'Gay Camp': The Gayest Show on Earth?


By John Hutt

A satirical play about about gay reform camps proves skewering stereotypes is the best weapon—even in Spokane

Christian Mansfield (left) and Ken Urso

What are the merits of satirizing people that are really already parodies of themselves such as Michelle Bachman? Aren't these people are already jokes?

Urso: I don't think they are 'such jokes' to everyone, first of all. But I think what's great is, the whole point of the show to me is we take the power, we're saying we will make fun of ourselves, we will call ourselves the worst names ever, because then you don't have the power when you say those things to us on the street.  We're like, “We've said much worse; we've done much worse. Thank you so much.” And that is the feeling when we walked out with the protestors, its was like: “We already won”; there are 250 gay men and women and straight allies who just paid $30 to come and see the show, and they are walking out.

Fazio: And, not to bring it down or anything, but right over there [gesturing to the corner of Seventh Avenue in the West Village], someone was shot. The battle is not over.

No not at all.

Fazio: While they may be jokes to us, they are not jokes to them. 

Mutz: I think, going off what Ken just said, Michelle Bachmann is an out-there character—to New Yorkers—but, she was elected to the House of Representatives; she ran for president.

Fazio: She was the frontrunner for the Republican party. 

Mutz: She is not a joke to many people, so I think by satirizing her—and then ideally taking the show elsewhere—we can share that message that the rest of the world doesn’t think that she is a real person. It thinks she's a joke, and you don't have to let her be a serious political figure.

So what do you feel the theater's role is in effecting political change? Do you think the theater has a large role, that it can effect social change?

Fazio: Definitely. I think it's two fold: I think that it brings people together and it creates a sense of community.

Mutz: When we were in Spokane, there were 200 people who, when they left, no one was going, “Oh, I can't believe there are protestors, I should go talk to them.” There were probably Christians in the audience who were not part of this activist church that was protesting, but they were there supporting people. I think it's also important the remember that it's 2013 and, yes, we've come really far, but we were only able to do this because of people before us. We're right next to The Stonewall; we only get to do this show because things like that happened.

Lets talk a little bit about context, your next door to the stonewall, how do you feel the context informs the performance

Fazio: Well, one of the things I love about the show is we are paying homage to those who came before us. Charles Busch, Charles Merrill, all the gay icons of the '60s and '70s who really did the heavy lifting. We can be here openly, doing theater, doing a show like this that we love, in Spokane.

Mansfield: I think an important word for the show is: “celebration.” It's a party, everyone has such a great time and laughs so hard. When DOMA was struck down, this street was full. We were all here; we were all celebrating and that spirit of community is what gets things done, I think that's a great way to get people organized—with a celebration like that, 

Urso: And our community is not just us gays, it's our straight allies.

What do you feel the gay community's role is in a larger political protest? 

Mutz: I'd like to think, and maybe i'm being a little naïve, that we are a little bit past the protest movement, and now we are just demanding our rights. We're no longer the minority in the sense that  people no longer look at us like somethings wrong with us; people now are accepting—the majority of the people  in this country thinks gays should be allowed to get married

We're on the right side of history, and now, crazy people can picket us, but I think things like theater and things like all of the arts, that brings people together as a community, and we don't have to be activists anymore because we're not a minority, and even though we might be a minority group, we're not a minority opinion, we're no longer looked down upon by the majority, we don't have to be activists anymore; in the same way I think you could be an activist and promote things that need to be done.

Fazio: There are still battles to fight

Mansfield: I think the gay community, throughout American history, has always been first adopters of fringe political movements. Now the [attention] is starting to turn towards trans rights, and a lot of the crazy reproductive things that are still unfortunately going on. I feel like the gay community tends to be an ally and first adopter in those kinds of cases.  I love that, you know, I'm gay and I'm also a feminist, and I'm also for trans rights. I love now that marriage is getting wrapped up, we are all “What's the next big thing?”

Ken: Exactly: what's next on the agenda

Speaking of what's next: Are you planning on touring the show anywhere else after this? 

Fazio: Yeah, we would love to, we would love to go do a whole West Coast tour: Seattle, down to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs...

Mutz: And one of the things we've been talking about is Provincetown, Massachusetts, because Naked Boys Singing had been a staple there for a decade, and they aren’t there anymore. But I think there is room for a new show that, when you're just walking down the street you go “I've got an hour and a half, what can I do?” Well, you can come watch Gay Camp, have a drink, and enjoy!

Find out the schedule and buy tickets for 'Gay Camp' at GayCampthePlay.