imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
Tell the NSA: StopWatching.US

Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

CopWatch LA

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List





IMC Network: www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - json version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles
link:

Yes, Virginia, There ARE Gay Men in Kansas!

by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM
mgconlan@earthlink.net (619) 688-1886 P. O. Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165

Most Queer people, unless they actually came from Kansas, think of it as the place Dorothy Gale was lucky enough to be flown out of by a cyclone in "The Wizard of Oz." But San Diego's Diversionary Theatre is producing an original musical, "Harmony, Kansas," a touching comedy/drama about Gay men in Kansas who come together and form a singing group just to have one place where they can be who they are.

Yes, Virginia, There...
scan_blur.a.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x516

Harmony, Kansas: Diversionary’s Engaging Original Musical

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Say what you will about Diversionary Theatre, you never quite know what to expect from them. Their latest production, Harmony, Kansas, is an original musical — that’s something of a surprise right there — set in the Kansas flatlands and the town of Shiloh, described on the ePodunk.com Web site as “a township in Neosho County … [whose] population, at the time of the 2000 census, was 297.” For those Queers whose association with Kansas is as the place Dorothy Gale was magically whisked out of by a cyclone that took her to Oz, Harmony, Kansas will be a jolting confirmation that we are, indeed, everywhere — even in the middle of the Kansas wheat country where virtually everyone is a farmer and there are virtually no opportunities to meet each other.

Written (book and lyrics) by Bill Nelson with music by Anna K. Jacobs, Harmony, Kansas centers around Heath (Jacob Caltrider), a Wisconsin native whose sex-fueled wanderlust cost his family their farm and who’s trying to make it right by building a spread in Kansas equal in size to the one he lost in Wisconsin. Either one or two and one-half years earlier — Nelson’s book is a bit unclear on the timeline — Heath met a man named Julian (Tom Zohar) in Kansas City (there are actually two Kansas Cities, but Julian is presumably from the larger and much more cosmopolitan one in Missouri rather than the one across the state line in Kansas), started a relationship with him and ultimately got him to move back with him to his farm.

There’s just one problem: Julian remains a city boy at heart, painfully yearning for the company of other people in general and other Gay men in particular. He’s found at least some of what he’s looking for in an informal singing group that meets every Monday night in Shiloh. The organizer is Wylie (John Whitley) and the other members include middle-aged bear type Fuzz (Bill Nolte); rather prissy homebody Darrell (Tony Houck) — whose partner Pete (whom we never see as an on-stage character) is out of town selling horses — Ken (Anthony Methvin), with whom Darrell has drifted into an affair; and 16-year-old D. J. (Dylan Hoffinger), who’s taking out his dual frustrations over being Queer and under the age of consent out on animals he puts in freezers or blows up with homemade bombs.

The plot of Harmony, Kansas deals with Julian’s desperate attempts to get Heath to join him in the singing group — whose members have informally nicknamed it “The Poker Night” because that’s what they tell anybody else who asks what they’re doing on those Monday nights — and the struggles of the various members to maintain their integrity as people against the relentless pressure on them to remain closeted. The first half is generally campy and a bit silly — though at least Nelson resists the temptation to turn the relationship of Heath and Julian into Green Acres, the Gay version.

Indeed, their cultural conflicts and the peculiar combination of love and guilt in the relationship between Darrell and Ken are presented dramatically and with genuine pathos, even though sometimes it seems as if Nelson has inverted the formula of “comic relief” by creating those moments as “serious relief” from the campy humor. At one point Darrell even gets miffed that Julian has brought snacks for the group and sings a song called “I Bring the Snacks.”

The second half gets a good deal more serious as the conflicts between Heath and Julian get more pointed, the triangle between Darrell, Ken and the unseen Pete becomes harder to maintain, and Wylie gradually wants to raise the profile of the singing group and have it perform in public. Though all the onstage characters are Gay men, Nelson does a superb job of dramatizing the closet and its corrosive effects on these men’s self-esteem, as well as their abject fear of “outing” themselves by appearing on a local stage with all their neighbors watching. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” may be history as far as the U.S. military is concerned, but at least as depicted here it’s still very much a part of life on the Kansas plains.

