Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins

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Anita Bryant Died for your Sins

  • Anita Bryant Died for your Sins
    October 28-November 21

    It’s 1977, and 15 year-old Horace Poore is trying to make sense of the tumultuous events within him, as his sexual awakening is hastened by images of Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz and anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant. Underwritten in part by Joann Clark.

    Featuring Dylan Hoffinger as Horace, with Beth Gallagher, Tyler Herdklotz, Dana Hooley, Tony Houck, Don Pugh, Dylan Seaton and Jacque Wilke.

    Our lobby exhibition is by Eric Scot. See some photos and read about the exhibition under the ‘Calendar and Special Events’ tab.

    See videos of the cast at http://www.youtube.com/user/TheDiversionary

  • Directed by Shana Wride
    Design Team: Daniel Grodecki (Set), Michelle Caron (Lights), Valerie Henderson (Costumes), Omar Ramos (Sound), David Medina (Properties), Ira Spector (Social Media)
    Production Team: Anthony Phifer (Stage Manager), Jerusha Liu (Dramaturg), Matt Scott (Tech Director)

  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Coming-of-age comedy “Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins”
    next at Diversionary

    An energy crisis,an unpopular war and the fight forequal rights for gay Americans.  Sound familiar? It’s 1977, and15 year-old Horace Poore is trying to make sense ofthetumultuous eventssurrounding him — andthe tumultuous events within him – as his sexual awakening is hastened by images ofOlympic swimmer Mark Spitz and former pageant queen/orange juice promoter/anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant.  The coming-of-age comedy Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins, by Brian Christopher Williams, is the second mainstage show of Diversionary Theatre’s 2010-2011 season.  The play runs October 28 through November 21, is directed by Shana Wride, and features Dylan Hoffinger as Horace, along with Beth Gallagher, Tyler Herdklotz, Dana Hooley, Tony Houck, Don Pugh, Dylan Seaton and Jacque Wilke.  Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins is underwritten in part by Joann Clark.

    The play premiered last fall in Los Angeles.  “The title of Brian Christopher Williams’ play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it is, but something much more than that, something far richer…” – L.A. Weekly.  Nudging Horace along his journey to self-awareness are hisidiosyncratic parents, his draft dodging brother, andhis dreamy gym teacher.  Thislyric comedyis an unconventional look ata young man’s coming-of-age set against thecultural flashpoint of the early 1970s.  The play contains adult situations and themes.

    Playwright Brian Christopher Williams received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for “Best Writing” and a GLAAD Award nomination for “Outstanding Los Angeles Production” for Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins.  His play In Stitches received the “Back Stage West” Garland Award.  His work has been performed throughout the U.S., including New York (Ensemble Studio Theatre, 78th Street Playhouse, Nat Horne Theatre), Los Angeles (West Coast Ensemble, Colony Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre Center, NoHo Theatre, Matrix Theatre, Sacred Fools Theatre, Hudson Theatre, Blank Theatre Company), San Francisco (New Conservatory Theatre) and also Actors Theatre of Louisville and Florida Studio Theatre.  Various titles are published by Samuel French, Inc., and in many Best of… anthologies by Smith & Kraus.  His latest work is Beth and Norma Jeane: A Hollywood Fable (Julie Harris Playwriting Award finalist).

    Director Shana Wride recently directed the production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for Compass Theatre, and in the spring acted in Cygnet Theatre’s production of Private Lives.  Other San Diego theatre acting credits include work with San Diego Repertory Theatre, Sledgehammer Theatre, Gaslamp Quarter Theatre, Ensemble Arts Theatre and Diversionary Theatre.  Regional Theatre credits include Shakespeare Festival Los Angeles, The Colony Theatre, Open Fist Theatre, Malibu Stage Company and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

    The Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins design and production team include: Daniel Grodecki (Set), Michelle Caron (Lights), Valerie Henderson (Costumes), Omar Ramos (Sound), David Medina (Properties), Anthony Phifer (Stage Manager), Jerusha Liu (Dramaturg), Matt Scott (Tech Director).

