He is the energizer bunny of the LGBTQ theatrical community.
In a community populated at every corner with lovingly queer performers, thespians, playwrights, actors, female impersonators, and drag queens, Ronnie Larsen may be all of those wrapped into one.
We do know this- Ronnie Larsen is the lifeblood, heart and soul of the emerging Wilton Theater Factory. From drama to gay porn, from producing to play writing, he is a force du jure in our community’s thriving theatrical world.
One evening he is playing a gay porn agent, the next night John Wayne Gacy. When he is not on stage, he is writing scripts, auditioning actors, or taking out the garbage. He is hands on, as you must be with any small business you own.
Right now, Ronnie Larsen is on a roll. He can’t stop working. He has been moving at a fever pitch, doing it all. There is no slowing down this juggernaut of thespian activity.
It’s an intimate and small theater on Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors, but the producer, owner and operator that is Ronnie Larsen is conjuring up ways to fill it every night, all with shows he has written, directed, and producing- while acting in them as well.
The Bakersfield, California native was raised a Mormon, but did not last long in that role. It just helped him define the rest of his life, as a gay man passionate about his community.
“I was pretty popular in high school. I was even President of my senior class running on an openly gay platform. I even beat out the school quarterback. He was an asshole."
Ronnie has never let a little thing like homosexuality slow him down.
"I have you learned that if you own your life, if you are out there, people embrace your authenticity. They respond to truth and honesty, not phoniness."
That's what his plays try to do. "They let us live our lives," he said.
Relocating to the East Coast and Manhattan’s theater scene, Larsen immersed himself into the freewheeling spirit of the gay soul, authoring and then crafting productions like ‘Making Porn,’ which carved out national acclaim and brought in huge revenues.
“By writing scripts with honest and transparently gay themes, I found my true self,” he said. But producing theater is no easy road. Dreams are not enough.
“You are only as good as your next show. You have to keep the audiences coming in.”
Larsen has been writing plays since 1994. He wrote his first musical in 2018. Twenty-four of his shows have been produced, five Off-Broadway in New York City. Larsen’s plays have also been seen in Canada, Australia, and Italy. Five different productions have been showcased in London.
Not enough? He has also made a documentary that had theatrical runs at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, Cinema Village in New York City and the Laemmle 5 in Los Angeles, along with showings at numerous European film festivals, including ones in London and Berlin.
While Larsen currently divides his time between Florida, Los Angeles, New York and Mexico, the Wilton Manors Theater Factory has been consuming his time since the arts season opened last fall in South Florida.
This week might be a great one for laughs at the Factory. Larsen, who has obviously been to Boystown in Chicago, just opened a new run of “Steamworks, the Musical.” He wants me to do a cameo. The man is obviously a casting genius. He knows a star when he sees one! I said yes, of course.
Unfortunately, Ronnie talks so feverishly, rapid-fire in his enthusiasm I forgot who I was talking to. I thought he was producing Showboat, the Broadway musical, not a gay sex play, where everyone parades around the stage wearing nothing but a wet towel.
Says JW Arnold, the SFGN theater critic: "Ronnie is hilarious. You just never know what he is going to come up with next, and I say that in a good way. This season he has really surprised South Florida audiences with depth and dimension, but 'Steamworks, the Musical,' is not necessarily one of those shows."
Larsen’s willingness to produce promiscuous gay sexual themes has enabled his works to be showcased in a host of nationally renowned metropolitan venues. While talking penises might not play well in Walla Walla, Washington, the hilarious, interactive script has had the audiences belly-laughing with enthusiasm here at the Theatre Factory in Wilton.
Switching back and forth from the role of actor to administrator is no easy task. Says Larsen “Developing plays is like raising children and just like children, play development is very expensive! It requires a commitment of time and money with no guarantee the play will ever move forward into production.”
It’s a risk the prolific and profound Larsen is willing to take. “It’s my livelihood, and it’s always a continuous, emotional, financial risk because you never know what you have with a play until you hear it read out loud with an audience,“ Larsen advises.
He is always looking. “We have a bunch of material waiting to be read and developed but it costs money. We are always on the lookout for generous patrons and angels who believe in the work we are doing at The Foundry in Wilton Manors and are willing to help us find those next hit plays.”
One show he has not produced yet but wants to do badly act in himself is is Romeo and Juliet. On the hefty side physically, Larsen says “ I have always wanted to play a gay Romeo. Juliet has never had a really fat lover.”
A true entertainer, Larsen knows his weaknesses and his strengths. “Being able to laugh at yourself is an essential ingredient for survival.” True that. If you have the capacity to laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused.
In the Manors, our little island city, Larsen has found a new Bunsen Burner for piloting new scripts. It is where he has premiered Now & Then, 3 Card Stud, Grindr Mom, An Evening with John Wayne Gacy, The Big D and most recently, the very creative ‘Happy Ending.’ Two of the shows have landed on stages in London. You never know.
What do we know? We know that one day Ronnie Larsen will write a version of a Shakespearean script making himself a very gay, pleasantly plump Romeo, falling in love with a studly male partner. By his side, will be his husband Melqui, and their dog, Benakee.
In the mean time, get ready for another new production at the Factory. On Facebook this week, Larsen announced the February debut of 'Come Out, Come Out," and yes, he wrote it, about a year and a half ago.
We also know that on the occasion of this newspaper’s 10th anniversary, Ronnie Larsen and his Wilton Theater Factory is the inaugural winner of SFGN’s first LGBT ‘Entertainer of the Year’ Award for 2019.
Check out Ronnie Larsen in SFGN's [email protected]