‘Poster Boys’: Two local theaters collaborate to stage U.S. premiere of LGBT storyAround the City, Top Highlights Thursday, July 14th, 2011
Collaboration has become an increasingly good way to stay alive in the San Diego theatrical world. It also can create attention. Especially when it involves two well-known San Diego theaters like Moxie and Diversionary.
Moxie Theatre is definitely no stranger to the Diversionary Theatre space as many theatergoers and artists know. They have used the space many times in the past, before they moved into the old Cygnet Theatre space in the Rolando area.
Moxie has collaborated with Diversionary, with great success, two times before with shows like Pulp and Bluebonnet Court. Their recent co-mingling will bring Canadian playwright Michele Riml’s Poster Boys to the stage.
Moxie Artistic Director, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, will be directing the play and it will be a U. S. premiere.
“The play was sent to me by the former Artistic Director (Dan Kirsch) of Diversionary as a possible co-production between Diversionary and Moxie,” Sonnenberg said in an email interview. “It seemed like a good fit for both our companies’ missions.”
Sonnenberg was initially drawn to Poster Boys because of the writing, but found she was also attracted to the fact that it was an ambitious play that managed to tell a simple story in a compelling way.
“(It) illuminates both differences and shared human experiences. In this case ‘coming out’ happens to the woman and has nothing to do with gender preference. But, being true to who you are is our shared human experience whether you’re straight or gay.”
Riml wrote the piece, which was commissioned by The Arts Club Theatre Company. It took two years and seven drafts to complete and it debuted in 2008. The idea for the play was based on a true event that happened in Vancouver, Canada.
“I worked with an ad agency that produced a gay-friendly ad for a credit union promoting equal partnerships.” Riml said. “A few weeks after the campaign ran, the front page of the local paper ran an article and a picture of the ad saying that the Catholic Church had threatened to pull its funding to the children’s banking program it supported through the credit union if they didn’t pull the campaign. They were critical of the credit union’s support of a certain kind of ‘lifestyle’. That made me angry. However, the play evolved over time to focus on curiosity, compassion (and) humor.”
Riml and Sonnenberg have been in talks since the play was announced as part of the Moxie season, and while there have been no major changes to the original script Riml admits it’s tough to let go after the play has been written.
“I always work with the director for a premiere of a play. I think a play is a blueprint for something larger and I like to be there to see it ‘built’ or born if you will. It’s hard to let a play go after that, but as a writer I have to.”
There have been a few updates to the script, but only in regards to “updating some references or changing specific Canadian references to something more general” according to Sonnenberg.
“We’ve had some good phone calls and gone over the play in detail,” Riml said. “I have great confidence in Delicia. She really seems to understand the heart of the play. And she was very open to my sharing about past productions, what worked and what didn’t. I think the play is in good hands.”
Poster Boys centers on Caroline, an advertising executive, and her seemingly unfulfilled life and those people in it. She is faced with creating a new campaign for a local credit union, and labels them gay-friendly. This ultimately opens a can of worms with the Catholic Church, and the men playing the gay couple in the ads.
The play tends to be looked at as comedy, but does deal with a lot of serious issues as well. It’s a good mix that both Riml and Sonnenberg agree on.
“It’s a funny play, but there is real pain, betrayal and need, etc. present for the characters,” Sonnenberg said. “I am working to make it a human story, and we all know that life can be painful and sometimes painfully funny.”
The gay angle in the show may seem obvious due to the male couple and the controversy of the advertising campaign, but there are a few more surprises in the script concerning the gay theme. Oddly enough, the first draft didn’t even include the character of Caroline, which is not usual for most of Riml’s works.
“Most of my plays have strong female roles. But thematically, I often write about being on the outside of the social norm – feeling like ‘the other’ or the outsider,” added Riml. “I have a particular affinity for the coming out story. I think the theme of Poster Boys is about coming out. I believe coming out is a spiritual experience, a journey to becoming more authentic and honest. That’s a trip we all should take one way or another.”
Sonnenberg added, “I like to think in the world of our play, the gay couple is ‘normal’, the straight woman is so obviously the one with issues. So often it’s the other way around, right?”
Moxie Theatre’s Poster Boys is being presented at the Diversionary Theatre through July 31, which is located at 4545 Park Blvd., San Diego 92116. For tickets call the box office at 619-220-0097, or you can visit the Diversionary Theatre Web site at diversionary.org.
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