What Most Excites you about these two shows?
The fact that we are doing it and doing these specific pieces together. I fell in love with the characters in Lawfully Wedded when Morgan brought them to us for a reading last fall and I'm just really pleased that we're going to introduce them to audiences. Providing Wes with an opportunity to direct for us, and bringing together a number of new and familiar actors also makes me happy. Gorgeous Hussey is another one that I've watched develop and was very excited by during the reading process. That we have Brady, Susan, and Ryan attached to it makes it even more exciting, because they are all so talented, dynamic and thoughtful and I know that they will make magic with Morgan's wonderful script.
What are the challenges Wily West faces with the shows?
I think that for any of the smaller theaters, doing two shows at once is going to be a stretch for resources. Something that thankfully (and unfortunately) we're already used to and do pretty well. Quinn as the Producing Director always keeps things very organized and for this production in particular, surprisingly simple. I think I kept expecting there to be more hiccups or issues, because we'd split focus and so many of our company members were also involved in the "artistic" side, but aside from the normal things you'd expect to encounter when dealing with any show, there really were no major issues. We did have a personal emergency for one company member, and in that case Quinn, Wes, and cast stepped in immediately to make it as smooth and non-impactful as possible. Right now, a week away from opening, getting audiences excited enough to visit both plays is my primary focus. Fortunately both casts are incredibly supportive of each other and the whole concept of repertory. Just in general the company has been really lovely and supportive, which always makes doing this so much easier.
What have been some of your favorite productions with Wily West?
I get asked that pretty often, and I have to say it's like asking a mom which of her children is her favorite. Even the ones that for various reasons might not be at the top of my list, still offered something I loved and cherish. I really enjoyed this season's Sheherezade that we produce with PCSF, and not just because I had PCSF members spontaneously hug me because they were so happy with it. Hugs are always nice though. I'm pleased to see that like every year, some of the short plays are going on to other national and international productions. "Ruth and the Sea", by Morgan, which also featured Ryan Hayes in the cast is up at the top of my list for sure. There was just something magical about that play for me. "Arrivederci Roma" was a fun one that, I think because it came from something so specific and personal for Morgan that I could relate to from a different angle, it made me happy every time I watched it. That and it had a lot of campy food humor, which I seem to have a weakness for. "Peaches en Regalia", by Steve Lyons and featuring Phil Goleman who is in Lawfully Wedded, was just very sweet and the cast was a joy to work with and be around. "Nymph O' Mania", "Juno en Victoria", I could go on and on. Mostly the fact that my life has been enriched by so many amazing people is the best part of all.
Gorgeous Hussy explores the private vs. personal selves, how do you relate?
My professional and theatre lives are very separate and both require a lot of time and energy. I'm lucky that I work for a company that is fairly supportive of my theatre endeavors, but my professional field is very competitive and still one that tends to look down on "creative-types", so to a certain degree I have to be very careful to balance a firm adherence to my freedom to pursue my passion outside of work, with not compromising my availability and delivery in a fast paced work environment. One that requires a significant amount of travel and overtime. Also, my upbringing in the gay community with performance artists and a strong anti-establishment ethic mean I feel divided sometimes; wanting to make big loud art that screams from the rooftops, while also wanting to keep myself out of the limelight. I'm fickle like a cat about having attention paid to me - only when I want it and only my way, but I'll scratch the furniture and twitch my tail if I'm left out, anyway.
And with Lawfully Wedded and the themes of equality, marriage, life?
As I said, I was raised within the gay community, and lost my Dad and dozens of others to AIDS. One of my first baby sitters was involved in the founding of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I lived in the Castro prior to and through the AIDS crises there. I saw things by the time I was 15 that most people in the 80s wouldn't have seen by the time they were 45. I was bullied at school and by adults, because my dad was gay and my family were "weird." I've never even remotely understood what drives people to conclude that there's any real difference between "straight" or "gay." I mean, I know, I just don't get it. People are people, capable of the wide spectrum of good, bad, and odd regardless of gender, ethnicity, or orientation. I can't begin to explain the rage and hurt and resentment that I felt when I was younger having to face the prejudices directed at my loved ones, either directly or through me. I'm still outraged by the homophobic rhetoric that is driving the political agenda today. As if we don't have a million other problems, we have to spend energy fighting DOMA, Prop 8, etc. I'm painfully aware of the privileges I have for being straight, white, and middle class, and it breaks my heart that something so arbitrary makes any difference. But I'm more hopeful than I've ever been that we can and will make progress. So many of the things that are explored in Lawfully Wedded touch me personally, because they reflect my family, my friends, myself. What I particularly appreciate is that even though there are some darker, sadder notes to the stories told, Morgan specifically wanted something that was ultimately more uplifting and celebratory of the "normalcy" of relationships regardless of orientation and no matter how odd or out of the mainstream - they're still "normal", human, and real. I love how complex humans are, even when it's driving me crazy.
What do you hope audiences will take away?
We've talked a lot about the themes the plays have separately. But I think the thing that joins them together is the humanity underneath the trappings of stereotypes and preconceptions. I hope that our audiences will see themselves reflected in these characters and their stories. I hope that they will walk away feeling good and hopeful and having been entertained by a talented group with heart and vulnerability. Because, ultimately vulnerability is the key to empathy and right now our world needs all the empathy it can get.