    Former Diversionary actor Angelo D’Agostino, through his company Asorada Creative, recruited celebrity photographer Eric Scot to create the promotional image for the play.  Scot, a Los Angeles based photographer, came to the project with a very clear objective – to take peripheral aim at the script’s subject matter while shooting his adaptation of real events, capturing specifically, an imaginary (American Flag cloaked) Mark Spitz.  Tongue-in- cheek references fill larger than life prints that will be displayed in the Diversionary lobby for the duration of the show.  A highly sought after Hollywood image-maker, Scot has always mixed his subjects with an indelible imprint of sex-appeal.  In his personal work, Eric focuses on the idea of light against the human body.  www.ericscotphoto.com

    Diversionary Theatre was started in 1986.  The mission of the theatre is to produce plays with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes that portray characters in their complexity and diversity both historically and contemporarily.

    Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins  previews Thursday and Friday, October 28 and 29, opens on Saturday, October 30 and runs through Sunday, November 21.  Food for the opening night party will be provided by Chef Deborah Scott’s Indigo Grill.  Performance times are: Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00pm, Sunday at 2:00pm.  There is a Monday, November 8  at 7:30pm performance (pay-what-you-will at the door; for available seats, starting at 6:30pm).  Single tickets are $31-$33 with discounts available for students, seniors (60+), military and groups (10 or more).  Special four-show subscriptions are also available for mainstage season and Diversionary special events.  For information, call the box office at 619.220.0097 or log on to www.diversionary.org.

    – END –

    Financial support for Diversionary Theatre is provided in part by the
    City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture
    .

  • Photography by Eric Scot

    Eric Scot PhotoIn the summer of 2010, I was asked by Diversionary Theatre to come up with some imagery for this production of “Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins.”  In the process of coming up with images that would speak to the show, I became inspired to look back at my childhood.  Growing up in the 70’s, it was exciting, turbulent – the  budding of my sexuality.

    While shooting, I listened to the music of the time – memories started flooding in.  Watching my cousins getting dressed to go “Clubbing” in NYC – Studio 54, Crisco Disco – popular culture – Donna Summer, GQ Magazine, Farrah Fawcett, Sean Cassidy, Andy Gibb, Sylvester, etc.

    Along with the good came the bad.  Age six.  I remembered when my father knew I wasn’t the boy he thought he had – and all that came with that. – Eric Scot

    Eric Scot PhotoEric, a Los Angeles based photographer, came to the project with a very clear objective – to take peripheral aim at the script’s subject matter while shooting his adaptation of real events.  Capturing specifically, an imaginary (American Flag cloaked) Mark Spitz in various states of undress and the gleefully iconic moment where Anita Bryant got served – dessert.

    A highly sought after Hollywood image-maker, Eric has always mixed his subjects with a indelible imprint of sex-appeal.  In his personal work, Eric focuses on the idea of light against the human body.  Concentrating primarily on the male form, Eric has begun work on a major retrospective that will take the form of a more formal art-book that is to be published in 2011.  www.ericscotphoto.com

    Special thanks to Angelo D’Agostino of Asorada Creative for connecting Eric with Diversionary.  For permission to reprint photographs, or media inquiries please e-mail:  asoradacreative@gmail.com

  • Gay San Diego
    http://www.gay-sd.com/arts-entertainment/theater/theatre-scene-play-captures-drama-discourse-beneath-beauty-queen%e2%80%99s-hateful-crusade/

    Theatre Scene: Play captures drama, discourse beneath beauty queen’s hateful crusade
    Posted 11/08/10
    By Cuauhtémoc Kish/Theatre critic

    At 70, the controversial Queen of Gay Hate, Anita Bryant, apparently hasn’t mellowed, having sung and spoken at a “patriotic” event in Oklahoma this summer that supported an anti-gay agenda. Since 1977, when she joined up with the “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance in Florida, Bryant—more than anyone else—helped unite the LGBT community to stand up for its rights. Each morning, as I sip my orange juice, I always say a kindly “thank you” to Anita for all that she has done for our rainbow coalition.

