Richmond Triangle Players takes the audience back to the hidden nightlife that the LGBTQ community once had to search for behind blacked out curtains, secret entrances, and back alleys.
Jo Rozycki | August 10, 2017
Richmond Triangle Players opens its 25th season with The View UpStairs by Max Vernon and directed by Lucian Restivo. The musical is part of the “Our Theatre, Our Stories, Our Lives” theme of the season, highlighting some of the most influential work of the LGBTQ theatre, as well as celebrating the diversity of the community within our world. This season comes at a time when diversity and inclusivity are points of contention due to our current administration, a theme which runs heavily through The View UpStairs.
“It starts off in current day about a fashion designer who goes in to buy a building to turn into his flagship store,” Bianca Bryan (Inez) told GayRVA. After leaving New York, main character Wes buys a run-down building in New Orleans, with little hope of turning the ruins into his hopeful dream store. “It magically transforms into what it was in 1973,” said Bryan. What it was back in 1973 was The UpStairs Lounge. “It was a local watering hole,” said Doug Schneider (Buddy). “This story is kind of a fantasy about this terrible event.”
What Schneider is referencing is the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson. 32 people were burned to death from the supposed arson attack, making it the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community prior to the Pulse shooting. “This was Max Vernon’s very strong reaction to Pulse,” said Schneider.
While the show does tell the story of the horrific incident, there are also subtle themes and messages within the main character’s journey. “I think it also is just a reminder of where we all come from, and in so many ways how far we’ve come and what we still need to accomplish, what needs to change,” said Schneider. Vernon’s millennial perspective also gives voice to the popular, “fabulous” hook-up culture that feeds the stereotype of the gay community. “I think Max is really saying, ‘My generation needs to wake up too. Life is not reality TV. Life is not just being fabulous and having lots of money and how much sex you can have,’” said Schneider.
With a score full of rock n’ roll, pop, and jazz, Richmond Triangle Players takes the audience back to the hidden nightlife that the LGBTQ community once had to search for behind blacked out curtains, secret entrances, and back alleys. Although being “out” is more realistic in this day and age, there are still parallels with the 1970s that strike a chord today. “You’d think that we as a country have come so far with the LGBTQ acceptance [tthat there wouldn't be] the parallels of what’s happening in ’73 versus what’s happening now, and almost the fear of regression now,” said Bryan. The story also brings a word of caution. “It’s interesting to just see where we were back then and where we are now, and also it’s kind of a warning like, ‘Don’t take a step back,’” said Bryan.
In a time when holding hands with your loved one was deemed a dangerous move, people in the 1970s never thought that same sex marriage would be a reality. Although the world we live in is far from perfect, recognizing the struggles and triumphs those before us made to bring us to where we are today is important. “I think [Vernon]‘s written a show about hope [and] tragedy that hopefully will remind people that out of tragedy, we can make ourselves better,” said Schneider. “We do make ourselves better.”
In a world where the news jumps from tragedy to tragedy like the seconds on a clock, taking a moment to reflect on the progress that has been made, as well as honoring the lives that have been lost in the process, can put the progress itself into perspective. “So much of our legacy and what we stand on is the shoulders of people that have fought for us to be able to do this. To have a theatre that is gay-oriented, that deals with diversity,” said Schneider. “My theory about doing theatre, about why we perform, is about holding the mirror up to humanity. The thing that I love about Richmond Triangle Players is that everything they do is rooted in love. It is rooted in looking for the decency in humanity. This show is no exception to that.”
The View UpStairs opened August 9 and runs through September 2. Ticket information can be found here.