Serge Seiden is having a good week. His latest directing effort at The Studio Theatre, “The Motherfucker With the Hat” has been extended for two weeks and now runs through March 24 (details at studiotheatre.org) and Friday night, the playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis, is visiting from New York to see the production.
For Seiden, it’s the latest in a long string of successful Studio productions including “Grey Gardens,” “My Children! My Africa!,” “Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins,” “The Long Christmas Ride Home” and many others. He has also appeared as an actor in many productions both at Studio and at other theaters in the area. He’s worn many hats there but is currently associate producing artistic director. He started there as an usher in 1986, a year after arriving in Washington.
“I just became a Studio groupie,” he says.
More seriously, though, he’s ponderous about his career.
“I would say what has fueled me is devotion to a craft and it’s really like any other kind of craft, painting, pottery or even a sport,” the 50-year-old Searsmont, Maine, native says. “When you become devoted or fueled by a need for achievement, of artistic, I don’t want to say success, but you really know what your standard is and you have your own aspirations for excellence and you know what excellence in your craft is, you become kind of obsessed with getting there and that takes a long time. It’s definitely not something where you think, ‘Oh, I think I’ll go work there for awhile.’”
Seiden is enjoying “Motherfucker” but says he’s finding the piece is not really what audiences think it will be going in.
“It’s something you can laugh at and laugh with but by the end, you find you’re really drawn in,” he says. “People are saying, ‘Oh, I can see myself in that situation.’”
Around the time he was 40, Seiden and a colleague (Studio’s education director Roma Rogers) decided to have a child together. Son Gavin is now 9. They share a three-floor home in Columbia Heights (he’s on the top floor, she’s on the second floor and they have common space on the first). With many of his nights spent working at the theater (she works mostly days), he says it works well.
He and Gavin enjoy reading the morning comics together, making up voices for the various characters.
Seiden is single and enjoys gardening in his spare time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since the early ‘80s when my roommate and I came out to each other at Swarthmore College. I remember I was literally physically shaking. And then there was some, ahem, “sexual healing.” Telling my parents was depressing because they were so worried that I’d have a miserable, lonely life. Luckily, that didn’t happen.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Lypsinka. I just adore John Epperson’s shows (three of which we’ve done at Studio Theatre). I would also include Glenna Plaisted, the headmistress of an elementary school my sister attended. She encouraged me to apply for a high school scholarship. Glenna typically wore jodphurs, riding boots, tweed jackets and smoked a pipe. And she pretty much saved my life. I guess she knew me better than I knew myself at the time.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Mmmm … The Studio Theatre!
Describe your dream wedding.
It would be set in the Caribbean on a very un-developed beach. There would be a lot of guests — friends, colleagues and family. The food would be spicy. Everyone would wear sandals and linen (with bathing suits underdressed — or not). The ceremony might just have to involve Shakespeare and the actor Ted van Griethuysen. Joy Zinoman would direct the whole thing, of course. The music would be classical guitar. Romance Anonimo would have to be included. Could we get Christopher Parkening? There might have to be some a cappella singing, too. After the ceremony there would be swimming and caipirinhas until sunset and when everyone was sufficiently relaxed, batala drummers would call everyone to some ecstatic beach dancing under the stars.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
Any outcome that would relieve human misery and death. It’s hard to pick just one outcome to change, right? How do you prioritize?
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Rock Hudson on the cover of Newsweek in 1985.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
From Las Terrenas in The Dominican Republic: “Last drinks on the beach …”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Two Boys in Art”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
That we can’t know and it’s OK not to know what’s beyond the physical world. The physical world is plenty mysterious enough for me.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
The struggle is international.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“My Beautiful Laundrette”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Are there any social customs left that rate at all?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
More leisure time.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I should have kept practicing the piano.
I came to D.C. to work on the Hill. I was a chauffeur and mail clerk for Sen. George Mitchell. I stayed in D.C. because of The Studio Theatre, which has been my artistic home since 1986. The rewards have been innumerable.