If you’re wondering if the pandemic shutdown yielded any inspiring new creative endeavors, the answer is yes– it just took a little time to see the full results for a lot of projects, especially in the local theater world. Playwright Roger Q. Mason created Lavender Men during COVID’s height, re-imagining the life of none other than President Abraham Lincoln, and exploring the leader’s challenges via a modern LGBTQ+/ BIPOC point of view. Led a charismatic queer character named Taffeta (a personality from a short film Mason also made during the lockdown) it juxtaposes modern issues into a period piece exploring racial and sexual exclusion and how Lincoln might have approached these issues.
Directed by Lovell Holder, it features Alex Esola as Elmer Ellsworth (a vet of TV and film including The Kennedy Center, The Ahmanson and the recent feature After the Wedding), Pete Ploszek as Abe Lincoln (The Cherry Orchard, Babylon) and Mason themself (who served an associate producer on Discovery+ docuseries Book of Queer) as Taffeta.
How a “fabulous queer creation of color,” might invade the private world of our 16th President should be intriguing to watch, to say the least. Judging from the teaser (see below) it looks to be a fresh and flamboyant take on historical theater we haven’t seen yet.
“If our craft is going to survive, we need the characters in our plays to reflect the diversity of the people in our audiences,” Mason shares. “When I was growing up, I never saw people like me as the leads on stage, and that weighed on my spirit. It made me feel that there were limited opportunities for me in our storytelling world. This play is my prayer, plea, and demand for the contrary. Lavender Men imagines a space for the Black, Queer, plus-sized body as the center of America’s theatrical narrative. My hope is that somebody watches this show and feels seen, valued, and affirmed in their own journey.”
Lavender Men at Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont; runs 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Mondays through September 4. Proof of full vaccination along with a government-issued photo ID in order to attend. Face masks are required. More information: LavenderMenPlayLA.com
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