Mauckingbird Theatre Company in residence at Temple Theaters
By Deneia Washington
As an avid fan of new gay plays and classic dramas, Professor Peter Reynolds, head of the Musical Theater program at Temple University, feels that there can and should be a way to merge these two traditionally separate worlds. “My partner and I read all the new gay plays, see all the new gay plays, see gay films, and we really had a desire to look at classic stories that have survived for generations. And we want to look at those stories through a queer or gay lens.”
From this, Mauckingbird Theatre Company emerged. Founded in 2008, Mauckingbird serves to produce theater through a queer lens with classic texts, while also telling new queer stories.
The company, which presented a gender-bending A Midsummer's Night Dream on campus in 2010, returns with Mauckingbird Mix August 29 through September 7 in the Randall Theater.
“It was a chance to come back to Temple and do some exciting things with young people again,” Reynolds says.
Mauckingbird Mix kicks off on Friday, August 29 with Miss Cast 5: College Edition, hosted by Barrymore Award-winner Jennie Eisenhower. This fun-filled cabaret features a talented group of Temple alums, Temple students, and local talent singing gender-flipped songs.
Events continue on over the weekend with a reading of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour; the classic drama celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. The staged readings on August 30 & 31 feature Philadelphia actresses Jessica Bedford and Kim Carson, with readings directed by Temple MFA graduate student Liz Carlson.
The residency concludes on September 6-7 with Mart Crowley’s 1968 gay classic The Boys in the Band. The reading stars Barrymore Award-winner Jeff Coon and Tony Award-nominee & Barrymore Award-winner Forrest McClendon; it is directed by alumnus and adjunct professor Brandon McShaffrey.
“These are two classic plays and they are very significant in queer theater history,” says Reynolds. “They’re large and [have] large casts, which is very hard to produce. But these readings are a wonderful way to hear these plays with terrific actors. We get to share these highly important works with young people and with our Mauckingbird audience.”
Although rehearsals are limited due to union restrictions, Reynolds doesn’t see this as a limitation, but a testament to how actors with great storytelling abilities can thrive and excel regardless of restrictions. “With great actors, it’s a joy and it can be even more exciting,” says Reynolds. “You’re really living in that moment, because you haven’t had all that time to rehearse."
Reynolds receives great joy when audience members tell him that while watching the plays they forget about who would conventionally be cast for particular roles. “When an audience member says to me, ‘a couple minutes in and I forgot that that’s usually played by a woman,’ or ‘I forgot that’s usually a heterosexual couple,’ that’s success to me," says Reynolds.
“There’s room for you tell your story,” says Reynolds and that’s what he and Mauckingbird Theatre Company are doing.
For more information about the Mauckingbird Theatre Company residency, including how to purchase tickets, visit www.mauckingbird.org. Peter Reynolds directs the upcoming production of Brigadoon, running October 15 -26.