QCTC Production of Bent: A Modern Tale for Charlotte
“He wasn’t aware of what happened to gays in the Holocaust.”
That statement alone may not seem shocking to many. After all how many people are ignorant of the other victims of the Nazi mass murders (besides the overwhelmingly targeted extermination of Jews) which included Poles, Gypsies, deaf, mentally ill or handicapped, and physically handicapped?
The fact that the homosexual and transgender victims don’t register on the average person’s mind when you say “Holocaust” may not be a surprise, but what if you were told that the person who is referenced in that quote was in fact a gay man?
This author would suggest that such a statement demonstrates just how far LGBTs have come – that is to say, how far they’ve come in returning to a state of blissful ignorance that aided their persecution historically and which continues to enable many to use our community for political divisiveness today.
It would also be a clear statement on the need for a look at Queen City Theatre Company’s Production of Bent running November 1st through the 17th at the Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square.
The opening quote was part of the discussion I had with Queen City Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Glenn T. Griffin and QCTC Managing Director, Kristian A. Wedlowski in discussing why the chose the show as their current production.
Bent follows Max as a young homosexual in 1930′s Berlin who is arrested by the Gestapo and is sent to a concentration camp. because of he is gay. Within the arc of the story are themes of love, sex, betrayal, hiding oneself, and brutal persecution of a population.
Griffin and Wedlowski decided to produce Bent after travelling to Poland, Germany and East Europe this past summer. Both were touched by the haunting beauty of many of the the modern day locations of the Holocaust. The sites had a sereneness that seemed to belie the truth of witnessing some of humankind’s worst atrocities. After reflection and realization of just how far society in general has come they also realized how far society has yet to go.
Whether world leaders such as Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chilling statement against LGBTs – not to mention that country’s practice of executing LGBTS) to local Charlotte-area people such as Rev Charles Worley of Maiden calling for rounding up LGBTs behind electric fences, or Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James constant rants about his perceptions of the illegality and depravity of homosexuality – it was clear to Queen City Theatre that the past experience of the persecution of LGBTS is very much a part of our present day existence.
It may (unfortunately) surprise many to know that this production is not a theatrical adaption of the movie which starred Clive Owens but is based off the original theatrical production which originated in London in 1979 with Ian McKellen in the title role, and then a 1980 New York Production starring Richard Gere.
According to Griffin, the movie, while having a special place in many viewers hearts, can not compare to the theatrical production of the story.
“When you are sitting just feet from these men who are experiencing terror, fear, and in a very famous scene arousal – nothing on a screen can compare to the intimacy offered by theater.”
Also, while a film may be able to offer the viewer dramatic and spectacular visuals – it is the theater that realizes the strength of this story as it is a focus on the words and voices.
As Griffin explains when you look at Max and Horst who become lovers while in the Nazi camp, they can do so only through verbal intercourse something the theatrical experience is far superior at conveying as the physical format of a theater forces audiences to focus and “listen to these voices as their voices are all that they have.”
Speaking of voices, one of the innovations of this production is that the audience will never hear the Nazi soldiers directly speak as their dialogue will always be presented via overhead sound system thus reinforcing the feeling of the inhumanity of the actions of the Nazis.
So why now? And Why Charlotte?
Right now in Charlotte there is a controversy over elected officials who have attended a Louis Farrakhan event and refused to publicly state (at the writing of this article) that they disagree with the speaker’s strong anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT views.
When in modern day many people can make excuses for and refuse to distance themselves from antisemitism and homophobia which in the past led to the murder of millions it bears repeating that the past seem be simultaneously further and closer than ever. Queen City Theatre Company‘s production of Bent is the necessary reminder that words are important and how ignoring the past directly influences your role in the present and the future.
For dates of the production and information on how to purchase tickets, please see the Visit Gay Charlotte, LGBT Community Center, and QNotes Collaborative Community Calender for details.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a two part article on Queen City Theatre Company with an initial focus on their production of Bent. A feature on QCTC focusing on their place in the Charlotte Arts scene and thoughts on the local LGBT community and Charlotte will be coming.