September 12, 2012 | by Patrick Folliard
Gays behind the scenes

MaryBeth Wise (left) and Susan Lynskey in Theatre J’s ‘Body Awareness.’ (Photo by C. Stanley Photography; courtesy Theatre J)

The new theater season is upon us. And while there’s not a whole lot of LGBT content among the offerings, there is — as always — a wealth of gay talent making it happen.

After a hiatus from the D.C. theater scene, MaryBeth Wise has returned to the stage.  Wise, a talented and well-liked local actor who is gay, is currently playing half of a same-sex couple in Theatre J’s production of Annie Baker’s comic drama “Body Awareness” (through Sept. 23). Set in Vermont, the comic drama explores the reaction of Joyce (Wise) and her more uptight partner Phyllis to a visiting photographer and his “male gaze.”

During Wise’s several years off the boards, she concentrated on her other job (network consultant at Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped). She also picked up a degree in library science. “But I missed acting,” says Wise. “In ‘Body Awareness’ my character is going through a journey of self-discovery. Learning about what she wants. It’s a wonderful part. Hopefully it will lead to more opportunities.” (washingtondcjcc.org)

Also this fall, Wise’s real life partner Sarah Marshall is playing several parts in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s season-opener, Gogol’s satire of provincial Russian bureaucracy “The Government Inspector” (Sept. 13-Oct. 28). (shakespearetheatre.org)

At Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Shirlington, the season has already begun with a production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (through Oct. 7). Staged by the company’s gay artistic direction Eric Schaeffer, the rollicking musical stars Sherri L. Edelen (as brothel madam Miss Mona). The big cast features reliably excellent Signature vets Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith (both gay).

Also at Signature, the company’s talented and versatile associate artistic director Matthew Gardiner directs gay playwright Christopher Shinn’s “Dying City” (Oct. 2-Nov. 25). It’s the story of young man grappling with his identical twin’s suspicious death in Iraq. Incidentally, Gardiner, who is gay, is also a twin.

Following “Dying City,” Gardiner directs Signature’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Dreamgirls” (opens Nov. 13). (signature-theatre.org)

At Synetic Theater, up-and-coming actor Alex Mills plays the challenging title role in the company’s season opener, “Jeckyll and Hyde” (Sept. 20-Oct. 21). Synetic is a movement-based company renowned for innovative and athletic choreography and hard-bodied casts. (synetictheater.org).

“One Night With Janis Joplin” opens at Arena Stage Sept. 28 with Mary Bridget Davies in the title role. Staged like a Joplin concert, the piece was written and will be directed by Randy Johnson, who’s gay. Kathleen Turner continues her run there as Molly Ivins in “Red Hot Patriot” through Oct. 28. (arenastage.org)

Alexandria’s MetroStage opens its season with “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (through Oct. 21), a musical revue celebrating the work of the late Belgian singer/songwriter. Respectively directed and choreographed by the talented team of Serge Seiden and Matthew Gardiner (both gay), the production features a top-notch cast including the talented Natascia Diaz (who appeared in the 2006 Off-Broadway production), Bayla Whitten, Sam Ludwig and local favorite Bobby Smith (who is gay) singing a score comprised of plaintive ballads, rousing anthems, tango and rock. (metrostage.org)

After “Jacques Brel,” Bobby Smith directs the Olney Theatre Center’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical “Cinderella” (Nov. 14-Dec. 30). (olneytheatre.org)

In October, the Studio Theatre presents the world premiere of “Dirt” (opens Oct. 17). Penned by Byron Lavery (the author of “Frozen”), the play is described by Studio as an “exploration of the mess people make of themselves and their relationships.”  Part of the company’s Lab Series, the production is staged by Studio’s artistic director David Muse and reunites talented actors Holly Twyford and Matthew Montelongo (both gay). The talented duo has been successfully paired before in Vassily Sigarev’s “Black Milk” at Studio and Douglas Carter Beane’s comedy “The Little Dog Laughed” at Signature Theatre. (studiotheatre.org)

Fledgling company force/collision is premiering Erik Ehn’s “Shape” (Sept. 20-Oct. 6). Part of a series of 17 plays exploring themes of genocide and reconciliation, “Shape” centers on the lives of the two African-American vaudevillians Billy and Cordelia McClain as they negotiate their identity as artists while struggling with conditions of social and political marginalization. The production has been cast cross gendered, says director John Moletress (who is gay), as both a performance device for our ensemble and also a homage to black vaudevillians of the early 20th century who played cross gendered roles. (force/collision.org)

Forum Theatre kicks off the season with the world premiere comedy “Holly Down in Heaven” (Sept. 27-Oct. 20), written by young playwright Kara Lee Corthron. Forum’s website described the title character as “a brilliant 15-year-old born-again Christian, [who after becoming pregnant] banishes herself to the basement and confides only in her dolls, particularly a life-size psychiatrist doll that closely resembles Carol Channing.”

Parker Drown plays Yager, the neighbor suspected of getting Holly pregnant. Drown (who is gay) won a Helen Hayes Award for his performance as Angel, the feisty drag queen battling gentrification and AIDS in Keegan Theatre’s production of the rock opera “Rent.” Forum Theatre is in residence at Round House Silver Spring. (forumtheatre.org)

A couple other theaters that always have interesting productions and are worth checking out include 1st Stage Theatre (1524 Spring Hill Road) in McLean, Va. (1ststagespringhill.org), Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (641 D Street N.W.) in D.C. (woollymammoth.net) and Olney Theatre Centre in Olney, Md. (2001 Olney-Sandy Springs Road; olneytheatre.org).

 

 

 

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