    Brian Christopher Williams’ “Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins” invites us to walk through the back door of time and revisit an explosive political event in which Bryant led a vitriolic crusade against openly gay teachers, in the process galvanizing the gay community to demand equal treatment under the law. This dramedy is a coming-of-age story that breaks the message down by focusing on one family and one frustrated gay adolescent—offering an insightful juxtaposition of life in America for LGBT people in both 1977 and 2010.

    Fifteen-year-old Horace Poore (Dylan Hoffinger) is working to define his sexual identity. His gay hormones are raging, especially while gazing upon a photo of his current obsession, Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz. Hoffinger, a freshman at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, does fine work as the youngest brother of an upstate New York family that leans redneck (despite a distracting habit of over-punching his words for dramatic effect). Within Hoffinger’s character, the playwright infuses a serious foray into the topics of gay bashing, bullying and coming out—not bad for a two-hour show that’s largely billed as a comedy.

    Hoffinger’s brother Chaz (Dylan John Seaton) is a draft dodger who has returned from Canada to the family nest after being pardoned by Jimmy Carter. Chaz comfortably plays big brother to Horace, and, like the unconditional pardon he received, he loves and accepts his younger sibling for who he is. Part of their stage chemistry is based upon the fact that both of them had to face their unique problems alone, without the initial comfort of family and friends.

    Williams has created two especially interesting, non-stereotypical characters in this play: Agnes (Beth Gallagher) and Jake Spencer (Tyler Herdklotz). Agnes is the neighbor girl whose hormones are raging, much like Horace’s, but who is defined in the script as “retarded” and unable to have a normal life. Gallagher is restricted by the script, not able to do much more with the part than moan and clutch an oversized doll, underscoring a line from the play: “sound travels faster than enlightenment.” Jake, a Mark Spitz look-alike who is also the local gym teacher, leaves town after his perceived unsavory actions toward Agnes are discovered. On the surface one may assume that Jake simply took advantage of an innocent, but his actions may have been more complicated than just a rash pounce upon innocent flesh (I’ll leave that open to discussion). After all, it was Jake who opened a window to Horace that would have allowed him to discuss his homosexuality without any fear of exposure or ridicule.

    Etta and Myron Poore (Dana Hooley and Don Pugh), the parents, provide some much needed levity, especially in Act 1. Hooley’s character, on target throughout the production, employs a hard-knocks vocabulary that does not shy away from the antigay “f” word. She does it to “prepare” her son for the outside world, or so she says. Hard as nails Myron, always ready with a verbal slam, is one of the first to comfort a son who has just “come out.” In the end, the family team is there for Horace.

    Jacque Wilke (Woman) and Tony Houck (Man) fill in the gaps, playing media and other personalities, including the infamous Anita Bryant (Yes, we get to observe the re-creation of the pie in the face moment!). These caricatures help to balance the heaviness of the script, as well as providing an historical note to the production.

    Shana Wride has a lot on her plate as director and performs her task admirably, balancing some meaty issues with laughable lightheartedness.Daniel Grodecki’s scenic design seems somewhat off balance but allows for a myriad of settings, including a tree house, dining area, public shower stall, bedroom and newsroom.

    The LGBT community has come a long way since 1977, but we still have a long way to go: The “Save Our Children” haters have been replaced by “Prop Hate” zealots. With time, our message will win out. “This production is another reminder that we must never, ever, give up that fight.

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    http://stagescenela.com/html/anita_bryant_died_for_your_sin1.htm
    Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins
    StageSceneLA.com
    By Steven Stanley
    Posted October 31, 2010

    “One of the funniest and most exquisitely written comedy-dramas to come along in a long, long while” is how I described Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins when it had its West Coast Premiere in Los Angeles last year. San Diegans (and Angelinos who want a first or second look at Brian Christopher Williams’ exquisite memory play) would do well to check out its terrific San Diego premiere at Diversionary Theatre under the expert direction of Shana Wride.

