queer theater

Finding Jesus, finding herself

Corey Maier's solo show "Endless Oceans" traces a voyage through faith, sexuality, and the mysteries of discovering one's own truth

A few years ago, when my alma mater Saint Mary’s Academy became the center of a hiring scandal, I learned that there had been a secret Gay-Straight Alliance while I was a student there. This came as a total shock. I distinctly remember seeing references to “Geography Club” (the name this group went by) and wondering, “What the hell does that mean?” before continuing along my way. Well, what it meant was, “this is a GSA we can’t actually call that.” And I’d had no idea.

I don’t know if Saint Mary’s is allowed to have open queer identity groups now. But of course, in many Christian contexts, with so much cultural pressure to the contrary, even an open queer support group might not be enough for some students. One suspects that it wouldn’t have done much for Corey Maier, the writer and subject of the autobiographical solo show Endless Oceans, performing through Aug. 20 at the Back Door Theater (normally the home of Defunkt).

Maier amid the mysteries of life. Photo: Angela Genton

Very early in the show, Maier describes the day she found Christ at the hands of a tattooed youth minister who she portrays with a black beanie cap and a wholesome swagger, who calls her to surrender herself to Jesus. I surrendered myself to Corey just a few minutes before, when she described her less-than-enthusiastic churchgoing as a Catholic youth. There was only one thing she liked about mass, she explains: “The body of Christ was stale … but the blood of Christ was fermented.” She glances at the audience, wide-eyed with the giddy innocence of teenage transgression. “You can take a big gulp.”

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‘Hir’: Everything is everything

Defunkt Theatre tackles Taylor Mac's beyond-the-kitchen-sink drama about transgendering and family conflict

Defunkt Theatre has cooked up a hot mess with its production of one of the most acclaimed Off Broadway works of 2015, Hir. The kitchen sink dramedy (which includes vomiting into the sink) is set in a decaying prefab house in a conservative West Coast suburb. A soldier returning from war confronts his changing home and family dynamic.

Despite the piles of dirty takeout containers, grime on dated appliances, and teenage-sized piles of laundry, magic is in the air. Described as New York’s darling, playwright Taylor Mac creates “radical faerie realness ritual.” Mac uses the pronoun judy, as in Garland. Before judy begins a project, judy writes down all the things judy doesn’t want to talk about and those become the play. Judy is known as a Queer-American-Artist-Historian-Shaman and much of judy’s dialogue is as much a mouthful. There’s an enviable unbridled creativity to judy: anthropology with a splash of anarchist emotional and intellectual intelligence. While Mac wasn’t at Defunkt during the performance, judy’s spirit filled the theater. Audience members shed their modesty and checked in with each other during intermission and after. Defunkt’s Hir sparked conversation and a sense of community. Mac was in New York performing A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which New York Times critic Wesley Morris described as “one of the great experiences of my life.”

Taylor Mac, performing in New York. Photo: Ian Douglas/2015

Taylor Mac, performing in New York. Photo: Ian Douglas/2015

Director Andrew Klaus-Vineyard set up the play with more counterbalances to step away from what he described as “the situational comedy” approach two earlier productions carried. If you haven’t been part of the dialogue around gender the last few years, Hir is great edutainment. Paige McKinney is a Baby Boomer mom whose quest for liberation has turned self-absorbed and controlling. She’s made a poster child out of her transitioning daughter-to-son, Max. Max (Ruth Nardecchia) is a kid on the cusp of many things and has assumed the world on their (this, or “ze,” is the pronoun the play finds preferable) shoulders. Paige’s husband, Arnold, played by Anthony Green, is a former plumber who is now a housebound stroke survivor. Isaac (Jim Vadala) is their son, a lumbering vet who sweats testosterone with military order.

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