VALHALLA by Paul Rudnick

An extravagantly constructed comedy, Valhalla offers a comic and affecting look at two disparate and passionate individuals, both searching for a life of operatic beauty. King Ludwig II was the real-life 1860”s ruler known as “The Mad King of Bavaria” – whose love of grandiloquent beauty manifested itself in the eventually self-destructive folly of building a series of fairytale castles before being declared mad. As if this weren’t fertile enough material, Rudnick dovetails this with a yarn about a similarly wired but not nearly so privileged young man, James Avery, a dangerously precocious 1940”s teenager marooned amidst the brown wallpaper and pink chenille bedspreads of Dainsville, Texas. Rudnick, with his trademark wit, intertwines Ludwig”s and James”s adventures in sex, war, glory, and architecture, and movingly charts the consequences of their obsession with the extraordinary. Beyond its non-stop stream of scurrilous one-liners and uber-speedy costume changes in its century-spanning world, there’s something very serious going on in Valhalla. “There’s a tradition in the gay world of beauty worship for its own sake,” Rudnick points out. “You can see that everywhere from Oscar Wilde to Robert Mapplethorpe. At times that aesthetic is quite decadent, this sense of the sheer ecstasy of beauty you can maybe see in a Caravaggio painting or something. There are plenty of graduate dissertations that look at why the gay world has such a fixation on beauty, but I don’t think that’s just about gay men either.” Valhalla may be a different kind of epic, but its irreverent and quick-fire take on its source material has left some audiences slack-jawed with outrage. “Some people feel it goes too far,” says Rudnick, “but it’s actually a play that’s about going too far. That sometimes upsets and confuses people, but both of those reactions have always struck me as unshakeable goods. Some people were suspicious about the play, and thought it wasn’t quite healthy or wholesome. But it’s not a play about people on the block. It’s about people living to extremes.” “I wanted to write something for people who’d never heard of Ludwig, but who could still feel for the characters, even though they might not necessarily like them. I like to get people to laugh against their better judgment, so by the end of the play they can maybe see something bigger going on that’s about artists who go too far out to the edge. There’s a big tradition of dandyism as well, which you can see in everyone from Russell Brand to Mick Jagger, to Leigh Bowery to Isabella Blow to Lady Gaga. There’s a little bit of Ludwig in all of...

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THE LARAMIE PROJECT by Moises Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theatre Project

Research for the The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman’s internationally successful play, began one month after a horrific crime occurred in the city of Laramie, Wyoming. Members of Kaufman’s theatrical group, Tectonic Theater Project, volunteered to travel with their director from New York City to the wide-open ranges of the West in order to gather in-person interviews from Laramie’s populace. The idea was to capture the emotions, reflections, and reactions of the people who were most closely related to the crime—the brutal beating and subsequent death of a young college student. Was this a hate crime? Or was it a random, senseless assault and robbery? No matter which, Kaufman’s objective was to explore the issues of homosexuality, religion, class, economics, education, and non-traditional lifestyles through the residents’ raw responses to the incident. How did this crime define the culture, not just of this Western town, but of the entire United States? The play is based on more than 400 interviews with about 100 Laramie residents, as well as journal entries from the members of Tectonic Theater Project and Kaufman, as they reflect on their own reactions to the crime and to the interviews they carried out. Structured as a documentary, it attempts to reenact the events that occurred on that fateful night.  THE LARAMIE PROJECT is one of the most performed plays in America...

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LOOKING FOR NORMAL by Jane Anderson

Roy is a middle-class mid-Western John Deere employee who, after 25 years of marriage and fatherhood, finally faces his life-long secret: he believes he is a woman in a man”s body and wants a sex change operation. “I don”t believe you”re a woman. Only a man could be so selfish!” screams Irma, Roy”s beloved wife, and mother of their two children, 22-year-old Wayne and 13-year-old Patty Ann. Anderson”s humor leavens the realism, perception and poignancy with which she treats a gender issue that could be confusing, camp or tragic. Her play opens in the rectory where Irma, knowing that something is wrong, has dragged Roy for a conference with their pastor, Reverend Muncie. Roy has blinding headaches and a limp libido and, with Irma out of the room, he confesses to the startled Reverend that he has been seeing a psychiatrist, decided to have a sex change operation and is ready to tell his wife. Right now. We follow the changes in Roy”s life through his final metamorphosis into dresses, high heels and long hair. Most dramatically, we see highlights of the effect on his family: Irma, who throws Roy out, tries kissing another man, saves Roy from suicide and finally realizes, when the Reverend urges her to move on, that Roy is her life. That raises major questions for son Wayne, a roadie for a rock band, who comes home for Thanksgiving. When he finds out his parents are sharing a bed again, he blows up at his dad. “As a man, you’2012-03-08 21:52:03’re straight. As a woman, you”re gay. Does that make Mom a lesbian?” Budding teen-age Patty Ann is more fascinated by and accepting of her father”s change. She asks all those physical questions: “Will you have breasts? Long hair? Shave under your arms?” Struggling with the disturbances of puberty and the disadvantages of her own suddenly awkward body, Patty Ann can”t understand why any man would want to change to a woman. There”s also the job and the parent issues. Roy”s boss Frank  finally decides to promote him early and get him out of the warehouse where the guys would beat him up. Frank and his wife are splitting and he and Irma exchange bewildered condolences and a passionate kiss that makes Irma realize that, without love, the physical doesn”t do it for her. Roy”s father, Roy Sr. is a farmer who goes through four daughters before getting the son he craves. His traditional macho values make him very tough on the boy. Roy”s mother Em is a warm tender woman who says, “I will always love all my children. Somebody has to.” Anderson extends her play with monologues from Roy”s late Grandmother Ruth who abandoned...

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Wet or, Isabella The Pirate Queen Enters The Horse Latitudes: Love. War. Freedom. Queer

“How are we to live in this desperate world? Shall we out-scoundrel the scoundrels in abusing our fellow creatures for our own profit, or revel in our good fortune if we’re fortunate, averting our eyes, pretending we don’t notice that our joys are bought at the price of ignoring the hideous misery of the world? Or shall we be a part of that wretchedness, let ourselves be clegged and clodded, one of this heartless life’s hapless victims? Is there not some other way, if we but put our minds to it? I thought I’d found it, I thought I had escaped the cruel logic of the world. In time though, it came to me that to be an outlaw, however romantic the setting, yeah, is still to be a part of this villainous world, another side of the same old tarnished coin and nothing changed. So I thought, for years I thought, and finally it came to me. Why should I not begin my own world? Why should I not find an empty place and found a new world upon it?”  -Isabella, Pirate...

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