    “If every man’s life is a story, then the time has come to write mine,” types fifteen-year-old Horace Poore (Dylan Hoffinger) from the tree house where he spends much time coming of age in the late 60s, early 70s. “Like many families, we watched the Vietnam war over Salisbury steak and Kool-Aid,” recalls Horace, his mind going in time back to the summer of 1969. Dad Myron (Don Pugh) works for a construction company, Mom Etta (Dana Hooley) is a factory assembly-liner, and older brother Chaz (Dylan Seaton), the family “fly in the ointment,” has recently been expelled from his second attempt as a high school senior. 1969’s draft lottery is big news across the U.S., and young men ages 18 to 25 unlucky enough to have a draft number under 100 stand zero chance of avoiding being sent to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

    To seven-year-old Horace, however, being a “lottery winner” means big bucks. (“Dad plays the lottery. He calls it my college fund.”) Thus, when Chaz’s December 30th birthday is the third to be called, Horace excitedly concludes that “We won!” The news is not nearly so good for the rest of the Poore family, and certainly not for Chaz, who feels his only choice to escape this “stupid war” is an expatriate life in Canada. “It’s not stupid to die for your goddamn country,” retorts his angry, disappointed dad, who believes that his son is running away “like a goddamn sissy coward!” As for Mom, Chad’s hasty departure prompts, in Horace’s words, three weeks of “the great cleaning frenzy of 1969.”

    Horace, meanwhile, is doing his best to cope with a growing awareness of his burgeoning sexual identity. The culprit for his dismay (and object of his obsession) is a 19-year-old swimming champ whom young Horace first sees on TV atop the winner’s podium, a “black, sleek, enticing patch of whiskers” above his upper lip. One glimpse of Mark Spitz, and Horace comes to the sudden realization that he has become the unwanted butt of “one of God’s goddamn practical jokes.” “Something has happened to me,” he tells us. “I always knew I was different. Now I know why.”

    Three years later, Chaz is still somewhere hiding incommunicado in Canada, Watergate tops the evening news on a daily basis, and Horace is learning to (in his words) “deflect” any time a chance remark—or a song like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”—threatens to call unwanted attention to his budding alternative sexuality. At junior high school, he recounts, “it takes only one day on the playground to realize that it’s the sissy that gets the beating,” and young Horace determines to take up sports. His P.E. teacher turns out to be none other than Mark Spitz look-alike Jake Spencer (Tyler Herdklotz), the hunky older man Horace had earlier spotted showering butt-naked in the gym, and Horace is instantly smitten—alternately elated and terrified by his feelings for the coach. “I can feel a lot of sick days coming up,” he declares.

    As the years pass, including Mom’s obsessive redecoration of the house in red, white, and blue in honor of the 1976 Bicentennial, a new reason for Horace to “deflect” emerges in the person of Anita Bryant. Frequent TV appearances by the former Miss America-turned pop singer-turned spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission-turned fervent gay rights opponent make Horace feel more conspicuous than ever, and wondering if the people around him can “see it on me.”

    And so it goes in Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins, a play I love every bit as much the second time around as the first. The family playwright Williams has created is loving, dysfunctional, apple-pie-American, totally screwed up, and an absolute joy to spend two hours with. Besides writing wholly three-dimensional characters, Williams has quite the way with a quip, as when Horace comments that his parents “never met an expletive they didn’t like,” which Dad immediately follows with, “If I wanted any shit from you, I’d squeeze some from your head.” Delicious!

    If you think the Poores will be in any way predictable, think again. One of the joys of Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins is how relentlessly surprising Horace and his family are. Love makes people do foolish (and wonderful) things, and Horace and his family do both, and some pretty terrible ones in between. By the end of the emotional rollercoaster ride that is Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins, no one in the Poore family remains the same as they were at its start, and teenage Horace may very well be on the road to greatness.

    A trip down memory lane for Baby Boomers. A history lesson for the under-30s. A timely reminder that the Anita Bryants of the world live on, as strident, misguided, dangerous as they were when Horace Poore was learning to be a man. Anita Bryant Died For You Sins is one of the very best new plays of recent years, its production at Diversionary one of the very best I’ve seen at the nations’ 3rd oldest LGBT theater.

