New Town Writers

Thu. March 23, 2006 12:00 AM
by Jason Paul

Featuring everything from Catholicism and cabaret to the emergence of a hippie drag queen and a bohemian-like conceptual installation, The New Town Writers produced the fourth incarnation of their live-performance series, Solo Homo, at the Bailiwick Arts Center the 13th and 14th of March.

Founded in 1980, the New Town Writers was created to foster and enhance gay and lesbian literature and was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1988. Facilitating frequent writers workshops, as well as publishing the literary anthology Off the Rocks and the quarterly e-zine Swell, Solo Homo was added to the roster of annual events to bring a new and interactive voice to the original works of its members.

According to SH4’s producer Timothy Rey, stories of “growing up gay” are still unique to every individual despite the recent mainstreaming of gay culture. “And it many cases its still very taboo,” Tim shares, “these are stories worth telling.”

Timothy, who's no stranger to one-man shows and diversity-based performances, opened this year's production with his monologue, So God Created Adam. Comparing his first gay love affair to the creation of man--with an underlying symbolic message of the inevitable--Tim questioned the readiness of the world, and himself, to accept a black gay man. “Each year the show builds,” he says, “it's a lot of work but a lot of fun.”

Comic Marc Byrne echoes Timothy's sentiments and references the benefits of performing for a gay and gay-sensitive audience. A standup comic with an LGBT culture based shtick since 2002, Mark has performed at such venues like the Lyon's Den, Joe's on Weed Street, Chase Cafe and the Pere Marquette Hotel as well as Roscoe's and The Baton.

“It’s always more enjoyable to perform for your target demographic,” offers Marc, whose SH4 performance, Oyster Shooters for Brunch, suggested a way to rate one's level of sexual proclivity by judging their reaction to pop-singer Kelly Clarkson, “performing for an audience who doesn't [understand the gay experience] can be dreadful.”

This year’s Solo Homo director James Wilke—whose impressive resume credits him with over 30 theatrical productions, as well as film and TV for That ‘70s Show and COPS — enjoyed his role in the New Town Writers' production for the professional level it brought to the independent works of this not-for-profit organization. “Much like in a musical,” says James, “[Solo Homo] gives shape to the [literary works] and makes it flow.”

It's no surprise James, as a music-degree holding director/producer, would reference the performance to that of a musical. His closing piece, One Roof, Two Divas with pianist Joshua Kartes, was a showcase of his and Joshua's singing bravado in cabaret-like fashion. Granted, the two on stage blatantly took the “solo” out of the show. Yet the “homo” was boldly loud and in effect as these two enjoyably camped it up in their song of living and loathing together. It was a great way to conclude the 10-act production.

Other notable performances of the evening came from novelist and playwright Don Bapst, writer, gender-illusionist and NTW webmaster Cookie Crumbles, Richard Richards’ story of unrequited love in an all-boys English school, NTW Treasurer Mike Rogers, Film Maker Joe Steiff, Chicago Dramatist Michael van Kerckhove and the multimedia installation by Patrick Weishampel.

The next event by the New Town writers will be a reading of poetry, titled Size Matters, at the Woman Made Gallery, 685 N. Milwaukee Ave.

For more information visit, www.newtownwriters.org.