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04/19/2007


Playwright Douglas Carter Beane is Back On Broadway With ‘The Nance:’ INTERVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

It’s been a busy season on Broadway for playwright Douglas Carter Beane. In addition to penning the new adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella that opened last month, his new play The Nance, starring Nathan Lane in the title role, opened on Monday in a Lincoln Center Theatre production directed by Jack O'Brien at the Lyceum Theatre.

TheNance0164r_OrsiniLaneAlso the writer behind cult movie classic To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, as well as Broadway cult hit Xanadu, Beane has a distinct way of crafting campy humor with a wry and clever hand. The Nance marks his first non-musical outing on Broadway since his much-acclaimed play The Little Dog Laughed in 2007.

Set in 1930’s New York, the play stars Nathan Lane as Chauncey, a burlesque performer whose stage specialty is the ‘nance’ routine. One of about a dozen different standard sketches common to burlesque, the nance is a caricature of an effeminate man, who is goofy, endearing, and speaks in rapid-fire double entendres.   

Lane’s character Chauncey also happens to be gay himself, which not many nance performers would’ve been necessarily—certainly not openly. In the play’s first scene, Chauncey meets a young man named Ned (Jonny Orsini) with whom he develops a tenuous, restless bond. The play follows their relationship through the tumultuous politics of the time, and the pressures put on the burlesque scene during mayor LaGuardia’s tenure.

I talked to Doug about his process writing the play, how politics can affect one’s sex life, and what’s next on the writer’s plate.

NAVEEN KUMAR: What inspired you to write this play? Did you know much about 1930’s burlesque before you started?

TheNance0075r_LaneDOUG CARTER BEANE: I didn’t. I knew a little bit, because when I was a kid this was a big part of variety shows, like The Carol Burnett Show and Jackie Gleason and all those guys. That was my first encounter with it, and then it was back in vogue about ten years ago. There was a club in Los Angeles called Forty Deuce, and there were places in New York doing nights of burlesque.

We were doing a benefit [at my theatre company called Drama Department] and somebody suggested that we do an evening of burlesque. There are ten basic forms of each sketch; there’s a vague outline of a plot and then they would just insert jokes in. So [when] I would meet men over the age of seventy, I would ask, ‘Did you ever go to see burlesque when you were a kid, and do you remember any of the routines?’ They would remember these lines verbatim.

There’s one joke that Robert Altman remembered, there’s a joke that Herb Ross remembered—everyone’s dead now who gave me these jokes! So I put them in my versions of these sketches, and the benefit was very successful.

Then I went to a writers’ retreat, and I brought along the George Chauncey book [Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940]. I also had a Berenice Abbott photograph of the Irving Place Theatre, which is around the corner from my house, and I thought that was really beautiful (though it was torn down in the 80s). So it was the photograph, a book I was reading, and I had these sketches in my computer. It all pulled together into one story.

I wrote the first scene and I thought, who is ever going to be able to play this? The first person I thought of was Nathan Lane, and I thought, well, that’s never going to happen so come up with another list and keep writing. When I finally finished it years later, the first thing I did was to send it to Nathan Lane and he said, ‘I love this, when can we do it?’ We did a reading the next week and here we are now.

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News: Fleet, Philip Johnson, Fort Worth, Band Fags, Bourbon

RoadIs Uganda's "kill the gays" bill fizzling out?

RoadNewt Gingrich calls Obama "most radical President ever".

Fleet RoadFleet takes aim at gay market with new product devised for "elective rectal cleansing."

RoadJersey Shore guidos flaunt their pecs in Miami.

RoadMichelangelo Signorile holding LGBT Leadership Town Hall in Washington D.C. on April 22 with Rea Carey, Mara Keisling, Joe Solmonese, Pam Spaulding, Richard Socarides, and Aubrey Sarvis. Also holding drawing for listeners who want to attend.

RoadKevin Sessums talks to Nathan Lane about his role as Gomez Addams in the new Broadway musical production of The Addams Family.

RoadSt. Louis man says he can't find job there because he's gay.

Road'Band Fags' Facebook page is reinstated.

RoadThe Rapid City, SD police department "tightening the flow of information" between it and the military after lesbian Air Force sergeant was outed: "A new department policy states that only the records custodian, Capt. Ed Hofkamp, can turn over official documents to the military, according to police chief Steve Allender. 'I don’t want to scare employees off, but when it comes to releasing records, they have to go through procedures,' Allender said."

RoadEven with a doofy pornstache and a bruised face Channing Tatum is still hot.