    Unlike the Los Angeles production, which had a trio of actors all in their early twenties playing Horace, Chaz, and Jake (superbly by the way), Diversionary has cast actors precisely the ages of the characters they are playing, a gutsy decision since it means hiring an honest-to-goodness teen to play Horace, a role which requires depth, maturity, sensitivity, razor-sharp comic timing, and absolute self-confidence—qualities which 14-going-on-15-year-old Hoffinger possesses in abundance. Cute but never cutesy, charming but never consciously so, Hoffinger has the audience in the palm of his hand from his very first moments in the role and keeps them there, even when Horace turns not quite so sympathetic in Act Two. Hoffinger’s Diversionary debut is one that will be talked about and remembered in years to come.

    Matching the real life high schooler every step of the way is a supporting cast which illustrates to perfection the level of talent in San Diego’s vital theater scene (one well worth a look-see by adventurous Angelinos).

    Seaton is such a perfect fit for rebellious older brother and so absolutely authentic in the role that one forgets it’s an actor up there on stage. An equally real Herdklotz is sure to bring back audience memories of P.E. teachers of their youth. Having age-appropriate actors as Horace, Chaz, and Jake adds a level of believability that makes scenes between them particularly convincing. It’s easy to understand the envy and hero worship Horace feels for his already adult older brother, and if scenes between an underage Horace and a man clearly two decades his senior can be at times uncomfortable to watch, it’s to the production’s benefit. (It should be noted that there is no sexual activity between the two characters, either shown or implied, though Hoffinger and the audience do catch a brief glimpse of Herdklotz’s bare buns.)

    Hooley is a San Diego treasure, brilliant once again as the rough-on-the-outside, fiercely maternal Etta Poore, and Pugh is equally wonderful as big burly Myron, the best darned father a teenage boy could ask for. Both actors create characters who defy stereotypes and our expectations of them. In a small but ultimately pivotal role, Beth Gallagher does fine work as Agnes, the Poore’s “retarded” Polish-American neighbor.

    Completing the ensemble are Tony Houck and Jacque Wilke, stealing every scene they’re in in a variety of cameos. Houck’s include a spot-on Walter Cronkite, a goofy classmate of Horace’s, and a flamboyant “heterosexual” preacher with the biggest hair in town. Wilke not only plays an alternately hilarious/scary Anita Bryant, lip-synching to “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” but a gawky headgear-wearing teen and several others, similarly well-drawn.

    Scenic designer Daniel E. Grodecki II effectively divides the wide Diversionary stage into the Poore kitchen, Horace’s treehouse, a locker room shower, and other assorted locales. Valerie Henderson’s costumes match 1970s fashions with each character’s personality and likely choice of attire. Michelle Caron’s lighting is equally fine, as is Omar Ramos’s sound design, with its selection of nostalgic 1970s hits. Thumbs up too to David Medina’s period properties. Bret Young is production managers, Anthony T. Phifer is stage manager, and Jerusha Lui is dramaturg.

    The recent rash of gay teen suicides and the “It Gets Better” campaign they have inspired make it clear that the coming out, coming of age issues raised in Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins are as relevant today as they were thirty-five years ago when Horace Poore was fifteen. Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins gives hope that young Horace, now a happy, fulfilled, out-and-proud survivor of the AIDS epidemic and current battler for marriage and military equality (at least that’s how I choose to see him), would be among those making YouTube videos telling today’s teens that it does indeed get better. It doesn’t get much better than Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins.
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    http://www.sandiego.com/arts/anita-bryant-died-for-your-sins-at-diversionary-theatre
    San Diego Arts
    ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS at Diversionary Theatre
    It Gets Better
    By Bill Eadie
    Posted on Sun, Oct 31st, 2010
    Last updated Mon, Nov 1st, 2010

    When Diversionary Theatre’s Artistic Director Dan Kirsch selected Brian Christopher Williams’ dramedy, Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins, six or so months ago as one of this season’s plays it is unlikely that he did so because a rash of suicides of young men who were presumed to be gay had hit the nation. But, such a rash has occurred in the last few weeks, one that has been alarming enough that newspaper columnist Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project to bring messages of hope to gay youth. Thousands of videos, from ordinary people, celebrities and even President Obama have been posted to the site in an outpouring of support for young people who may be bullied or scared to tell their families what they know to be true about themselves.

    And while Anita Bryant, as its title implies, is set in the 1970s it could well be Diversionary’s contribution to the It Gets Better Project. For that reason alone, I hope that as many gay and questioning youth as possible will get to see this production before it closes on November 21.

