Famed circus promoter P.T. Barnum once said, “No one ever made a difference by being like everybody else.”
That’s a philosophy Epiphany Theatre founder Ed Sparan has embraced, but there are other parallels between the longtime South Florida resident and the bigger-than-life impresario.
Like Barnum, Sparan was raised in Bridgeport, Conn., and, as a teenager, left for New York City to pursue his passion, theater. During the 1980s, Sparan acted in cabarets and gay plays, eventually landing the role of Gregory Gardner in "A Chorus Line" on Broadway.
He eventually realized his talents were writing and directing and so he left New York a decade later for San Francisco, where he became artistic director of the PWA (People with AIDS) Theatre.
“(They were) a unique group doing support groups and, from those stories, creating realistic theatre,” recalled Sparan.
In 1993, Sparan moved to South Florida, where he became immersed in many different communities: As a former Mr. Drummer, Sparan has served as an educator and has produced many events, including Mr. and Ms. Florida Leather and the Black Heart Ball. In the HIV community, he has been a PrEP coordinator for the Pride Center and operations manager for the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center. Most recently, Sparan has been providing HIV education in high schools for the Lynn Warrick Institute.
But, Sparan never abandoned his love of the stage.
He has been active with the former Public Theatre of South Florida and the TRUCK Theatre, and was more recently seen in “Musclebears the Musical” and “Die, Mommie Die” at Empire Stage. As a playwright, his latest work, “Forever Hard,” about the 1977 Everhard bathhouse fire, won the Playwrights Sanctuary Award for outstanding LGBTQ theater.
And now, Sparan is launching Epiphany Theatre in Elliott Hall at the Fort Lauderdale United Church of Christ.
“When you come to our shows, you will have an epiphany,” Sparan explained, referring to the “moment of sudden or great revelation or realization.”
The new company’s first show, “Gay Amnesia,” opens Nov. 15. In Jerry Radloff’s comedy, Zack and Blair’s six-year relationship gets upended after Zack gets hit in the head and forgets that he is gay. Zack attempts to date the couple’s real estate agent, Roberta, while Blair is comforted through the difficult time by his mother and gay best friend, Bruno.
Other upcoming shows include “Nunsense Amen,” opening in January and featuring an all-male cast including Peter Bisuito as Mother Superior; the British comedy “Stepping Out,” scheduled for April; and a summer production of “Forgotten, Unforgettable Broadway,” a musical review of well-known songs from unsuccessful shows.
Next fall, Sparan plans “Bert’s Big Bed,” a comedy set in a San Francisco leather bar about a man winds up playing “Cyrano de Bergerac” to an acquaintance who must break some difficult news to his lover, and Kander and Ebb’s musical, “The Rink,” which will involve transforming Elliott Hall into an actual roller skating rink.
One of P.T. Barnum’s other quotes is, “The noblest art is that of making other happy.” Sparan has taken that one to heart, also, as he prepares the first production for his new company.
Epiphany Theatre presents “Gay Amnesa,” Nov. 22 – Dec. 8 in Elliott Hall at the United Church of Christ, 2501 N.E. 30th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $25 at Eventbrite.com/GayAmnesia or call 754-213-7125.