by Logan Lynn.
You may remember QBlog announcing back in October that a new play, “Tennessee in Key West”, was coming to Q Center January 23rd-February 2nd, as part of the 2014 Fertile Ground Festival…and now that time has almost come! Sunday, January 26th is “Q Center Day” at the play. That is also the day of the “Command Performance for Darcelle XV”, who will be present. 50% of all ticket sales from all performances go directly to your Q Center!
The play opens in just a couple of weeks and, to celebrate, I caught up with the man behind the project – Robert Gaynor – this week for Queer Voices. We chatted about love, the play, and a whole bunch of other fun, gay stuff.
Read my interview with Robert Gaynor just under the special invitation from longtime Q Center supporter Bill Dickey below. Supporting queer art while also supporting the work of Q Center is what’s called a win/win, friends. Thank you, Bill!
Logan Lynn: Hiya Robert! Thanks for chatting with me today. The play is running at Q Center from January 23rd to February 2nd. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?
Robert Gaynor: It’s a fictional piece inspired by the life of Tennessee Williams. There are two characters: Tennessee Williams and a rather naive young reporter, a journalism student actually, who comes to Key West to interview the famous playwright. The young reporter soon finds himself in over his head when Tennessee imposes unusual demands in exchange for answers to questions.
Lynn: What sort of demands?
Gaynor: Well, I think that should be left as a surprise for people who come to see the show. But if people are familiar with Tennessee Williams, they can probably guess the general nature of his intentions! It’s a setup for an entertaining situation that ultimately forces both characters to face the truth about their lives.
Gaynor: I’ve always liked Tennessee Williams’ work-mostly I was familiar with him through the movie versions of his plays. I really got into him when I studied method acting at the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles. I started reading biographies, then went on to his notebooks, letters, and his memoir. I read an interview with him that I thought could be the basis for a one-person-show. I contacted the author about it but he didn’t want his work adapted. So I dropped the idea for a few years. Then I saw a picture someone took of me in profile, and I thought, “I’ve got to play Tennessee Williams.” I guess there was a resemblance! So I wrote my own piece, making it a two-character play, with the part of the reporter (played by Ryan C. Miller) as important as that of Tennessee Williams.
Lynn: We love that you are holding the performances at Q Center. Do you have any plans to show the play in other parts of the country as well?
Gaynor: I would like more than anything to take this show around and perform it in various places. So I’m looking for ways to make that happen, including looking for an agent to represent us. Right now, we have tentative plans to perform the show in Los Angeles at the Strasberg Institute soon after we close here.
Lynn: Nice. What are some of your favorite theater pieces? Is there a live performance in your history somewhere that’s in part responsible for your journey into this world?
Gaynor: That is such a difficult question!
Lynn: My specialty!
Gaynor: I would say it depends a lot on when you saw something, where you were in your life at that moment. I love any theater that makes me care about the characters. But to mention one contemporary writer whose work has moved me profoundly, I would say Tony Kushner. I was blown away when I first saw Angels in America. There’s a line near the end where the main character says, “And we will be citizens.” In my play, Tennessee says, “And we will be accepted.” So the influence is there for sure.
Lynn: If you had to describe the play in one word to someone, what would it be?
Gaynor: “Tennesseean.” That description might come too easily, but when I was working on the play, I tried to emulate Tennessee’s way of writing, letting the characters speak for themselves while I wrote down their words. Tennessee said he couldn’t write a piece without humor, and that is definitely true for my work. He also said that he couldn’t write a play unless he was physically attracted to at least one of the characters. And that is true here also!
Lynn: I hate it when people compare art to other art, but it’s the world we live in. What do you imagine this work will be compared to once people see it?
Gaynor: I don’t want to tip the hat on that one. I’m sure there are comparisons–you might sense a little Joe Orton, a little Oscar Wilde–but I want to wait and hear what people who see it come up with.
Gaynor: I think it’s ultimately a play about love. It was written out of love for Tennessee Williams and his work. Loss, yes. Corruption, yes. And love most certainly.
Lynn: Ahhh, love. I love love. Would you say the play is queer?
Gaynor: “Queer, queer, queer, with bells ringing, banners snapping in the wind.” That’s Edward Albee, not Tennessee–it’s from Zoo Story. I don’t think you could write a play inspired by Tennessee Williams and not have it be queer. For many people of my generation, Tennessee Williams–the man and his work–gave us our first glimmering hope that we were not alone, that there were others like us, and maybe we weren’t the freaks of nature we thought ourselves to be–especially, since that’s how the rest of society saw us. But beyond being a queer piece, I think the themes of play are universal. As I mentioned before, I believe they are love, loss, and corruption, and the search for, well, … truth, I guess.
Lynn: Thanks again, Robert. We are all really looking forward to seeing your work come to life at Q Center later this month! Any final thoughts about why people should get tickets before we go?
Gaynor: If you love theater, or you love Tennessee Williams, or you just love life–I think this is a play for you. I want to thank my director and co-producer, Marybeth Bielawski-DeLeo. She got on board with the project on the basis of three pages of dialogue and some sketched out ideas. That’s faith! Her encouragement and guidance have been invaluable in the creation of this piece. I also want to thank other supporters: Bill Dickey of Morel Ink, Darcelle XV, and all the Q Center staff for their help and generosity.
Get tickets for “Tennessee In Key West” HERE. The ticket code keywest2014 will get you $2 off full price tickets for any date in the run. The January 26th performance is a benefit for Q Center. There is a Key West Party benefit for Q at Bill Dickey’s house on the 26th, too. Info on that fundraiser HERE.
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