Producing Director Jerry Rapier on Plan-B’s LGBTQ Work

Jerry Rapier has been Plan-B’s Producing Director since 2000.  He shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day. I stumbled onto a copy of Harvey Fierstein’s TORCH SONG TRILOGY the summer I turned 16 in the Duncan, Arizona (population 700) town library.  I’m positive my aunt, who ran the library, didn’t know what it was. I had never read a play before.  I had never seen many of the words in that play before.  And I had never quite understood who I was. It opened up the world for me. Fast forward to the fall of 2000 and I suddenly found myself in a position to make artistic decisions for Plan-B Theatre Company.  I got my hands on the unpublished manuscript of THE LARAMIE PROJECT, the original production of which was still touring the country.  I called Dramatists Play Service daily for 6 months and finally had to get Salt Lake Acting Company and Pioneer Theatre Company to confirm with Dramatists that they were not interested in the title so Plan-B could produce it. That production – the first independent, regional production worldwide – was the mother of all mile markers for Plan-B. It made it possible for us to segue from a community theatre to a community-based professional theatre. With it, we launched our Benefit Performances Program; realized the value of creating true community awareness around each play; committed to producing at least one play per season focused on LGBTQ issues; and began focusing more tightly on socially conscious theatre. Plan-B had produced LGBTQ-inclusive work prior to THE LARAMIE PROJECT.  But now our body...

Trustee Jesse Nix on Plan-B's LGBTQ Work

Plan-B trustee Jesse Nix shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day.  When I walked into the Studio Theatre to see ERIC(A), I knew I would be seeing a great show. I didn’t anticipate how the show would affect me and my understanding of the T in LGBT. The inner dialogue was eye-opening, thoughtful, and increased my commitment to fairness and equality for the transgender...

Stage Manager Jennifer Freed on creating LGBTQ work with Plan-B

Jennifer Freed has stage managed all but three Plan-B productions since 1998.  She shares her thoughts about Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day. During my time as Plan-B Theatre Company’s Resident Stage Manager, I’ve had the opportunity to become very well acquainted with our productions that have a gay theme or a gay character. So deciding which one play or character touched me most is a difficult challenge. Honestly I have been wrestling with this problem for almost a month now. I’ve looked at the plays, photo’s from the plays, actors’ portrayal of characters, a kaleidoscope of memories and feelings from each and every show. But I think I have come to my most memorable, the one that touched me the most is Mathew Ivan Bennett’s ERIC(A). Why this play? My choice comes down to my own struggles, the ones I go through each and every day, like most in the LBGT community. Trying to be my authentic self. Being brave enough to step out and say I am a lesbian and I have an amazing wife and I deserve every right that everyone else has. Honestly I think our productions say this on the most fundamental level every season. So maybe ERIC(A) just hit me when I needed to hear it the most, or be reminded that it’s ok to be exactly who I am in a world where so many people try and change us to fit their ideal. It’s ok to step up and be different and embrace exactly who you...

Designer Jesse Portillo on creating LGBTQ work with Plan-B

Jesse Portillo has lit nearly every Plan-B show since 2007 and teaches Queer Theatre at the University of Utah. He shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day. Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of productions that dealt with LGBTQ issues. The most important and memorable experience for me was during an audience talk back after a performance of Matthew Ivan Bennett’s ERIC(A). A young man in the audience raised his hand and commented on the play, he mentioned that he was gay, and that both of his Moms were incredibly supportive of him. I unfortunately do not remember the rest of his comment because I was immediately lost in my own thoughts as I reflected on how much the world has changed for the better since I was in high school. I started to think about the ways that this young man’s daily life are so very different than my life was when I was his age. As I reflected on the changes that have happened, I was reminded how much farther we have to go. The LGBTQ-oriented plays that Plan-B Theatre has produced, including ERIC(A) and Eric Samuelsen’s BORDERLANDS, are somewhat unusual in their focus on queer characters as functioning, empowered individuals. These productions have reminded me how much the world has changed in the recent past, and how much work is yet to be done. I am happy to help create theatre that shows all of us what the world should look...

Teresa Sanderson on revisiting ERIC(A)

Teresa Sanderson has been working with Plan-B Theatre Company for 20 years, including creating roles in six plays by Matthew Ivan Bennett – most recently ERIC(A), for which she received the 2013 City Weekly Arty Award for “Best Individual Theatre Performance.” In each of us resides an angel and a beast.  The more willing we are to look at the beast, the stronger the angel becomes. “I don’t think I’m one person, are any of us? I don’t think so. I don’t think any of you are one person literally.” Eric points this out to us early in the presentation of his “Intellectual Defense of the Trans Experience” in ERIC(A).  It is just one of the themes of the play that speaks to me. It is one of the things that make us interesting and diverse humans. I don’t want to be one person, I like the different facets of my personality (well, most of them.) And while we all live within some boundaries, I feel lucky that my family and close friends understand and accept my many sides. One may think it is convenient to do a solo piece, but it is odd. You CAN run lines whenever you like, whenever you can find an hour and a half of uninterrupted time. But it is just flat weird rehearsing a solo piece!  I miss the audience, they are the other characters in this play. I am excited and nervous to take ERIC(A) on the road, something that was always intended with this piece, but now it’s here!  I am thrilled to be in Ogden at Good Company Theatre...

Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett on revisiting ERIC(A)

Matthew Ivan Bennett has been Plan-B Theatre’s resident playwright since 2007.  In addition to four radio plays and more than a dozen short plays, his BLOCK 8, DI ESPERIENZA, MESA VERDE and ERIC(A) have premiered at Plan-B.  DIFFERENT=AMAZING premieres in early 2014 as Plan-B’s second annual elementary school tour. Every once in a while, my wife and I will bicker about whether plays are literature. She steamily defends them as literature, and I—as a playwright—say they’re not. My point is always the same: plays aren’t intended to be literate artifacts, but living oral and visual performances. If they’re read later, and happen to be enjoyed, terrific, but it’s like watching a movie by holding a film strip up the light and examining the frames one-by-one. No filmmaker wants you to do that and no playwright wants you to read her play. For a number of reasons, I feel this most keenly with ERIC(A). Reviewing the script now, I see only hints and cues. I can still see the lines, the labor of my tropes, the history of my meticulous cuts and re-wildings, but the true play lies in my memory—and my anticipation—of Teresa [Sanderson]’s performance and Jerry [Rapier]’s mediation. We live in a privileged age. A hundred years ago, a person might hear their favorite symphony only three or four times in his lifetime. Now we can instantly download Tchaikovsky’s “1812” and listen to it, on repeat, all day. Now we can carry Mona Lisa in our pockets. The art form that’s resisted this ubiquity is theatre. We can videotape live theatre—and it’s been done with greater and lesser...

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