When Julian protests that their fellow farmers will have noticed that they are two men living together and therefore have intuited that they’re a Gay couple, Heath protests that he needs to maintain their respect (especially since he’s depending on them for the bank loan he needs to expand his farm) and therefore they can’t do anything that might be read as “flaunting.” Darrell is in an even worse pickle because the farm he lives on is owned by Pete’s family, and they have the power to throw him out and render him homeless any time they choose.

Harmony, Kansas gets darker and more emotionally intense as it goes on, and though it reaches an affirmative climax it gets there through a deus ex machina device of such bone-crushing obviousness one gets the impression that Nelson missed the class session of Playwriting 101 that would have taught him not to do that. Despite that miscalculation, though, it remains emotionally intense (this viewer cried!) and is superlatively staged by director James Vasquez and Diversionary’s technical crew, and impeccably acted by the cast.

Though Jacob Caltrider stands out — he’s the hottest man in the cast (when one of the other characters makes a joke about how well he fills out his Wranglers, virtually every Gay man in the audience — and most of the straight women as well — will no doubt agree!), he’s the most charismatic actor and he’s also got the strongest singing voice — Harmony, Kansas is really an ensemble piece. Tom Zohar gets a bit whiny sometimes as Julian, and John Whitley and Tony Houck don’t always maintain the right balance between their characters’ queeny exteriors and their emotion-ridden interiors, but Anthony Methvin is a powerful stage presence as the tortured Ken and Dylan Hoffinger is dynamic as the frustrated D.J.

The best part of Harmony, Kansas is the formidable vocal blend its actors have achieved. Adam Wachter, who conducts the show, plays the piano accompaniment (supported by Peggy Johnston on bass) and is responsible for the arrangements, deserves credit for rehearsing the actors and training them to become a first-rate singing group. The few times they’re less than perfect — like on the pathetic (in the negative sense) “Welcome Song” Wylie writes to welcome Heath to the group — are clearly intentional. Indeed, it might be nice to see these actors stay together and keep singing after the run of Harmony, Kansas ends on July 22; they’re good enough to sing the great standard songs their 1950’s harmonies were made for. (There’s one point during the musical in which Nelson’s dialogue seems to be setting up a song cue for “Over the Rainbow” — and it seems likely the only reason he and Jacobs didn’t go there was the nightmarish trouble and expense of securing the rights.)

Harmony, Kansas is produced with Diversionary’s usual technical aplomb. Sean Fanning’s unit set is reasonably credible as both farm country and living room, and only when we’re asked to believe that a crude stack of three chairs is a mechanical bull does it tax credibility. Shirley Pierson’s costumes are appropriate enough — especially D. J.’s overalls and Fuzz’s belt buckle, which tell us more than we need to know about them — and Michelle Carron’s lighting design is a bit on the autumnal side but still lets us see what’s going on. Overall, it’s a nice, uplifting evening at the theatre, a piece that fulfills the musical conventions (and is helped by being about people who sing!) despite some glitches in the dramatic construction which Nelson may well fix for subsequent productions.

