Producer faces 2 years in prison for a play about gay challenges in Uganda

Jo Shelley and Faith Karimi, CNN, 9/20/12

Ugandan authorities jailed a British producer for staging without permission a play about the challenges facing homosexuals in the African nation. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, where most gays and lesbians face physical attacks and are treated as social outcasts. The east African nation has made headlines after a parliamentarian introduced an anti-gay bill that called for death for certain homosexual acts. David Cecil, the producer, spent four days in detention before he was released on bail. He faces charges of "disobedience of lawful orders" after the nation's media council ordered him not to stage his play in public without authorization. If convicted, he can be imprisoned for two years. "As I understand, the communique from the media council was he should not stage the play in any public theater in Uganda -- meaning he could do in private," said John Onyango, his lawyer. Cecil staged the play at two small bars in the capital of Kampala by private invitation. The play, The River and the Mountain, features an all-Ugandan cast, and tells the story of a gay businessman killed by his employees. It uses the life of its main character -- a young businessman whose friends desert him after his revelation that he's a homosexual -- to highlight the challenges of gays in Uganda. Though he faces imprisonment if found guilty, the producer said the incident does not change his love for the nation: "I love Uganda, I think it's a fantastic country."


In Hungary, right-wing regime sets its aims at familiar trio: Jews, gypsies, gays

Mark Ehrman, The Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster blog, 9/15/12

Derided as anti-Semitic agitprop, [the play The Sixth Coffin] has been the focal point of controversy until it was finally scrubbed from Budapest's New Theater's season. But how this production ever got anywhere near the schedule of a major venue in the first place is part of a larger drama involving this country's leadership and its assault on culture. For many [in Hungary], this is the logical outcome of conservative Mayor Istvan Tarlos's [appointment of director] Gyorgy Dorner, seen as a reactionary extremist. Dorner [has] proposed taking the "New" out of the [company name] New Theater, since "new" did not, he believed, always connote good, especially in "a degenerate, sickly liberal hegemony." When the conservative Fidesz party came to power in 2010, party loyalists were inserted in all positions of influence. Regional theaters had their directors replaced, then the Hungarian State Opera, and finally the New Theater. Many suspect an unspoken alliance between Fidesz and the far right, accusing the regime of tolerating a resurgent nationalism whose targets are the all-too-familiar trio: Jews, gypsies and gays. The contract of the director of the National Theater is set to expire in June, and right-wing tabloids have already been "smearing" [him] by insinuating he's Jewish (untrue) and gay (true). "In the case of the New Theater, you can see that hate has moved into the theater from the outside," says actress Hermina Fatyol. Actress Julia Ubrankovics, believes "[the New Theater] might just be the first step, but if it happens to the National Theater next year, you better watch your language and your thoughts." This month, the National Theater will present Angels in America.


L.A. Deathtrap revival canceled by writer's estate's objections about gay content

David Ng, The Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster blog, 8/27/12

A Los Angeles revival of Ira Levin's Deathtrap has been canceled after the estate of the late author expressed objections to the use of nudity and some of the production's gay content. The engagement, which was supposed to have begun [in] September at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, was to be a remounting of the staging that ran at the center in the spring. After an appeal, the center said it was granted permission to produce the play but under the condition that the staging would not include any behavior indicating a physical relationship between [the play's two male characters]. The center decided to call off the production. Ken Sawyer, who directed the production, said his staging featured some kissing and embracing between the male protagonists. "They behave like any ordinary couple would... They [the estate] are making a big deal out of relatively little." The 1982 film adaptation [of Deathtrap], directed by Sidney Lumet, features a romantic kiss between [its stars, Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve].


Alaskan theater aims to foster discussion about gays and others on the fringe

Gary Black, Fairbanks News Miner, 9/13/12

A burgeoning theater group is pushing the limits of the stage in Fairbanks, and it wants you to be a part of it. Revive the Red Tent is an up-and-coming theater company founded just a few years ago, but it is one that has found its place in an art world crafted to stretch the imagination and open a dialogue to higher critical thinking. "I think that so much of classism and racism and homophobia and sexism can be attributed to thinking, 'I don't know anyone like that,'" co-founder Anna Gagne-Hawes said. A goal of Revive the Red Tent is to foster discussion about minorities, women or members of society who fall into the fringe by using art to expose the lesser-knowns to the masses. My Fair Lady this is not. The most recent project the group did was titled As Sure as God Made Little Green Apples which was financed by the Pride Foundation. Gagne-Hawes and board member Fiona Zachel interviewed local lesbians about what it is like being a gay woman in Fairbanks. They turned those interviews into a 50-minute play involving text, movement and stories. "I think theater is an amazing venue to talk about things that people think they can't talk about," Gagne-Hawes said.

  Commentary: A Chicago theater production makes a case for a gay Hamlet

Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, 9/19/12

The notion of a homo Hamlet isn't new, but it's definitely a minority position. Director Michael Halberstam demonstrates that it makes absolute -- even revelatory -- sense in his fascinating, if not entirely successful staging of Hamlet for Writers' Theatre. Redefining Hamlet's sexual preference does more than provide a titillating subtext for his interactions with pals. It also does more than explain the weird, trashy, ultimately shattering way he treats his sometime girlfriend, Ophelia. It offers a solution to the fairly huge problem of Hamlet's preoccupation with death. I mean, here's a young man whose primary dilemma is how to make good on his promise to vindicate his wronged father. Yet his most important speeches aren't about revenge or tactics or restoring the lawful royal succession. They're about death. Specifically, his longing for it. What's going [on] inside this prince of Denmark? Halberstam's production opens up the possibility that his morbidity equates with sexual shame. Like, say, Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge two years ago, after his assignation with another man was streamed over the Internet, this Hamlet may want to die because he can't reconcile his desires with his public persona. The gay conceit helps account for Hamlet's notorious logorrhea, too. He may talk so much to avoid discussing the topic that dare not speak its name.


Commentary: "It's great when gay characters are just part of the canvas"

Mark Shenton, The Stage [UK], 9/20/12

The true path towards acceptance and integration of minorities isn't made, of course, when special pleading is made for them but they're happily, healthily and naturally integrated into the way of things. It's why colour-blind casting in the theatre is so brilliant. And the same thing applies to gay characters: it's fantastic when we're not just alternately tragic or comic relief to the main drama happening elsewhere. It's great when gay characters are just part of the canvas of characters that a playwright works with, and we observe them in the context of the wider worlds they inhabit. Gay playwrights and artists have gone through countless evolutions and revolutions to arrive at the happy state where they can produce gay characters in their work that don't have to be written in code (as Rattigan or Coward did, for instance), or desperately unhappy, as Tennessee Williams did, but just being. And a key part of that trail was blazed by Martin Sherman, who would become most famous for writing Bent, with a small early work, Passing By, that was given its first full production in 1975. It is currently being revived in a small but perfectly formed production at the Finborough Theatre. Simon Callow, who starred in the original production, wrote in his autobiography:

"Though in essence a very sweet account of a passing love affair between two young men, it was utterly radical in offering no apology or explanation for the affair.... The effect on the predominantly gay audience was sensational -- they wept, not because it was sad, but because it was the first time they'd seen their own lives represented on stage without inverted commas, with neither remorse nor disgust. Mart Crowley's Boys in the Band -- "show me a happy homosexual and I'll show you a gay corpse" -- had been packing them in, gay and straight, in the West End only a couple of years before; the acceptable face of homosexuality -- brittle, anguished, self-loathing. Passing By was the antidote to this seductive but poisonous brew." 

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