    Not that the play rises all that far above what might be standard fare on LOGO, the gay cable channel. The Poore family are country dwellers in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. Dad (Don Pugh) and Mom (Dana Hooley) have factory jobs and little formal education, older brother Chaz (Dylan Seaton) has been expelled from high school and is concerned about being drafted, and younger brother Horace (Dylan Hoffinger) has secretly developed crushes on Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz and Coach Spencer (Tyler Herdklotz), a teacher at his school who bears some resemblance to Mr. Spitz. News and entertainment media are also continual influences (Tony Houck and Jacque Wilke play a variety of media figures), but the family also has the standard sets of prejudices commonly associated with rednecks, including looking down on their Polish neighbors, particularly their retarded daughter (Beth Gallagher).

    Shana Wride’s detailed and fluid production saves the day, however. Taking advantage of the wide Diversionary stage, Daniel E. Grodecki II’s scenic design creates several playing spaces that manage to be separate, except when Ms. Wride’s staging wants to connect them. Costumes (Valerie Henderson), Lighting (Michelle Caron), Sound (Omar Ramos), and Properties (David Medina) all support the visual concept well.

    Ms. Wride’s casting is as good as her staging. Ms. Hooley is Diversionary’s go-to-Mom, and she comes through with a performance that exists on multiple levels simultaneously. Mr. Pugh looks and acts rough but also demonstrates a sensitive and loving side. Mr. Seaton has an easy and relaxed way about him as prodigal son Chaz, Mr. Herdklotz surprises after a stereotypical beginning as the coach, Ms. Gallagher deftly avoids being completely annoying as the retarded neighbor girl, and Mr. Houck and Ms. Wilke are appropriately smarmy as the media figures. Ms. Wilke even manages a pretty fair imitation of Anita Bryant.

    The evening belongs to Mr. Hoffinger’s Horace, however. It is always dangerous to tell a story through the eyes of an adolescent actor, but Neil Simon pulled it off in Brighton Beach Memoirs, now playing down the road at the Old Globe. Mr. Williams also pulls it off, though in the wrong hands the device could have been disastrous. Mr. Hoffinger, a first year theatre student at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, not only plays 15 credibly (even though he’s only 14) but he gives the Globe’s more experienced Austyn Myers a run for his money as a wiseacre with a sensitive side.

    Anita Bryant had a villainous role to play in the gay liberation movement, and the arguments she used to succeed are still being offered, though usually in more coded language than Ms. Bryant used. Mr. Williams’ play illustrates the power of media messages to affect the lives of gay and questioning youth, as well as how family love and support can provide hope. When Horace’s parents are despairing after he has come out to them, Chaz reminds them that their emotional reactions give Horace only two choices–and they’d be a lot happier if he chose to run away. Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins is right on the money on this point, and Diversionary’s production is right on the money as well.

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    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/nov/08/young-star-shines-in-flawed-anita-bryant/

    Theater review
    Diversionary: Young star shines in flawed ‘Anita Bryant’
    By Janice Steinberg, SPECIAL TO THE San Diego Union-Tribune
    Posted Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:18 a.m.

    The term “boy wonder” sometimes gets used indiscriminately, slapped on pudgy-cheeked men in their 30s. Diversionary Theatre, however, has discovered a genuine boy wonder in Dylan Hoffinger, the 14-year-old star of “Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins.”

    Hoffinger, in his Diversionary debut as teenager Horace Poore, narrates the coming-of-age (and coming-out) story, often holding the stage on his own. And he does so with warmth, wit and remarkable poise. One can’t wait to see him in a really terrific play.

    As for “Anita,” whether it’s the script by Brian Christopher Williams or Shana Wride’s direction, this production feels underbaked.

    Set in the 1970s, the two-act play covers some meaningful territory: Horace’s older brother gets hit by the draft lottery; his blue-collar parents see their jobs disappear; and his own budding sexuality is stimulated by a crush on Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz and dunked in cold orange juice by anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant.

    In one of the strongest story lines, bookish Horace tutors his parents and his brother as they struggle to earn their high-school-equivalency degrees.

