Daniel Talbott and Buddy Thomas are two playwrights who are sharing works with audiences during GayFest. While Thomas’ The Crumple Zone focuses on a group of gay friends who find themselves celebrating Christmas together, Talbot’s Mike and Seth explores what happens when two guys meet the night before one of them marries. Both plays deal with the complexity of friendship – and what it means to stare down sometimes tough issues with a certain amount of hope and humor. That’s why we talked to the writers to find out what motivates them, what it means to write a “gay” play these days and what inspires the creative process.
In many ways gay theatre hit a pinnacle in the 80s and 90s when playwrights responded to the AIDS crisis. How has the state of gay theatre changed in more recent years?
Courtesy of Daniel Talbott
Talbott: I’m feeling like I maybe don’t know enough to totally answer this question completely, but I definitely know there are a ton of extraordinary, fearless, and challenging gay, lesbian, and bisexual playwrights out there right now, and I think that gay theater is majorly alive and kicking, which I love. I don’t know if it’s changed so much as evolved with our world maybe. There are a ton of brilliant writers out there writing honestly, openly, and compassionately about sexuality right now. I mean you had Doric Wilson, Lanford Wilson, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, and you still have Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, Mark Ravenhill, Linda Chapman, Kate Moira Ryan, The Five Lesbian Brothers, Craig Lucas, Charles Busch, Jeff Weiss, and a ton of others. And now you also have Lucy Thurber, Mark Schultz, Ken Urban, Taylor Mac, Daniel Reitz, Sarah Schulman, Mariah MacCarthy, Gary Sunshine, Kathleen Warnock, J.Stephen Brantley, Jordan Seavey, Troy Deutsch, Donnetta Lavinia Grays and Joshua Conkel, among many, many, many wonderful others. All completely original and powerful, distinct, unafraid voices.
Thomas: The Crumple Zone premiered off-Broadway in 2000, but it was written in the late 90s. One of the very reasons I wrote this play is because there seemed to be a point in the 90s when almost every single play that even touched on gay issues also dealt with AIDS in some major or minor way. I totally understand that playwrights were simply responding to the crisis, often in amazing theatrical works, but just because a play focuses on gay people does not mean that AIDS or mortality automatically has to feature into the plot.
What are some themes that you often find yourselves wrestling with?
Talbott: I think family, siblings, childhood, my best friends, lovers, my mom, childhood, sex, self-hatred, memory, loneliness, anger, compassion, nature, poverty, spirituality and love.
Courtesy of Buddy Thomas
Thomas: Honestly, what I wrestle with more than anything is finding a spare moment in the day to write at all. I have a pretty all-consuming day job, and in this economy, thank God for that, but the last thing I want to do after twelve hours at a computer is sit at a computer some more. That attitude caused a pretty serious dry-spell after The Crumple Zone premiered off-Broadway. It had gotten great reviews and was a pretty big hit, and everyone wanted to know what I was going to do next. I had some ideas, but just no time. Cut to ten years later, and I finally banged out a new one, the sci-fi spoof, Devil Boys From Beyond, which won Best Play at Fringe NYC and was nominated for a GLAAD Award, before transferring to a commercial off-Broadway run. It has since been performed around the country, and I understand that GayFest did a pretty fun production of it last summer.