Phila.’s Mauckingbird Theatre Co Presents Gay History with “The Temperamentals”

John Jarboe as Rudi Gernreich and Matt Tallman as Harry Hay in Mauckingbird’s The Tempermentals. Photo by Ian Paul Guzzone.

by Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts & Culture Correspondent

Upholding its mission as the first Philadelphia theater company dedicated to gay-themed programming, Mauckingbird’s current production considers a brief but seminal period in the history of LGBT rights in our country. Playwright Jon Marans traces the foundation of The Mattachine Society from 1950-53, within the context of the short-lived relationship between two of its co-founders–gay activist and dedicated Communist Harry Hay (who later co-founded the Radical Faeries); and fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (creator of both the topless swimsuit and the thong).

Titled after the code-name that gay men used to refer to themselves during the hysteria of McCarthyism in the 1950s, The Temperamentals recreates the culture of fear, oppression, and secrecy that inspired Hay to action. He, along with comrades Chuck Rowland, Bob Hull, Dale Jennings, and Gernreich (who financially supported the cause but never revealed his identity), named their organization The Mattachine Society after a French medieval itinerant masque troupe. Composed of unmarried townsmen who never appeared in public unmasked, their performances consisted of protests against oppression and parodies of the ruling class, with men in drag playing the female roles. Hay saw in them a parallel to gay men of the 1950s, as a masked minority, forced to remain anonymous in the face of persecution and intolerance, and in need of a courageous voice to champion a call for freedom and equality.

Starring Matt Tallman as Hay, John Jarboe as Gernreich, and featuring Mike Dees, Doug Greene, and Carl Granieri as Rowland, Hull, and Jennings, The Temperamentals runs through April 29, 2012, in the Skybox at the Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom Street, 3rd floor, Philadelphia. On Sunday, April 15, from 6:30-8:30 (following the 2 pm matinee performance), the company hosts it Second Annual Mr. Mauckingbird Pageant, including cocktails, snacks, photos, auction items, and, of course, the fabulous contestants! For more information and tickets, call 215.923.8909, or see http://www.mauckingbird.org.

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