Friday, March 13, 2015

"Hold on, Millie Martindale (Raven Bonniwell)! You got some ‘splainin’ to do."

"You’ve just tried to break a date with your husband’s boss’ awful wife Kitty Sunderson (Karen Lange) by pretending you had an appointment with a butcher on U Street – and now Kitty wants to go to the butcher with you! How are you going to get out of that?!!
And not so fast, Bob Martindale (Andrew Keller)! You got some ‘splainin’ to do too. You’re in charge of the State Department program to root out communists on the payroll, and your boss Ted Sunderson (Zach Brewster-Geisz) has just put you in charge of a new program to get rid of all the sexual deviants in the State Department – and you’re one of them yourself!
Although you have a sham marriage to Millie, you actually live in unholy bliss with your neighbor Jim Baxter (Kiernan McGowan), who is legally married to your secretary Norma (Natalie Cutcher) – who is in reality Millie’s lover! How are you going to get out of that?!!"
So begins a 2013 review of Topher Payne's play Perfect Arrangement in the DC Theater Scene.

I knew nothing about the review, but I did know the play was coming to Anchorage, when I stopped by Out North to see about tickets for next Thursday's  (March 19) opening of the play.    The box office wasn't open, but two of the producers (and actors) were inside, the set was ready, and Krista Schwarting and Jay Burns told me about the play. 

In the video they briefly discuss the play - a West Coast premiere.  Maybe you can hear some hints of playwright Topher Payne's Mississippi childhood in this post's title.  The story takes place in the 1950s as homosexuals, following the purge of communists, were being rooted out of the State Department.  We're getting the play here in Anchorage because Krista knows a friend of the Topher Payne.  And  Topher Payne will be here for the opening.

This was happened in the early 1950's - about the same time that Alan Turing (see Imitation Game)  was arrested in England for being a homosexual.   A commenter on the review that opens this post wrote:
"The man sitting next to me said “Young people have no idea … Everyone should see this play.” I totally agree, and only wish these people could also be there: the woman I know who was an Army nurse in Korea and had to stand by, with her lover, and watch her friends being routed out and dishonorably discharged, and the woman who was the best record promoter in Chicago in the 60s who got caught trying to escape from a police raid of a second floor lesbian bar and lost her career. This is a fabulous comedy that touches on their tragedies."
People growing up today have trouble grasping what 'in the closet' meant back then.  And perhaps they can better understand the negative reactions many in the older generations against gays because of what they were taught when they were young.   This trailer for a movie about the time gives a little sense.  (I was way too young at the time to be aware of any of this.)

The Reemergence of Out North

I'm delighted this enchanted piece of real estate at Primrose and Debarr is coming back to life. The building started as some sort of electrical station. When we got to Anchorage in 1977 it was Grandview Garden library, a wonderful funky old library. When Loussac library opened in 1984, Grandview was scheduled to close. The community kept it open a bit longer, but eventually it was shut. But the building was reincarnated as Out North by Jay Brause and Gene Dugan.  And Jay and Gene (and their successors) always brought thought provoking performances - whether from Outside or from Anchorage or around Alaska - to their stage.  Stuff that made you rethink things you thought you knew.  You can read some more of the history here in the description of the Out North now housed at the University's Archives and Special Collections.

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