Courting Mae West

The play "COURTING MAE WEST: Sex, Censorship & Secrets" is based on true events during the 1920s when actress MAE WEST was arrested and jailed in New York City for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. Maybe she broke the law - - but the LAW couldn't break HER!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Sister Act Forms the Sub-Plot

A 95-minute serious-minded comedy, "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" — — based on true events when actress-author MAE WEST was arrested and jailed for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway (New York City) — — combines real-life people and fictional personae. The story begins in December 1926, when Mae West is celebrating the 300th performance of her play "Sex" at a Greenwich Village speakeasy where she has hired some gay males and drag-queens to star in her upcoming production "The Drag." The final scene, set in December 1932, shows Mae West in her Hollywood dressing room, preparing to shoot a scene for a Paramount Pictures motion picture called "She Done Him Wrong" — — a screenplay based on her 1928 Broadway smash "Diamond Lil."
• • The cast of "Courting Mae West" includes some colorful characters. Meet Mildreth Katharina "Beverly" West [1898-1982], called "Beverly West" in the play.
• • In reality, Beverly had career aspirations, too, if not an industrial strength drive for success. A childhood battle with polio left Beverly with one shrunken leg and a limp, so Matilda West did not push her younger daughter into dance lessons nor groom her in the same way she harnessed and drove Mae's talents. Beverly found another way to command attention, though. In 1927, when "The Drag" debuted in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Beverly attracted media coverage by cavorting drunkenly in the lobby of Poli's Theatre. A few days later, because of her intoxicated antics at the Arcade Hotel, she was arrested at 5 AM for disorderly conduct along with director Edward Elsner. Beverly's husband Sergei Treshatny took advantage of the scandal, using the Bridgeport trial testimony as his grounds for a speedy divorce. Their marriage was dissolved the same year. Biographers have emphasized that Mae never forgave her sister's alcoholism and lassitude. Despite that, Mae gave her sister ample financial support for her entire life. How cordial (or ambivalent) their kinship was we may never know.
• • Learn about her:
• • In "Courting Mae West," Beverly West's fictional counterpart BEVERLY WEST is Mae's less ambitious, underrated younger sister; as MAE WEST complains, "She has the mental acuity of gravel." An actress, Beverly resents being Mae's under-study because she never gets to go on; her rocky relationship with Mae is one of the play's poignant sub-plots. In her late twenties and early thirties during the play, BEVERLY WEST provides the audience with a new viewpoint about Mae, who cannot whitewash the truth in front of her sibling. And when the chips are down, after 1930's "Pleasure Man" trial, it is Beverly whose hidden talents and sisterly devotion will save the day.

• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets"
• • Cast size: seven [4 females, 3 males play rotating roles — — except for the MAE WEST role]
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• • SYNOPSIS [100 words] • •

• • Based on true events during the Prohibition Era, this 95-minute play follows a vaudeville veteran whose frustrations with the rules of male-dominated Broadway have led her to write her own material and cast her own shows. Is the Gay White Way ready for love stories that feature New York City drag queens instead of card-carrying members of the union? Is the legitimate theatre ripe for racially integrated melodramas set in Harlem? Is the Rialto raring to reward a working-class heroine determined to sin and win?
• • Come up and see Mae West as she challenges bigotry, fights City Hall, and climbs the ladder of success wrong by wrong.

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• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage during July 2008.

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• • Photo: Mae West and Beverly
• • 1930 • •

Mae West.

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