My play, Carson McCullers, got horrible reviews, but we sold 94 percent of the run. I would stand in the lobby and wonder, who are these people? It was lesbians, gay men and people who had read my books for 20 years, people who would never go uptown or pay $40 a ticket; they heard that there was a play for them and they came. These are people who know not to trust The New York Times. They showed up and supported the play and they loved it. Marion [McClinton, McCullers’ director] and I talked a lot about the critical reaction to the play, and at one point he said to me, “I’m black and you’re a lesbian, and ain’t none of these critics black or lesbian.” And it was this moment of triumph, because we realized — or, I realized because I think he already knew — that we had won because we had gotten our voices at a level where people like us did not have evaluative power, and that was huge. It was huge.
The Burning Deck is being performed at the La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; performances Tuesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; matinees Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m.; through August 3. Call (858) 550-1010.