Harmony, Kansas runs through Sunday, July 22 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights. Previews run through June 22 and the official opening is on Saturday, June 23. Performances are 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun. Special performances occur Wed., June 20 and Mon., July 9. For tickets and other information, call (619) 220-0097 or visit http://www.diversionary.org
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments


Local News

Los Angeles Joins Nationwide March Against Mainstream Media #MAMSM A20 3:04PM

Has KPFK's GM Duncan just dis-appeared? A20 12:35PM

Michael Ruppert dead. A18 6:17PM

Pacifica voting in secret with no accountability? Is this part of KPFK ? A18 3:39PM

Kassim Alhimidi convicted of murder A17 8:33PM

Members of Bundy Family Explain Bundy Ranch Stand-Off With Bureau of Land Management (BLM) A17 1:03AM

Here's some interesting privatization connections in regards to the LAUSD District 1 race A15 4:25PM

Rock, Rap & Speakout vs Poverty, Prisons & War A13 3:16PM

Report Back: 4th Annual Hahamongna Walkabout A13 2:33PM

Pacifica Exe Director position is in confusion still putting KPFK at risk A10 3:52PM

Bernard Duncan, prior GM of KPFK is still in play A08 5:01PM

San Diego May Dai Workers Film Festival A06 5:11PM

Southern California Joins Worldwide Wave Of Action A05 2:31AM

Pacifica board members named here, who attempted ousting ED A04 1:06PM

LA Weekly promotes a slanted view of Pacifica/ KPFK A04 10:36AM

More Info about Pacifica, which holds KPFK's license, etc. A03 2:08PM

Listen to KPFK's staff talking to Pacifica Exe Director M29 7:31PM

Pacifica IS also KPFK, so let's not ignore what going on M29 5:42PM

Reported excerpts of Pacifica's - and that's KPFK's - incidents happening - update M29 5:14PM

Repost from Counterpunch re Pacifica - KPFK too involved M29 2:10PM

Forever intertwined: KPFK, WBAI, Gary Null ? M28 4:10PM

Why is KPFK still failing to thrive ? M28 3:32PM

GLOBAL DAY of ACTION for the Indonesian Rainforests! M27 3:06PM

Opponents of SB County Jail's Letter Ban to Share Progress, Next Steps M27 9:58AM

Pacifica Radio, Rwanda, and DR Congo M26 2:29PM

International Multicultural Literary Magazine Features Armenia in Spring Issue M25 11:14AM

Why is KPFK still failing to thrive ? M24 9:10PM

Home-less-free occupying is not a free ride either M24 8:46PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

US Threatens Russia A23 12:48AM

Outrageous Pro-Kiev Op-Ed A23 12:46AM

Mormon Perspective on #BundyRanch, U.S. Federal Government, and Divinity of Constitution A22 2:10PM

Propaganda alert: US and UN object to the holding of presidential elections in Syria A22 10:45AM

Livestreamer @PMBeers interviews Bundy Ranch supporters during BLM stand-off A22 8:13AM

Cold War 2.0 A22 12:51AM

Marwan Barghouti on Sham Peace Talks A22 12:50AM

Will Hundreds of Years of Contract Law be Eradicated in Santa Ana Court? A22 12:32AM

F*ck One Democratic state A21 10:55PM

Uranium Madhouse unleashes The Duchess of Malfi in Hollywood A21 8:48PM

Major BDS Donor Owned Shares of Caterpillar While Campaigning for Divestment A21 8:23PM

There Is A Petition For Single Payer Health Insurance A21 2:10PM

Proposal: Piketty and Saez Meme Project A21 1:24PM

The Great Shakespeare On Animal And Plant Rights A21 12:40PM

John Johnson A21 10:25AM

Kropotkin Prison A21 4:58AM

The Earth a Common Treasury for All A21 3:38AM

Kiev Breaks Easter Truce A21 12:44AM

Unacceptable State-Sponsored Murder A21 12:43AM

"Believing without Seeing" A20 4:13PM

Trolling ...what is that ? A20 1:01PM

Canada Targets Russia A20 11:45AM

Russia Bashing Continues A20 12:45AM

Koch Brothers-Style Free Society A20 12:43AM

Arythmie du capital A19 5:33AM

Dissent within after article, Profound Arrogance at UN. A19 4:20AM

Dissent within after article, Profound Arrogance at UN. A19 3:25AM

Kiev Violates Four-Party Agreement A19 12:50AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy