Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 8 • Winter 2003 • Featured Lodestar Writer • Drama

Now She Dances!

Doric Wilson

Historical Notes

Now She Dances! was first presented as a one-act play at the Caffé Cino, 31 Cornelia Street, New York City in August 1961. Now She Dances! was extensively rewritten and extended into two acts for TOSOS Theatre Company. It opened in a production directed by the playwright at the Basement Theatre of TOSOS, 257 Church Street, New York City on September 11, 1975, playing 14 weeks (54 performances) and invited to Fordham University at Lincoln Center to participate in the Common Ground II Festival. Now She Dances! was further revised in Seattle, Washington from 1984 to 1987; Los Angeles, California from 1987 to 1991; and New York City from 1992 to 1999. It had its world premiere in Glasgow, Scotland in winter 2000 with Steve Bottoms directing.

About the time my play And He Made A Her showcased at the Cherry Lane Theater (1961), I was arrested for sexual whatever. (I was innocent.) The producer Richard Barr bailed me out of jail, and I ran to the safety of the Caffé Cino, sat at a table, and wrote Now She Dances! I should have dedicated it to the cop who entrapped me, and who, years later, encountered me in a leather bar, leered, and suggested maybe he and I... but that's another play.

Now She Dances! began as a response to the hilarious histrionics and fruity language of Lord Douglas's translation of Oscar Wilde's Salome. Written with overwhelming earnestness in no doubt equally florid French, Wilde's play has become a touchstone for decadence, equating lavender eau de cologne and slavering smears of silver eye shadow with degeneracy. I decided to rewrite it as The Importance of Being Salome. (Richard Barr found the right title in one of the last lines of the play.) The resulting play became an angry, ironic, nightmarish metaphor for the trial of Oscar Wilde -- the quintessential closet queen. It was Wilde's determination to establish his heterosexuality in court which led to his fatal final trial.

The Cino cast of Now She Dances! was headed by the ever-articulate Tom Lawrence (Lane), with zany Zita Jenner (Lady Herodias), and the so very beautiful Lucrezia Simmons (Miss Salome) and Joe Cino's favorite actress, Jane Lowry (Gladys). If you were there, you still remember the soup speech. The one-act Cino play was extended into a two-act version for the Playbox in the East Village in the late 1960s. On the way to the first rehearsal, Jane Lowry and Sloane Shelton traded roles on the 10th Street cross-town bus the way bobbysoxers used to switch sweaters. Opening night, the actor playing Bill, flying high on psychedelic drugs, was too busy watching all the pretty stage lights to bother coming on for his entrance. A happier memory was Berrilla Kerr swathed in yards of scarlet-swishing satin, slipping away from dinner "unnoticed."

In 1976, Now She Dances! was rewritten once again for TOSOS. Druid high priestess Sally Eaton (from the cast of Hair), and later Caroline Yeager gave harrowing and searing performances in brilliant and totally different interpretations of Miss Salome. Glamorous Mary Portser, forever juvenile Dale Carman, Machiavellian Michael O'Brien, jaunty John Michel, matinee idol John Murphy (and later the towering Brian Benben, mischief-making Marianne Leone, and Greg -- the hottest man I ever saw -- Michaels) kept Salome dancing for nearly a year in the Church Street basement home of TOSOS.

The play was again thrown into the rewrite mill where it ground round and round until Steve Bottoms convinced Larry Johnson to convince me to finish it (a debt waiting payment). The new version premiered in Glasgow, Scotland in the winter of 2000 with Steve Bottoms directing. For the first time Now She Dances! was played in tandem with Oscar Wilde's Salome. The cast was doubled, the actress cast as Salome also assayed Miss Salome. I suggested a gender switch -- the Herod from the Wilde in drag as Lady Herodias, Herodias to beard up as Sir Herod -- but nobody ever listens to me.

A very complex and difficult play, in Now She Dances! even the levels have levels. For all its insanity and layered complexity it is my most fiercely autobiographical play. Painfully private and highly sensitive details of my youth are shattered, stitched back together, and scattered liberally throughout the play. No, they are not the ones you think they are.

Audiences generally have no problem with the play's complexity, gleefully enjoying it moment to moment. On the other hand, most academics and the gay intelligentsia tend to loath it. Perhaps the character of Lane hits too close to home?

Doric Wilson
New York City
June 17, 2000

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Doric Wilson

Doric Wilson was one of the first playwrights at New York City's legendary Caffé Cino and a pioneer of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, writing, directing, producing and designing over a hundred productions. He was a founding member of Circle Repertory Theater and the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright's Unit, a participant in all three nights of the Stonewall Riot, and was active in the early days of New York's gay liberation movement as a member of Gay Activist Alliance and as a "star" bartender and manager of the post-Stonewall gay bar scene, where he opened such landmark institutions as The Spike, TY's, and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret. His plays can also be read at www.doricwilson.com.

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