Broadway’s production of ‘The Nance‘ hits too close to home for many homosexuals, even today as we still fight for equality around the nation. “A universal love story for all not to be missed.” Theatre Chat.
Living in Utah as a Gay teen in 1982 was not so different than being Gay in the 1930’s. How you may ask? Nathan Lane (Chauncey) opens the ‘The Nance” sitting in an Automat, which apparently was a breeding ground for homosexuals to meet in a somewhat safe place. The scene took me back to my teens living in Utah, where men would meet up in the local canyon hot springs, until the State of Utah blew it up.
Yes, Gay men would find Automats, parks or even hot springs to meet up. By speaking in codes like “I am just cruising around..” we knew that the other man was Gay as well, looking for other friends or partners.
While I attended BYU, still in High School to perform in the musical “South Pacific“. One day I was waiting in the BYU student TV lounge, later the closest restroom where I was educated quickly that foot tapping in the restroom was a sign of being Gay.
Just like “The Nance” waiting in the Automat you could meet homosexual men in a fairly safe place. The danger was being discovered by undercover police, who sadly were payed to entrap men for hooking up. Once I met a young man who I followed to his car. very soon I found out he was a undercover police and I was arrested. “The Nance” brought back some of the pain from that horrific experience, trying to live as I was born, a homosexual. But ” The Nance” also reminded me of embracing my talents as an entertainer, which is still more accepted for stereotypical Gay men today. Entertainers are flamboyant!
“The Nance” was an entertainer as well. While on stage Nathan Lane (Chauncey) could poke fun at being flamboyant, without causing the police to raid the theatre or arrest him. His burlesque vaudeville Gay style performance was entertainment. As seen in the video attached to this article, I also entertained with my “Gay Mormon Stand Up Act” because this was my way of being accepted, even if it was only for a few short minutes on stage.
It was alright to be effeminate, Gay while entertaining others, as long as you did not cross the line. But, that line was invisible. You never knew if under cover police would try to entrap you for trying to hook up, or just being openly Gay.
At age eighteen you can’t meet up in a Gay bar in Utah, or anywhere in our nation. Even those men who would visit the known Gay bars would sometimes be arrested, taken in for STD testing or even worse… If you had a BYU or Utah collage sticker on your car, informants would turn you in and your collage would expel you from your university education.
So like “The Nance” you never knew if the Automat, bar, venue, hot springs would get raided. You heard or knew of groups of men arrested or even beaten for being homosexual. So, looking back at 1930’s is not so different from Utah. Being verbally beaten, as well as physically was just the norm.
In the play Nathan Lane (Chauncey) meets a poor young man Jonny Orsini (Ned) who is new fresh meat in the city. Starving, the young fellow makes tomato soup by mixing a package of ketchup to his cup of hot water. Nathan Lane (Chauncey) starts the code words in hopes to hook up with the young man. Chauncey very discreetly offers the man half of his sandwich and “I’ll meet you round the corner in a half hour”. The introduction of the two men find them speaking of a burlesque entertainer, soon Ned finds out Nathan Lane (Chauncey) is ” The Nance” a famous burlesque camp style performer.
The burlesque show scenes cleverly use double entendre which keep you laughing the entire play with many moments that may seem like a musical to some. A relationship develops between the two men quickly, and so does the danger. Danger of being raided, censored, shut down, fired, beaten or worse loose yourself or love of a partner.
This play is one of the most important plays for educating censorship, homosexual history and love of one self. Gays and straight audiences will witness what it was like to try to be homosexual, not just in 1930’s but even today, as we fight for equality to marry around the nation. My Mother Jan Cameron a single parent who raised two boys with the love of theatre could testify of this to close to home story.
Thank you author Douglas Carter Beane for hitting so close to home. “The Nance” is sure to hit close to home for anyone who opens their hearts for this very important piece of art. Congratulations to the amazing cast Nathan Lane (Chauncey), Jonny Orsini (Ned), Lewis J. Stadlen (Efram), Cady Huffman (Sylvie), Jenni Barber (Joan), Andrea Burns (Carmen), Mylinda Hull (Rose, the Wicked Mistress) and Geoffrey Allen Murphy (Charlie, a Stagehand).
Nathan Lane gives that Tony Award nominated performance, a must see from BroadwayGlobal. With five Tony Award nominations “The Nance” has been extended till August 2013, but don’t wait. Prance, dance, skip and do what you must to see history in the making. “The Nance” now playing at Lyceum Theatre located at 149 West 45th Street New York, New York 10036. For tickets visit www.shubertorganization.com/theatres/lyceum.aspcall.
“In the 1930s, burlesque impresarios welcomed the hilarious comics and musical parodies of vaudeville to their decidedly lowbrow niche. A headliner called “the nance” was a stereotypically camp homosexual and master of comic double entendre – usually played by a straight man. Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Nance” recreates the naughty, raucous world of burlesque’s heyday and tells the backstage story of Chauncey Miles and his fellow performers. At a time when it is easy to play gay and dangerous to be gay, Chauncey’s uproarious antics on the stage stand out in marked contrast to his offstage life. Directed by three time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, “The Nance” welcomes two-time Tony Award winner Nathan Lane back to Broadway as Chauncey.” The Nance.