Starting up an independent theatre company, especially one with a focus on gay content, during the busy Pride season is not without its risks.
But for Landmark Productions’ Morgan David Jones and Shane Bingham, the risk is a calculated one. They’re hoping their debut, Blowing Whistles, will not only resonate with Vancouver’s gay community but will also help reinvigorate the local indie theatre scene. A little bit of full-frontal nudity never hurts, either.
“The timing for Blowing Whistles is perfect, as it is all about Pride, and the fact it has a naked young [17-year-old] should help,” laughs Jones, who is both producing and directing the show.
According to Bingham, who is pulling his own double-duty as producer and actor, this is their chance to give back to the community they now call home and to provide an alternative to the more traditional parties that take place during Pride.
Of course, even the best of intentions and a glimpse of penis will get you only so far.
Having seen Blowing Whistles in separate productions in Sydney and London, both Jones and Bingham were struck by their similar reactions to the play and the responses they observed. For Bingham, it was the play’s ability to move him that made him want to produce it at some point in his career. Jones believes the play will connect with gay audiences.
“I originally saw Blowing Whistles during Sydney’s Mardi Gras in 2008, and I instantly fell in love with it,” he says. “The first half is kind of fun, but in the second half it is simply heartbreaking when it starts dealing with the realities of an open relationship.”
Playwright Matthew Todd’s dramedy explores the effects an open relationship can have when only half of a couple is fully onboard with the idea.
Jamie and Nigel have hooked up with a variety of guys in the past, and we meet them as they prepare for their latest adventure, on the night of their anniversary.
Having always been the more reluctant partner in these sexual encounters, Jamie’s fears are somewhat alleviated by the establishment of a couple of key rules for thirds. But when the new hookup breaks one of these rules, the couple finds its relationship tested.
“There are obvious holes in the couple’s relationship, and Mark [the hookup] rips them wide open,” says Cameron Crosby, who plays Mark.
Blowing Whistles is also an opportunity to call out the gay community on its internalized homophobia, Todd says, pointing to language commonly used on hook-up sites by guys seeking “straight-acting” guys.
“I think gay culture does not always treat gay people with respect. We don’t always treat each other and ourselves with respect. I know I’ve been guilty of that. And I don’t think we can really deal with that until we discuss it out in the open,” he says.
“I want to help try to change some of the things that I see around me that are hurting us — that’s often us ourselves.”
Of Blowing Whistles’ cast of three, two identify as straight in this production, including Crosby.
“The gay part didn’t scare me at all. The thing that really scared me was the nude scene,” Crosby confides with a smile. “I figured if I got naked onstage nothing will ever scare me again. I like pushing myself as far as I can go in acting, and while it’s a challenge, I’m so sick of playing safe. I wanted something that will scare the shit out of me.”