Whether queerly reimagining classics like Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” or tackling new theater works like Jon Marans’ “The Temperamentals,” Mauckingbird Theatre Company has produced innovative, daring and strictly LGBTQ-themed works for 11 years.
Over that time, producing director and co-creator of Mauckingbird Peter Reynolds has showcased the talents of some of Philly’s finest actors early in their trade, like Sarah Sanford, Jennie Eisenhower and Dito van Reigersberg.
This week Reynolds brings playwright Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other,” to Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake Aug. 28-Sept. 15. Harmon’s comedy follows a gay Jewish man in his late 20s as he searches for commitment and a relationship, all while grappling with the new expectations for LGBTQ folks following the legalization of gay marriage.
PGN: You have an incredible history of producing LGBTQ work. What is Mauckingbird up to now?
PR: It is difficult to believe we are 11 years in! In spite of the miraculous changes in the law, most notably gay marriage, we are still under threat. Certainly, we are under threat much more than at any time in my lifetime. If it was progressive in 2008 to tell stories where being LGBT is a given circumstance, it is now obligatory. Forces in the U.S. are questioning our rights and taking them away in systematic ways. We must present our stories onstage and make them as commonplace as the heterosexually focused rom-coms on the Lifetime Network.
PGN: What have you personally experienced since beginning Mauckingbird?
PR: I never thought I would be married legally. Then, in 2014, the Supreme Court passed marriage equality, and I was able to marry my partner of 20 years. And now it is under assault, thanks to the Republican party, Donald Trump and, silently and significantly, Mike Pence. When we began Mauckingbird in 2008, I felt proud that we were sharing our stories. Now, what we are doing is more important. Our hard won rights are under assault, and anyone who does not see that is simply not paying attention.
PGN: I know you also work outside of Mauckingbird. Can you explain why?
PR: I love to tell stories. This past spring, I got to direct Dylan Thomas' brilliant “Under Milk Wood” with young student actors at Temple. It was every bit as rewarding an experience as the two shows I did earlier this summer with [Actors’ Equity Association] professionals. Telling stories is the reward. Storytelling verifies our existence as humans.
PGN: What are you looking for when considering plays for Mauckingbird?
PR: I appreciate a compelling story; I also enjoy great language. I am interested in stories where being queer is a given circumstance, normal. It should not be a question; LGBTQ humans are as equal as all other humans…. [I want to see] a good story that is specific and also universally appealing.
PGN: What do you find appealing about “Significant Other” and Joshua Harmon?
PR: My husband [Mauckingbird Producing Director Brandon McShaffrey] and I saw “Significant Other” on Broadway and were immediately taken by the piece. The leading character, Jordan, is gay and that is a given. I was interested in this piece because it was about humans navigating their way through the complexities of adult relationships; it was not just about "coming out."
PGN: You have a good eye for talent. Who in “Significant Other” should we be watching?
PR: Daniel Irwin is carrying the large and challenging role of Jordan Berman with aplomb; he is a real gem. I am excited to work with the talented David Hutchison (“The Importance of Being Earnest,” “The Sisterhood”), Liam Mulshine (“Fallen Angels”), Kat Borelli, Donna Dougherty and Sophie Hirsch again and excited to meet and work with Donovan Lockett for the first time.
“Significant Other” runs Aug. 28-Sept. 15 at Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake. For more information and tickets, visit mauckingbird.org/2019-season.html.