Johnson RoadMajor Philip Johnson residence restored in Dallas.

RoadSoup Cans interview with Thomas Roberts.

RoadConstance McMillen to attend NCLR's "lesbian prom" in San Francisco.

RoadThe French love Taylor Lautner.

RoadFort Worth theater withdraws offer to show cancelled Tarleton State University production of Corpus Christi, one day after offering to show it: "Adam Adolfo, executive director of Artes de la Rosa, said one 'violent' threat had been posted on the Rose Marine Facebook page on Thursday. 'Fiscal repercussions and patronage were anticipated, but in terms of violence, we only received one' threat, he said. 'The combination of producing or hosting a production of this caliber and commentary is always difficult. The board of directors felt at this time that this was not the appropriate venue or appropriate organization to be hosting this particular play.'"

Road Glee cast getting overworked?

Road Would you sit through a movie based on Hasbro's 'Battleship' game? What if Taylor Kitsch was in it?

Mitcham RoadGay unicorn Matthew Mitcham wanted to meet Lady Gaga, but was too shy.

RoadGay Bourbon drinker tells all.

RoadChris Meloni wears a shirt that suits his big guns.

RoadPlea deal possible in hate crime BB gun shootings of gay man in SF: "Shafiq Hashemi, 21, Mohammad Habibzada, 24, and Sayed Bassam, 21, are accused of shooting a 27-year-old man from their car at 16th and Guerrero streets in the Mission District on Feb. 26, then driving off. The man was hit in the cheek but not seriously injured. Police arrested the three nearby and they allegedly confessed that they had come to San Francisco to shoot gay people, according to police."

RoadPolice seize four-foot penis in raid.

RoadConfessions of a gay Mormon living in NYC (site nsfw): "I remember when I was a kid, I made a pact with God. I said, ‘Okay, I will go on my mission and I will turn twenty-one, but as soon as I do that, as soon as I take care of everything, you have to make a deal that you will go ahead and kill me. And that way I will have fulfilled everything and we will just have this whole thing done with.’"


News: Howard Stern, GLAAD, Rush Limbaugh, Paris, Gavin Newsom

 roadHearings to begin on marriage equality in Vermont.

 roadWith Giuliano leaving, GLAAD launches search for new president.

Twintowers  roadParis to get set of twin towers from Norman Foster?

 roadHoward K. Stern arrested for drugging up Anna Nicole Smith. Mugshot.

 roadNYC24 covers the false arrests of gay men in NYC porn shops and more specifically the story of Robert Pinter - VIDEO.

 roadEllen's next guest is...her wife.

 roadMoscow Pride organizers appeal to European Court of Human Rights, ask for 1.7 million Euros over 155 banned Pride marches: "They are asking for 11,000 Euros compensation for each march banned. In all, the organisers of Pride applied to City’s Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, for 155 marches, five each day during May 2008. All were dismissed."


 roadSF Mayor Gavin Newsom named grand marshall of Long Beach Gay Pride parade.

 roadGay couple describe terrifying home invasion to Welsh court: "Nathan Dally, 22, yelled: 'I’m going to kill you, you faggots', as he kicked in married couple Daniel Smith and Gary Samuel’s door, Cardiff Crown Court heard yesterday. The couple were so scared they called 999 and quickly moved their wardrobe to block their bedroom door. But it was left slightly ajar and Dally, of Caer Gwerlas, Tonyrefail, reached through, only leaving the house when Mr Samuel hit him with a hockey stick. Helen Roddick, prosecuting, said: 'They were both in bed at night and then saw the front door was shaking. One male was at the door kicking it with force and another two or three males were standing back.'”

Tatum  roadChanning Tatum spends some time posing around a car because, you know, a car is a guy thing.

 roadChristina Aguilera and Sia hunker down in studio.

 roadArtush and Zaur: Novel describing "a gay love affair between an Azeri and an Armenian amid war between their countrymen as the Soviet Union collapsed" causing controversy. "A book discussion between the author and readers was canceled amid reports of threats and intimidation. 'The police told them -- if you don't do it, we'll do it ourselves,' [writer Alekper] Aliyev told Reuters. 'And they withdrew all the books from sale.' He said the owner of Ali and Nino had just called to say police had closed two of their stores. They reopened a day later. An Interior Ministry spokesman denied any knowledge of the case, saying: 'The police do not interfere in trade and the selling of books.'"

 roadNate Montana grabs his junk.

