Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three Score and Ten

My father and me - L.A. - 1939

I was born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1939. My Dad was working temporally in the city, my mom took the train down from Seattle to visit him. I unexpectedly decided to join them. In the back of a taxi cab. I am told dad jumped out of the cab and made it into a nearby bar as fast as he could as mom made it to French Hospital barely in the nick of time. Dad made up for his cowardly departure. According to family legend, from that point onward until he died in 1943, whenever he was near me, dad had me in his arms. Mom said it was almost impossible to get me out of his arms, even to put me to bed. She would wake up at night, to discover she was in bed alone. She would find my father asleep in a chair in the nursery, with me asleep in his arms.

My father died of a heart attack as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday, May 5th, 1943, the night before he was to ship out to the African Campaign of World War II. The "heart attack" is a long story, better told at a later time. I never really knew the date he died until I had my heart attack Wednesday, May 5th, 1993 and a cousin of mine pointed out the coincidence of the day and the date. Seems dad had some message for me from the beyond and couldn’t be bother knocking on a table. It also seems I had inherited from him the heart condition.

Tonight I go to Zuni’s where 50 plus of my family of friends will be waiting for me. I am very lucky. Perhaps that was the gist of my dad’s message.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Relationships from Chicago to New Delhi

Ward and Barry in India

Thirty years ago when I wrote A Perfect Relationship, I had two main objectives in mind. First, to preserve a record of the first decade of liberation and the difficulties the male ego presents when a man loves a man. I also hoped that the humor of the play would disarm some small bit of the bigotry that we even now all encounter. Comedy unites. Or so I have been told.

But I had another sort of secret agenda. While I wanted to capture in amber queer NYC in the late 1970s, I also wanted the script to have an extended shelf life. Mark Finley’s flawless revival of A Perfect Relationship here in the city in April 2003 proved the play still has legs, as they say. (
http://www.tosos2.org/Perfect.htm ) It also showcased some of the best performances I have ever seen in a play of mine.

Eileen T’Kaye, who picked me up at a burrito stand on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in the late 1980s, flew East to play a memorable Muriel. Christopher Borg, the single most versatile actor I have ever seen, played Tom, Dick and Harry. (He is waiting for me to make a nasty dig, but I’m not gonna.) As for Barry, one of my all time favorite character inventions, I have been lucky enough to see two actors give definitive performances: the late Adam Caparell back in the 1970s, and Kevin Held in this production. I suspect Kevin would excel in any role in any play I could ever write.

The 2003 TOSOS revival of A Perfect Relationship opened the same night Bush threw his temper-tantrum in Iraq. His war got the audience. There have been other recent productions, including the 2008 Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival in Colorado Springs; William Prater’s production initiating the Black Box Theater in Nashville; and a reading last fall presented by the People’s Theater of Chicago as part of their Legacy Project (
http://www.peoplestheaterchicago.org/# ). I watched a DVD of the reading and could not be happier with the cast. (See AK Miller’s reports from Chicago below)

I have just received news that the Chicago reading has developed into a full production of A Perfect Relationship, planned to open June 18 and play Thursdays and Fridays until July 10. Co-produced by People’s Theater and the Leather Archives & Museum, it will be performed in the Etienne Auditorium at the Archive located at 6481 Greenview Avenue, Chicago, IL. (
http://www.leatherarchives.org/ ). If I can find a packing crate large enough, I intend to ship myself out to see it. (The last time I was around the leather scene in Chicago was way back in the days of the Gold Coast!)

Of all my plays, A Perfect Relationship, is the most site specific. It is clearly set on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in the late 1970s. Or it was until about four years ago when Sameer Thakur contacted me via the Internet. He asked my permission to relocate the play to New Delhi. What little I know about Indian culture made me more than a mite doubtful. But, hey, I always say my plays belong to the community they were written for, so I gave my permission. And actually sort of forgot about it. After all, it wasn’t possible, was it? Or was it?

Earlier this year, Cathaayatra (I am told "cathaa yatra" means "journey of stories" in Hindi) presented A Perfect Relationship in New Delhi, hoping the localization would broaden the Indian view of alternative sexuality. Seems it worked and the production directed by Sameer Thakur (Sukhesh Arora, Zain Bhana, Arushi Singh, Shiv Narayanan and Vikrant Yadav in the cast) has proven to be a huge hit. (review links below). As I understand it, they perform the play when and where they can. I am told the audience in New Delhi finds my play very funny. I doubt they realize their laugher reaches all the way from India to New York City where it gives me a very warm feeling on a cold winter night.

This is why I write the plays I write. (And I suspect Marge would be very pleased.)

Reviews for the Indian production: