LGBT theater bring­ing ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ mu­si­cal to At­lanta

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

By JIM FARMER

One of the big­ger sto­ries this fall is the emer­gence of Out Front The­atre, which is de­voted to pro­duc­ing queer-themed work lo­cally. The com­pany’s splashy first pro­duc­tion in Oc­to­ber is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Mu­si­cal.” The Georgia Voice caught up with founder Paul Con­roy re­cently to talk about why he started the com­pany, why “Priscilla” rocks and what the rest of his sea­son looks like.

The Georgia Voice: Hi Paul. Tell us a lit­tle about the com­pany.

The idea was born about two years ago when I was fin­ish­ing grad school in Chicago. I was de­cid­ing what the next step was go­ing to be for my ca­reer. I started to look at other the­aters and their scenes and I re­al­ized that a lot of other cities, such as Chicago, had the­aters whose em­pha­sis was the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. I thought, At­lanta has a theater com­mu­nity that fo­cuses on African-Amer­i­can work, one that fo­cuses on women’s works, even one that fo­cuses on Ir­ish work. But we didn’t have any­thing for a queer au­di­ence. It was around the time that mar­riage had be­come le­gal in all 50 states.

I thought a place like At­lanta needs a theater com­pany like this to tell these sto­ries. Theater is a great way to in­tro­duce top­ics to peo­ple without mak­ing it threat­en­ing. That is how it was born. Now two years later here we are with our 501(c)(3) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore we do any pro­duc­tions and we have a theater in West Mid­town. Ev­ery­thing seems to be gelling and mov­ing along well.

I think peo­ple in the com­mu­nity are starv­ing for what our mis­sion is. We have had in­cred­i­ble sup­port. We have a lot of peo­ple who want us to take off like a rocket from the first show. It’s been bet­ter than I ever ex­pected. The com­mu­nity has put a lot of faith in us.

Did you al­ways know that “Priscilla” was go­ing to be your first show?

No. We were ac­tu­ally plan­ning a dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal. Then I saw that “Priscilla” was go­ing to be avail­able and we scrapped the mu­si­cal we were plan­ning and said “Priscil-

Septem­ber 16, 2016

Out Front The­atre founder Paul Con­roy (l) and ac­tors Justin Thomp­son, Robert Ray and Ja­son-Ja­mal Ligon (above, l-r). (Photo by Brian Wal­len­berg) la” is it. It has such great name recog­ni­tion. It has mu­sic that ev­ery­one knows and loves. It seems ac­ces­si­ble to in­tro­duce us while stay­ing true to our mis­sion. And this will be the first pro­duc­tion of it in the state.

Tell us about the stage ver­sion and how it com­pares to the film.

It’s about 95 per­cent the same. There’s the scene on top of the bus, and the ping pong ball. Any of the changes are re­ally small. There is no Abba mu­sic but there’s a lot of other mu­sic - “It’s Rain­ing Men,” Cyndi Lau­per mu­sic, “I Will Sur­vive,” “Go West,” “I Love the Night Life, “Boo­gie Won­der­land,” “Hot Stuff.”

Why has the show not played in Georgia be­fore?

The na­tional tour did not come through here be­cause, frankly, the ma­jor­ity of au­di­ences that go to The Fox are more con­ser­va­tive and would not ap­pre­ci­ate a show like that. It deals with sub­ject mat­ter that a cer­tain sec­tion of At­lanta and Georgia would not feel com­fort­able with.

Tell us about the rest of the sea­son.

The next show is the South­east­ern pre­miere of “A Kid Like Jake.” It’s a show that deals with par­ents who live in Man­hat­tan who are at­tempt­ing to get their son in a pres­ti­gious preschool. They real­ize he is hav­ing some gen­der iden­tity is­sues. The last show is Paul Rud­nick’s “The Most Fab­u­lous Story Ever Told.” The first act is a re-telling of The Bi­ble in the Gar­den of Eden go­ing to the birth of Je­sus through the first gay and les­bian cou­ple. The sec­ond act takes all of these char­ac­ters to modern day New York.

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