Dogsledding  roadThe Big Picture looks at dog sledding.

 roadCurrent Bush tax system saves Rush Limbaugh $1.5 million every year.

 roadAncient Great White Shark fossil unearthed.

 roadSean Penn wins paper straw hat fedora award from hat company for bold moves on Milk.

 roadNathan Lane on gay actors coming out: "It’s such a personal thing, and I don’t think it does anybody any good to out people or force them out of the closet. I don’t see the point. It can still be very difficult in this business, so I’m sympathetic to that. You hear rumors and gossip, but nobody really knows except that person, and it’s ultimately up to them. Now, there are times when the press goes easier on or is more forgiving of someone, and I' say, How come he got a free pass?' But ultimately, I don’t feel resentful"


Cheyenne Jackson and Xanadu Boys Get Naked for Nathan Lane

Cheyenne

Is Xanadu too gay to win a Tony? Who cares!

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP (you'll be glad you did)...

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On the Stage: Crimes of the Heart,
Sunday in the Park with George, and November

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GuestbloggerKevin Sessums last reviewed Come Back, Little Sheba and Next to Normal for Towleroad. You can also catch up with Kevin online at his own blog at MississippiSissy.com.

Crimes1_2I recently saw two productions of previous Pulitzer Prize winners in the Pulitzer’s drama category — though neither is a drama. One is a a kind of Chekhovian comedy, that is if Anton Chekhov had read any Fannie Flagg. The other is a musical by Stephen Sondheim who, between perusing his famously dog-eared rhyming dictionary, seemed at the time to have been reading art history essays on neo-impressionism by the two Johns Rewald and Russell.

Crimes2Beth Henley’s bittersweet Crimes of the Heart, which won the Pulitzer in 1981, has been revived at The Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre. Actress Kathleen Turner is making her directorial debut with the production and she acquits herself admirably, mining the show’s darker qualities while not skimping on the laughs embedded in the emotional mayhem that ensues when the three grown though not completely grown-up Magrath sisters congregate in their childhood kitchen in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. I’m a Mississippi native myself and one of my old Mississippi buddies, Johnny Epperson (AKA Lypsinka) is from Hazelhurst, proving that we shouldn’t be shocked that this particular small town can be the breeding ground for such sweetly eccentric characters who bravely own their innate diva qualities.

Crimes3_2The Magrath sisters were raised by their grandfather after their mother hung herself along with the family cat when they were children and he is now dying up at the town’s hospital. One of the sisters — Meg — has flown in for the deathwatch from Los Angeles where she is a failed singer. The other two sisters still live in Hazelhurst. One — the mousy Lenny — is forlornly single and the other — the sensual yet ditzy Babe — has just shot her husband because she “didn’t like his looks” and is now out on bail. Woven throughout all the play’s woebegone kookiness is the noxious anger that is the residual result of their mother’s suicide.

Crimes4Henley’s most famous work is a maddening dramatic concoction that, like a souffle, seems so simple to get right yet often falls flat. Turner’s production almost rises to the occasion. She has cast the play with three wonderful actresses. The tiny Jennifer Dundas as Lenny is just the dollop of emotional starch the play needs; there is nothing sentimental about what she achieves with the sentimental inchoate old-maid role. Lily Rabe, who is becoming one of New York’s most reliable young stage actresses, strikes just the right notes of danger and ditz and downhome heartbreak as Babe. Sarah Paulson as Meg manages to be both off-puttingly condescending yet painfully needy at the same time. And I was especially taken by Chandler Williams who plays Babe’s smitten lawyer, Barnette. In the original Broadway production the role was played by Peter MacNicol as a kind of nerdy joke. But Williams is surprisingly sexy, which is a good description of Turner’s take on the play itself.

T T 1/2 (out of 4 possible T's)

Crimes of the Heart, Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 West 46th St, New York. Ticket information here.

***SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE

George_2Another Roundabout production, this one at the Studio 54 Theatre, is a revival of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, which won the Pulitzer in 1985. It is a transfer from the highly acclaimed London production that originated at the tiny Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre before it moved to the West End where it won several Olivier Awards. The two leads from that production have recreated their roles here in New York City and the theatre season is richer for it.

Continued AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "On the Stage: Crimes of the Heart,
Sunday in the Park with George, and November" »


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #249

HE'S BACK: Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for president in 2008 on Sunday's Meet the Press.

BILL KRISTOL: NYT columnist recommends Hillary use "the politics of fear" to puncture the euphoria surrounding the Obama campaign.

NATHAN LANE: His appearance on Friday's Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

R.E.M.: Their new single "Supernatural Superserious".

Check out our previous guides to the Tube here.


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