Mae West & "The Drag"
• • In Iowa Dreamwell's Artistic Director decided to present a season with a theme of "Inciting Theatre."
• • Their season opens with Ibsen's “An Enemy of the People," a play from 1882. Dreamwell is using a new translation and has cast women in several male roles to modernize it.
• • Then in late June, Dreamwell Theatre will present a play written by 1930s screen legend and sex symbol Mae West.
• • Rachael Lindhart, secretary and active member of the volunteer company, does not expect insurgence, rioting, padlocks, nor police raids in Iowa City even though she is aware that "The Drag" (which was doing its out-of-town tryouts back in January 1927) opened to an “avalanche of condemnation,” as one of Mae's biographers phrased it. Rachael Lindhart says Mae West’s “The Drag” was one of the first plays to portray gay men in a sympathetic light. Before “The Drag,” homosexual characters were used to add a more comedic element.
• • Subjects that were deemed unlawful or offensive to good citizens are considerably less so these days, however, Rachael Lindhart insists that the theater’s history of sparking debate is essential to the development of today’s dramas. By presenting a bill of old controversies, Dreamwell pays tribute to those brave playwrights who paved the way for modern vanguards of the stage.
• • “We have a history of somebody’s gotta be first,” Rachael Lindhart says. “There are a lot of things that we need to talk about from the stage that aren’t easy. I hope that this season will make people think that they should perhaps see a play before they condemn it.”
• • Auditions for "The Drag" will be held in Iowa during April and May in 2009. To audition, contact Brian Tanner: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• • Dreamwell Theatre’s 2009 Season includes these four: “An Enemy of the People” [written by Henrik Ibsen]; “The Drag” [written by Mae West and directed by Chuck Dufano] on June 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th, 2009; “Master Harold and the Boys” [written by Athol Fugard]; “Playboy of the Western World” [written by J.M. Synge].
• • All performances take place at 7:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert Street, Iowa City. Tickets are $12 with discounts available for seniors and students.
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• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 — 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes surrounding "The Drag" and "Sex." Scenes in Act I dramatize Mae's interactions with her drag queen cast, the police raid on 9 February 1927, and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" has attracted the attention of a theatre owner and Is now seeking a co-producer.
Courting Mae West
• • Photo: Mae West • • 1927 trial • •