Believe it or, I can actually act. Like, not be The Pizza Delivery Boy or the Nasty Stepdad in the blue movies you all know so well, but I’ve actually got some stage experience. And this weekend there’s going to be an opportunity for you guys in NYC to see.
April 13, 6:00 PM, Stonewall
Sunday evening, April 13, starting at 6:00, there’ll be a presentation, an unstaged reading, of a brand-new screenplay adaptation of John Preston’s iconic novel taking place in the 1970’s NYC leather/SM scene, Mr. Benson, and I’m thrilled to play the part of Rick, an undercover cop who gets more than he bargains for.
Not my actual costume.
The event is open to the public, $10 admission. There’ll be cocktails, and then at 7:00 we’ll read through the screenplay. Afterwards will be a Q&A with the cast and the team behind this venture. The goal of this reading is to interest investors in financing the actual filming of the script. Following the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and other dalliances with the BDSM world in general culture, this adaptation is timely, and I’d say it’s time we had a gay contribution to the genre. Who best to adapt than John Preston?
More about the reading can be found at:
The Facebook event page
The Facebook page for the screenplay itself
The Mr. Benson Tumblr page
And this rather nice writeup by Amos Lassen
This is hardly my first time showing some thespian chops…
Nope. Not a single cool thing about me at that age.
Um, yup. That’s me, I’d guess in 1985, age 14 or so, in rehearsals for a junior high production of Lil’ Abner. Just in case you think I look like a lumbering goon… Well, there’s a device in Lil’ Abner that turns the town’s wimpy menfolk into big strong models of male virility who lose a bit of their character and smarts in the process. I was cast as one of those big strong models of male virility (yeah, that’s a stretch–I hear you all laughing!). So I’m SUPPOSED to be a lumbering goon!
That was the year I was first ever thrown on stage in any serious role. My eighth grade music teacher strongarmed me into auditioning the previous autumn for a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and to my deep consternation cast me as Ebenezer Scrooge. Then rehearsals started, performances rocked, and I was hooked.
I acted all through high school. My friend Sophie and I were repeatedly cast as the comic/romantic lead couple. She and I got along famously as long as we were just in classes; the moment we had to be on stage together we fought like cats and dogs offstage. Ten years later when we arrived at our high school reunion as the only two members of our class showing up with a same-sex date, that suddenly made a lot of sense… I was always a little disappointed never to be cast in any of the musicals, though: as a capable pianist, I was always made rehearsal and pit pianist. That had rewards unto itself, of course; with piano-heavy scores like Promises, Promises and Fantastics, I was still having a blast and I honed a lot of musical skills. My high school had an active children’s theater outreach program too, and my first attempts at arranging and music directing theater came from assembling, arranging, and sometimes even composing scores for those productions. I also generally found some way to be a character in the plot while also playing the piano…
College slowed my acting activites. Other than the occasional little opera role, most of my focus was on playing piano and tuba and composing music, not treading the footboards. I made a few stabs at writing opera, notably making a not-horrible setting of Robert Frost’s A Masque of Reason, which alas will never see the light of day. With a poet friend I started a stage project modeled on Conrad Susa’s opera Transformations to be called In the Beginning. It was to be a retelling of a substantial collection of creation myths, weaving them together and drawing parallels, and showing how in fact at the root they’re essentially the same tale, and that all humans are of the same seed and root as the cosmos as a whole. It was an ambitious project which we never quite got off the ground, despite some just mindshatteringly awesome and brilliant text. One of the roles I was specifically looking forward to writing for myself, that of the darkness, the resistance, the tempter and sullier.
For a while after there wasn’t much. I enjoyed a quick spate of opera roles with Baltimore Civic Opera the last two years I lived there before moving to New York, but that was it. For my first ten years in New York I didn’t act one bit.
Then along came porn. Of course, it’s not quite the same, but it certainly scratched an itch, let’s say. The acting bits are always a tad stilted in any classical sense, but then you all are just going to fast-forward to insertion and cumshot anyway, so the less talking the better. And really, as it comes to the sex, porn is apparently best when there isn’t actually any acting involved, meaning that I really AM having that much fun. The surprise was that something where acting is seemingly of a secondary focus would lead me back to acting again.
Ham, me? Evidently.
About three years ago my friend David Graham, a screenwriter in NYC, approached me about a short film project. The script, entitled Tryst, documents a long-anticipated hotel room hookup between two men that goes bemusingly wrong. There’s an abortive sex scene, and a fair bit of nudity, so I think a bit of a demonstrated comfort in front of a camera sans clothing probably had a little to do with being offered the role. I’d never done actual video work other than porn; and I’d understood that the acting involved was quite different from stage work. But I loved the scale of the project: one set, two characters, essentially three scenes. So I jumped at it. We filmed it over two rainy December nights with a VERY sexy costar in a rather splendid hotel suite in NYC. We had SO much fun. The first ten minutes of the film is just me, naked, showering, primping, pumping… Getting ready for my date to arrive. It’s kinda an awesome, beautiful, and bittersweet sequence. The final edits have, as is the nature of these things, taken some time to achieve final form, but it seems there may at last be a premiere in the works, possibly in San Francisco around the time of Dore Alley at the end of July, and I can’t wait. I’ll post that here as soon as I know it myself.
David Graham’s rather beautiful short film TRYST.
So add then a few small stage appearances here and there. Mostly this has been a few years of being part of events like the “Strange Acts” at the Black Party where I was the Clown King last year and the Monkey King this year… am I being typecast?
As the Clown King, Black Party, March 2013
As Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god/king, Black Party, March 2014
Hanuman again. I kinda wanted to keep the green harness.
But also every once in a while something more substantial came along. I enjoyed singing the role of Polyphemus in Handel’s Acie, Galatea, e Polyfemo in Princeton nearly three years ago now, for instance; I wish I had photos of that costume, as it consisted of a loincloth, some fabric “seaweed”, a cyclops eye in my forehead, a gallon of greenish-grey paint, and naught much else. I’m convinced I was hired for the role not so much because I can sing the low notes the role calls for, but because I could carry off the outfit!
So it’s with a LOT of anticipation that I’m looking forward to this weekend. This project brings together a few of the strains of my theatrical life, both former and current. The novel takes place in the leather/SM subculture of 1970’s New York City, where my own roots in the leather community lie. There’s a strong and violent sexual component to the drama, not for the faint of heart; my background in SM and of course a comfort with the subject confirmed by a few years in the porn industry can only help with that. And the project includes many good friends from both the porn side of my life and the non-adult theater side. All I have to do now is figure out what to wear…
The Devil wears Cowhide.
This performance isn’t staged, it’s just a reading, but all that means is that the dramatic content has to be more confidently conveyed just vocally, a challenge I’m looking forward to. And if the reading goes well, we’re sincerely hoping it will lead to investment towards actually filming, and if so, word is that preference for roles will go to those of us who read this weekend. THAT would be amazing…
May 10, 2014, at R-Bar in the Bowery
And just adding this on, as it came up just as I was typing this. Keep free May 10, too, a fundraiser for New York’s very own Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Band, and awesome ensemble with whom I’ve played tuba for years and years. They’re putting together a burlesque show at R-Bar in the Bowery, and for a climax they seem to want to feature… me. Don’t know quite yet what I’m gonna do, but I expect it’ll involve showing some skin and might well involve music (well, YEAH!). I’m open to suggestions!
That’s all, folks!