As gays well know, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s queerest piece of theatre. Let’s look at the facts: we’ve got orgy-loving fairies; we’ve got hetero couples acting like complete loons; and we’ve got one character that gets transformed into a large ass. Need I say more?
Queer actor Kris Joseph stars as Oberon, the King of Fairies, in the Company of Fools’ production of A Midwinter’s Dream Tale – a jumbled up version of two Shakespearean plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale. I decided to ask our local star a few questions about taking part in one half of the Bard’s gayest comedy.
Capital Xtra: So Kris, how does it feel to be playing a gay fairy king?
Joseph/Oberon: I can only assume from your tone that you are referring to ‘gay’ in the classical sense of the word, and in that manner I can tell you that it’s an orgy of fun. As research for the role, I spent late summer in the Vale of the Gloaming, romping happily with the boy fairies and teaching rainbows to dance. Rainbows are, as you know, naturally-occurring phenomena, and the trip was purely for educational purposes.
Being the Fairy King definitely has its perks, though. I have two adorable fairy manservants I can abuse any way I want. They help keep the palace clean and manage my home movie collection; one of them is a trained masseuse.
This is all an innocent part of life in the fairy world. We actually have a great deal of hard work to do. It’s terrifically difficult to be gleeful and gay all the time, which is why the Company of Fools has to pay me to do it. What was the question?
CX: But I understood that all fairies are gay. Isn’t that true?
J/O: You’ve been talking to the wrong people. Fairies are completely straight, but they are rather genial.
Let me address some of the things you may have heard. There is a flower in the show that makes people fall in love with one another, but it’s magical… so when a toned and glistening young fairy gets hit by it, the resulting behaviour is temporary and really not his fault. It is true that many fairies wear tights, but that’s only because tree limbs tend to snag on baggy outfits and safety is important. The dance numbers in the show are purely metaphorical – especially when jazz hands get involved. Oh, and the bright colours fairies wear keep mortal deer hunters from confusing them with strapping young bucks.
Our kind of lifestyle, I am told, can attract queer fairies, but we have a very firm ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and I can assure you that there are no gay fairies in MY forest.”
CX: Doesn’t the script imply that Oberon prefers the company of men? I mean, he seems pretty keen on getting a hold of that Indian boy, as per the line “I do but beg a little changeling boy / To be my henchman” (II/i/120-121). I think we can agree on the subtext here.
J/O: Well, if you’re having a tailgate party before an episode of ‘So You Think You Can Dance, Fairyland’ it makes good sense to have lithe and supple male fairies around, because they can carry more bottles of chianti. We agree there. But about that other thing: changeling boys are just handy. They can get into all kinds of tight spots to perform important work. The palace has a lot of old plumbing and I need to have my pipes unclogged fairly regularly. It’s really very straightforward.
CX: You know, I was convinced that Oberon and Robin Goodfellow really had a good thing going. Is there any hope for those two?
J/O: Robin Good— oh, you mean Puck? We’re quite close. I call him my Puck-buddy. He makes me laugh, and every time I turn around, he’s there: Puck in the shower, Puck on the table, Puck upside-down in the laundry room. Someday I think he’ll have a career in comedy, but at the moment I don’t think the world is ready for a public Puck.
CX: But he keeps talking to Puck about his “love-shaft” (II/i/159)!
J/O: You’re confusing Oberon — my character — with me, the actor. I’m obsessed, but Oberon is not. The props department gave Oberon a big staff to carry, though, and Oberon does love it.
CX: How about your Fairy Queen Titania. Doesn’t she engage in some lesbian foursome with Peaseblossom, Cobweb, and Mustardseed?
J/O: Titania can do whatever she wants. Our marriage was arranged after we met at a bridge tournament in the late 70s. She’s a terrific fairy and a great partner, but since I’ve been quite busy with the fairy blacksmith most evenings she’s had to find some other bridge partners. I think it’s nice that she’s meeting new fairies.
CX: Isn’t there ANYTHING gay about this show?
J/O: Possibly the director — but I suspect he’s just metro.