By Martin Sherman
Directed by Callen Harty
Bent, first produced in 1978, is a gay love story set in Nazi Germany, at a time when homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.This story of a gay man, experiencing love in the face of persecution and terror, is defiantly inspirational. This play first premiered on Broadway in 1979, starring Richard Gere. Twenty years later, Mercury is bringing Bent to Madison for the first time.
Produced by Mercury Players in the Evjue Theatre at the Esquire, 113 E. Mifflin St.
Thur Fri Sat Sun March 11
Tickets are $10; call 242-0150 for reservations.
For more information, call Marcy Weiland (producer) 251-1886, or Callen Harty (director) 222-9086.
The History of Bent
During Berlin's infamous Night of the Long Knives in 1934, Nazi secret police murdered homosexual commander Ernst Rohm and his associates--and launched Hitler's reign of terror, targeting not only Jews, gypsies, and political opponents, but also gays. This is the context for Martin Sherman's play, which describes both gay persecution and the struggle for gay pride.
Bent opened on Broadway 20 years ago, starring Richard Gere, who had just attained movie-star status with An American Gigolo. Last year, British director Sean Mathias made a film of the play, with Ian McKellen and Mick Jagger in supporting roles.
The Story of Bent
Bent is a story of living versus survival. It concerns Max, a gay "wheeler-dealer" who leads a dissolute life of drink, drugs, and sporadic sex in prewar Berlin. One night he and his lover Rudy pick up the wrong man--someone who's on the Nazi's wanted list. Max and Rudy are forced to flee Berlin and live underground. Ultimately they are arrested, and sent to Dachau. En route, Rudy is murdered, but Max survives with the help of a "pink triangle" prisoner, Horst.
Once in Dachau, Max makes a deal to wear a Jewish star, therefore avoiding the pink triangle, the badge of the "lowest," the homosexual. He arranges for Horst to be on his work detail, doing pointless and exhausting--but not dangerous--labor. As time goes by, they fall in love. They become lovers through their imagination, and through their words. When Horst is threatened, Max understands, at last, that life is more than mere survival.
The Themes of Bent
GAY HATING--Bent is about a particular era in history, and yet the play is still, unfortunately, as relevant today as it was when it was written. Gay hating is alive and well in this country, as witnessed by the appalling murder of Matthew Shepard last year. Closer to home, the Wisconsin Christians United are distributing hate literature in Madison right now, with phrases like, "Sometimes discrimination is a good thing . . ."
COMING OUT--In an elaborate metaphor for coming out, Bent uses an extreme circumstance to demonstrate how terrifying it is, in the face of hostility, for people to claim their identity, and to take pride in it. In this play, it is a matter of life or death; for many people in our time, the stakes are just as high.
THE REDEMPTIVE POWER OF LOVE--Bent is, first and foremost, a love story. Max, the central character, has spent his life elaborately concerned with his own pleasures. Over the course of the play, he figures out how to love. Finally, he realizes that, having known love, he can't live without it.
This is a simple enough message, but Max is gay. In 1979, when this play premiered, the prevailing culture claimed that gay men don't love each other.
Bent asserts unequivocally that they can, making a simple message a radical one.
About the Director
Callen Harty has been acting since 1983, directing since 1984, and writing since 1993, most recently Gay Like Me in 1998. Acting credits have included White People and Savior of the Universe with Mercury Players, Jerker at Kanopy, and, most recently, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Dying at Broom Street Theater. He also wrote and directed The Legend of Pinkbeard: Pirate of Men and Dream Quest at Broom Street, and "History Giants Theater 3000" for The Mercury Players Night of Horror. Callen is a co-founder and charter member of 10% Society at the UW, and is currently Direct Services Coordinator for OutReach (formerly The United).
About the Cast
Scott A. Bennett (Max) has a B.A. in theater from UW-Stevens Point, and has been seen locally with CTM Productions, Middleton Players, First Banana, and most recently with Strollers as Ralph in Our Country's Good. This is Scott's Mercury Players debut.
Porter John Donovan (officer) is a theater major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has appeared in Control Freaks in Love and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Dying at Broom Street Theater, The Rimers of Eldritch in Baraboo, Wis., and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen in Portage, Wis. This is his Mercury debut.
David Gapen (Wolf) has appeared in The Abortionist, Pinkbeard, and Make My Day: The Clint Eastwood Story at Broom Street Theater, as well as Talk Radio with First Banana. Davis is currently studying acting at the UW.
Paul Giuliani (Horst) has a B.S. in theater from Northern Michigan University. While at N.M.U. he portrayed a variety of roles, including Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, Laertes in Hamlet, and Eugene in Biloxi Blues. He also performed in Haywire, an original musical, which was showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 1996. This is Paul's first play in Madison.
Timothy Griffin (Greta) last major role was Pantalone in The Servant of Two Masters, and his last directing project was Baby with the Bathwater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received his BA as Acting Specialist and Spanish major. This is his Mercury debut.
Thomas McClurg (Uncle Freddie) has been acting in Madison for four years. He performed in CTM's The Secret Garden, Madison Savoyards' The Grand Duke, as well as playing Ebenezer Scrooge for their Ebenezer Scrooge or A Dickens of Christmas. His most recent role was Jonathan Brewster in Sun Prairie Civic Theater's Arsenic and Old Lace. Thomas is also an accomplished jazz pianist. This is his Mercury Players debut.
Robert J. Moccero (officer) has been acting in Madison for the past five years. His first role was a thug in MATC's production of "Emergency Room" in 1993. Since then the bulk of his work has been at Broom Street Theatre. He has appeared in 12 plays at BST including Jack Nicholson, Jack Nicholson; Star Trek; Buck Mulligan's Revenge; Make My Day: The Clint Eastwood Story; Di, Princess, Di; Nazi Boy, and others. For Mercury Players, Bob appeared in the Mercury Players Holiday Pageant.
Shonn Northam (Rudy) This 1998 United States Adult National Figure Skating Champion is proud to make his Madison acting debut. All other stage experience has been done in California, with roles in The Music Man, The Unexpected Guest, West Side Story, Carousel, and Death of a Salesman. He has appeared in several non-union film and student film projects as well, and was Aladdin in Walt Disney World on Ice's Aladdin.