    Having Horace narrate, however, is a problem. He sets up scenes as if from a memoir, and then characters — from his family to Bryant to newscasters spitting out just a few words — appear and act them out.

    The focus on his narrative voice doesn’t yield payoff in terms of devastating insights or linguistic dazzle. It simply puts the story at a distance, so even superb actors, such as Dana Hooley, playing his mother, don’t grab your heart.

    Some of the shifts between narration and action, under Wride’s direction, need a squirt of WD-40.

    On the plus side, “Anita” displays Diversionary’s usual meticulous professionalism. Scenic designer Daniel E. Grodecki II has created a spot-on, low-rent 1970s dining room, Horace’s cozy treehouse and a versatile space that can be a bedroom, locker room, et cetera.

    Hooley and Don Pugh, as Horace’s father, are standouts in the cast, and Jacque Wilke has a blast as saccharinely sweet Bryant. Most of all, it’s a pleasure to see young Hoffinger take his rightful place in the theater.

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    www.wordsarenotenough.info
    Rich and Poore
    Theater is ennobling for one prominent San Diego teen

    (Publisher’s note: Dylan Hoffinger plays the central role of Horace Poore in Anita Bryan Died for Your Sins, Diversionary Theatre’s upcoming nod to gay teenage angst amid the more sobering events of the 1970s. At 14, Hoffinger is a San Diego youth theater veteran and has some thoughts on the city’s larger performance community.)

    BY DYLAN HOFFINGER

    Horace Poore, central figure in Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins, is a very intense and complex character, yet he’s comedic as well. He is an intelligent 15-year-old living with his mom, dad and big brother in the 1970s. That’s a pretty basic outline for a character, right?

    Wrong…

    The story is about how family, other authority figures, the major events that occurred in the 1970s and Horace’s surroundings affected him as a young gay man. He discovers he is gay when, at age 10, his first look at swimmer Mark Spitz in the Munich Olympics of 1972 prompts some unusual feelings. As you can probably imagine, the world was not a safe place for Horace. The early 1970s was a very controversial time, marked by events such as the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal; homosexuality was widely condemned and thus hidden. And Horace’s confusion and challenges are aggravated amid small-town living. He’s from the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and is growing up in a no-wuss, working-class family.

    Brian Christopher Williams, the play’s author, wanted Horace to have a relationship with the audience similar to that in FOX-TV’s Malcolm in the Middle; moreover, he has Horace tell the story, tracing his life from age 7. The tricky part is that the actor portraying Horace (me) has to remember that it is all a flashback. I think of the set as my mind and the audience as my typewriter. My challenge as an actor is to make sure that Horace is living each scene but also able to provide the audience with his point of view outside the scene.

    Now that I’ve made everything seem so deep and full of meaning, I get to explain two especially funny things about Horace: He has a sort of sarcasm that’s likable because it isn’t directed at anyone; and when things happen to Horace, he turns it into a big deal. He is 100 percent certain he is the smartest person in his town, and he just wants to escape. When odd or strange or awkward or uncomfortable things happen to him (which is most of the time), he can just turn to you and say, “Oh, my God; did you see what just happened to me?” or “Get me out!!

    I am very excited about the opportunity to take on an important and complex role like Horace at my age. It makes me think about how I started acting in youth theatre. I really did not begin to take my craft seriously until I moved here three years ago. I started off with San Diego Junior Theatre, and from that, I branched into the larger theater community. I’ve met wonderful teachers, coaches and actors through this community. I’ve made friends, and they’ve even led me to different opportunities and experiences.

    The thing I love about the theater community is that it is a family. Everyone is cheering everyone on. It is a place of culture, new awakenings, discovery, passion and individualism. Everyone is just so embracing of one another. They accept everyone for who they are and the talent that they have to share.

    Youth theater has allowed me to develop a passion for my art independent of things like thoughts of a career.  In youth theater, everyone is invested in their craft for the pure enjoyment of self-expression and universal connection. They don’t need to be concerned about how they are supposed to live and support themselves and can choose the roles they want based solely on their passion. When I turn professional, I may not have the same freedom. But I am looking forward to continued challenges and opportunities in the theater.

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