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  WINDY CITY TIMES

New gay screenplay dates back to Great Depression
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2013-05-10

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Martha Meyer and Rick Kinnebrew were in Spring Green, Wisc., for their honeymoon, which ultimately and surprisingly led to a gay screenplay.

The two visited Taliesin and heard about Frank Lloyd Wright and his adultery, but that certainly was not the love story they wanted to hear. So they went to nearby Mineral Point and toured Pendarvis, one of 10 Wisconsin Historical Society Sites, where they learned of Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum.

Back in the Great Depression, Neal and Hellum paid $10 for a crumbling stone house in Mineral Point. The house eventually became a restaurant before closing in 1970.

Meyer and Kinnebrew continued their research on Neal and Hellum—or Bob and Edgar, as they were known—and the result is The Bachelors, a new, true-life screenplay about the two.

There will be a reading of The Bachelors on May 29 at Stage 773, starting at 7 p.m., followed by a performance of the play in the historic Mineral Point Opera House on Sunday, June 2. Proceeds from the Chicago event will sponsor the second reading, produced by the Alley Stage. Tickets for the Mineral Point performance are available by calling 608-987-3292 or at www.shakeragalley.com/alley-stage .

"They essentially [were] in a gay marriage for 40 years, in plain sight, without it being an issue," Meyer said. "We thought it was stunning and amazing. Bob and Edgar were truly fascinating.

The Bachelors tells of Neal, a London interior decorator who returns to his failing Wisconsin hometown of Mineral Point in 1934 and hires a local man, Hellum, to help him restore a historic rock cottage. It is a humorous and touching look at a life two men spend together, Meyer said. "Their restoration anchors what has become a thriving artistic community in Mineral Point today."

The Bachelors was a semifinalist in Pride Films and Plays' Great Gay Screenplay Competition. It features Nelson Rodriguez and Nicholas Stockwell as Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum, respectively. Others in the cast include Sam Button-Harrison, David Besky, Joan McGrath, Jamie Smith, Beth Richards, and Tom Chiola. Chuck Berglund directs, based on David Zak's original staging.

"The highlight of the play for us is the last line, when Edgar who is caring for Bob at this point, says: 'Bob, I lived with you for 40 years. I would crawl on my knees to care for you,'" Meyer said. "That was a direct quote and, to me, that is so beautiful, such a statement of love and what marriage is supposed to be about. I thought that was gorgeous, a beacon, an emblem of how we someday hope our marriage will be looked back upon. I really thought it was lovely."

Meyer, 51, who lives in Evanston and is a mother to three, said she has gay family members and friends, so the gay screenplay certainly hits home.

"We both feel very deeply about the rights of all family and friends to marry who they love. [Same-sex marriage] is like the civil rights issue of our time; it's just something that needs to happen," Meyer said. "What we need is, models of what it looks like to have a healthy, successful gay marriage over a long period of time. And boy are Bob and Edgar those models.

"We wrote this play so others might be able to draw strength and inspiration from them. We truly are excited that Bob and Edgar can live on for everyone."

Tickets are $10 for the Chicago performance on May 29 at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont). Tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.


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