Vancouver theatrical impresario David Blue will do whatever it takes to bring you quality queer entertainment: First he’ll write the play. Then he’ll direct the play. Then he’ll paint the play’s key set elements (specifically, larger-than-life depictions of male body parts).
And then, over a healthful lunch of scrambled eggs and toast at Hamburger Mary’s, the multi-talented and multi-tasking Blue will wittily discuss the play with the press while simultaneously preparing props–stuffing dozens of envelopes that represent responses to a character’s personal ad.
Memoirs of a Single Gay White Male is the play’s name, and it’s the latest production to be mounted by Blue’s flourishing theatre company, Raving Theatre. This droll and insightful look at one man’s dating history–everything from the boy next door to bathhouse orgies, from newspaper personals to internet hookup sites–will resonate with anyone who has navigated the sometimes treacherous waters of sex, romance, and love.
But Memoirs is an atypical queer romantic comedy in one important respect; in this story, the lead character doesn’t end up with the guy–and that’s just fine with him. This is a play that says, “It’s okay to be single!”
In a culture where happiness is often defined as finding everlasting true love with The One, this message will strike many theatregoers as a welcome twist–if not a revolutionary one.
Blue explains, “When you look at gay comedies in the movies and in theatres, it always seems to be ‘Oh, the poor guy’s single.’ But the fact is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being single–spoken by an old married person, but I think single people are underrated and underappreciated.
“However you define yourself, just learning to be comfortable in your own skin is the most important thing–and not having to base your self-esteem on your relationship status,” he says.
As many of us know, this is easier said than done, and 42-year-old Brad Lewis, the play’s title character, has a tragicomic (but mostly comic) journey toward this realization, as he looks for his own one true love.
Blue says Brad’s story is a universal tale that anyone–male or female, gay or straight–will be able to relate to. Blue has been hearing stories about his friends’ dating adventures and misadventures for years, and many have found their way into the script. “I hear it all the time from my single friends. It’s not something they hold back–you know, there are always those phone calls going, ‘You will not believe this.’ I think that in modern society, dating is full of landmines–and some of them are damn cute.”
Although Memoirs isn’t autobiographical (Blue and his husband have been together for more than 22 years), a few scenes are based on events in Blue’s life. For instance, back when he was single, he did place a personal ad in the WestEnder, so the responses Brad receives to his ad definitely sound true-to-life.
And like Brad, Blue had a first love who did him wrong–and while he says that there is no ill will now, he does have a warning for young people who “emotionally abuse” other people: “Those people may learn to write. And they’ll change your name, but deep down you’ll know it’s you.”
Of course, there couldn’t possibly be time in Blue’s busy schedule for thoughts of revenge. In addition to his work with Raving Theatre, Blue runs a successful hair salon, David Blue Hair Design. The onetime artistic director of the (now defunct) Rainy City Gay Men’s Chorus, Blue recently had to take a partial break from his work, due to an illness (he battled myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease that causes weakness and fatigue). Now that the disease is in complete remission, he’s vigorously determined to see Raving Theatre build on recent successes.
Blue loves having a small theatre company, and says the variety of work it has been able to do has been very rewarding. “We’ve done two comedies, an anthology, a drama, and a couple of musicals. It’s nice to have that change, to be able to do different things and work with these amazing people.”
Looking to the future, Blue says he hopes that comedies such as Memoirs will build Raving Theatre audiences so the company can also mount some riskier dramatic productions. For the theatre’s next season, he’s writing a one-act play–about a woman sorting through her dead drag-queen son’s belongings–that will run with a one-act piece by Canadian playwright Carol Hodge, and he’s considering a future production of Matthew Passion, a play by Phil Hall that combines the Passion of Christ with the story of Matthew Shepard.
Whether he’s writing, directing, painting, or performing, Blue says he’s not out to change the world with his art–he’s out to “entertain the world.” But those two things are not, perhaps, mutually exclusive. Blue notes, “Ten or twelve years ago, it was a huge, huge thing if there was some tiny hole-in-the-wall place doing something with queer content.”
He adds that “there’s room in this town for a queer theatre company,” and that one of his longer-term goals is having his own theatre space in the Davie Village–not only for Raving Theatre productions, but also for those of the many Vancouver writers, directors, and performers he admires. “We need a home, collectively, that we can all share.”