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Five-for-one gay history
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2012-11-14

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David Leeper in At the Flash. Banner courtesy of David Zak


Pride Films and Plays can already claim that its world-premiere production of At the Flash is an award-winner.

At the Flash—which married couple Sean Chandler and David Leeper of Woodland Hills, Calif., co-wrote—was the ultimate winner of Pride Films and Plays' 2012 Great Gay Play And Musical Contest this past April. Now local theatergoers can see a fully realized production of At the Flash at the Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theatre from Friday, Nov. 16, to Sunday, Dec. 16.

"This is the first one—the first time that we're actually taking a script that was developed and won the contest into a full production," said Pride Films and Plays founder and artistic director David Zak. "It's a great step."

Chandler and Leeper came up with the idea for At the Flash about seven years ago when they were talking about writing a show that would explore the past 50 years of the gay and lesbian movement.

Other playwrights have also explored gay history through drama, notably Robert Patrick with his 1988 multi-play cycle Untold Decades and Terrence McNally in his 2007 off-Broadway drama Some Men. But Chandler and Leeper opted to make At the Flash into a one-man show.

"We went ahead and set up the show to be one character representing each decade and each character comes to embody the overall tone and feel of that particular decade," Chandler said. "We thought that would be fun to watch rather than just having a lateral 'history lesson,' if you will."

Jumping back and forth in time, At the Flash features five distinct characters ranging from a budding lesbian activist to a Black drag queen and what they get up to while in the same bar location through the different decades. For the world premiere of At the Flash, Leeper assumes all the roles.

"If I could only play one role, I think I'd be drawn to Richard, the in-the-closet married man with children," said Leeper in an interview with Zak. "I think most gay men and women have struggled with their own acceptance at one time and that is what I tap into and find so heart-breaking with him."

Assisting in Leeper's many character transformations is a lot of technical sound and lighting cues to help sort out who is who.

"It's meant to be performed on a bare stage, but with music and lights, you can really use your imagination, and people bring their own stories to it," Zak said. "You hear Madonna music, you hear stuff from the '60s and it really takes you back."

Now when asked if At the Flash was particularly attractive to produce for Pride Films and Plays since it only calls for a single actor, Zak bristled at the suggestion.

"That's not really the point," Zak said, though he notes that other theater companies could see that as a major advantage if they chose to do subsequent productions of At the Flash in the future. "I don't think the authors could ever say we did it for that reason. They were interested in it as an artistic piece as a really exciting theatrical piece."

For Chandler, seeing the play finally up on its feet is something of a dream come true.

"It takes so much to have a gay play or film be recognized and be seen," he said. "I want it to be produced all over the world—that would be beyond my wildest dreams."

Following At the Flash, Pride Films and Plays is set to produce a 20th-anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey's play Beautiful Thing and a new musical about the outing of a politician called Under a Rainbow Flag. The latter piece is co-written by Chandler and composer Leo Schwartz, and it came about after the two met while their separate works were performed as readings as part of the Great Gay Play And Musical Contest.

Aside from helping to foster new artistic collaborations, Zak wants the Great Gay Play And Musical Contest to be a beacon for the production of new LGBT works.

"Plays trickling down from off-Broadway by the likes of Paul Rudnick or Terrence McNally—that whole model is gone," said Zak about regional theaters that wait for successes from New York to produce. "We're hoping that artistic directors from around the country will every year be able to come to us in April at the Center on Halsted to find the best new five gay plays and produce them right away."

Pride Films and Plays' world premiere of At the Flash plays from Friday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theatre, 3656 N. Halsted St. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (and on Wednesdays and Thursdays starting Nov. 28), with 3:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $15 for the preview on Nov. 16, and $21-$25 for the regular run. Call 800-838-3006 or go online at www.brownpapertickets.com to purchase tickets or visit www.pridefilmsandplays.com for more information.


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