up to different races and cultures and subsets of that culture, we understand the world a little better. By collaborating with the Heritage Ensemble Theatre, RTP seeks authenticity, to broaden its own audience and to expose a greater number of people to these stories.
A Kid Like Jake – Can you love your child no matter what?
April 19 – May 13, 2017
Written by Daniel Pearle
Directed by Keith Fitzgerald
On the eve of the admissions cycle for Manhattan’s most exclusive private schools, Alex and Greg have high hopes for their son Jake, a precocious four-year-old who happens to prefer Cinderella to G.I. Joe. But as the process continues, Jake’s behavior becomes erratic and perplexing, and other adults in his life start to wonder whether his fondness for dress-up might be cause for concern. The story of a husband and wife struggling to do right by their son, A Kid Like Jake is a study of intimacy and parenthood and the fantasies that accompany both.
Jake is a boy who wants to be a girl and doesn’t yet know that many people think that deviant. His parents struggle with the issue. Whether he gets into prep school is irrelevant. Whether he lives normally in the world is another. How his parents deal with their child is critical to that outcome.
It Shoulda Been You – A wedding with issues
May 31 – July 1, 2017
Book and Lyrics by Brian Hargrove, Music by Barbara Anselmi
Directed by Directed by Jon Kretzu
The bride is Jewish. The groom is Catholic. Her mother is a force of nature; his mother is a tempest in a cocktail shaker. And when the bride’s ex-boyfriend crashes the party, the perfect wedding starts to unravel faster than you can whistle “Here Comes the Bride!” Plots are hatched, pacts are made, secrets are exposed – and the sister of the bride is left to turn a tangled mess into happily ever. It Shoulda Been You invites you to a wedding day you’ll never forget, where anything that can go wrong does and love pops up in mysterious places.
John Kretzu directed a production of this play pre-Broadway to get it on its feet. He gets another swipe at it here.
Although the play starts as an “Abie’s Irish Rose” or a “Bridget Loves Bernie” it ends Act One with the Bride kissing another woman. Marriage is the subject and the complications it poses are universal.
What role does a gay theatre have in 2016 as the broader community seeks acceptance?
It holds a mirror to gay society so that we are not afraid of what we see.
It opens up the closet so that we won’t be afraid of what’s in there.
It tells the stories that inform the gay community of its history and heritage.
It is a source of pride to the gay community that they have a home to share their stories with the broader community.
The first line of acceptance is telling the truth. Telling the stories that need to be told, a Gay Theatre can be a powerful tool, showing the rest of the world that people are people and love is love and that it is ridiculous to be afraid. In a severely conservative Southern town as the one we live in, no message could be more important.
“The play is about being true to your authentic self but it’s also about being vigilant in maintaining your rights. It wasn’t very long ago that the world was a very different place.”September 27, 2016
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