What do you do when you receive an invitation to a wedding that clearly instructs guests to “please refrain from bright colors and bold patterns?”
Playwright Drew Droege wrote a show.
“This was a real invitation to a straight wedding from a friend who was a control freak and wanted a ‘desert palette’,” recalled Droege. “As I was driving to Palm Springs, I began wondering what the context would be as a gay man attending a gay wedding. In the wake of marriage equality, I wanted to question within our community why we feel like we have to stick to the models our parents set up.”
The result was “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns,” which will receive its Florida premiere June 4 – 20 at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors.
In Droege’s retelling, Gerry is a middle-aged gay man who arrives in Palm Springs on the night before a gay wedding. Gerry is nonplussed about the directions in the invitation to restrain his wardrobe and the evening soon devolves into a drunken, drug-fueled riot.
If the plot seems charged, Droege is quick to point out the one-man show is a comedy. Gerry is a bit frazzled at the moment, working out his issues – “mainly assimilation and the scrubbing of queer identity.”
Gerry is just one of the distinct characters the 44-year-old North Carolina native has created and staged. A veteran performer, he explored improv after moving to Los Angeles and his writing eventually led to some writing gigs for television.
“I’ve mainly written solo shows for myself,” he explained. “I wrote this part because I still don’t see big, loud messy gay nightmares on TV or on stage. I wanted to write a character you could spend some time with and see the pain, the frustration, the love in him, all the layers.”
While Droege acknowledges the continued presence of stereotypical queer characters on stage and screen, “every gay character now has to be such a hero – decent, which I think is great – but I miss the fun of a lot of gay characters. I wanted to play somebody who was more complicated than that and maybe didn’t fit in within the gay community itself. Gerry is not perfect.”
It has been years since Droege handed Gerry over to other actors and he’s okay with that. His latest one-man show, “Happy Birthday, Doug,” was in the midst of a successful run in New York City when theaters were suddenly shuttered.
“I came back to L.A. and sat on my couch like the rest of the world. I got to take a break and reflect on who I am and what I wanted … and reminded myself to be grateful to be alive. I’m ready to get back to work and in the theater. I miss seeing theater as much as doing it. I’m focused on creating projects that matter to me on some level and focusing on the people in my life,” he said.
As theaters begin to reopen, he’s also glad his plays will allow small companies like Island City to offer one-man shows and ease audiences back indoors.
He quipped, “Obviously, eight years ago I didn’t think if there’s a pandemic, this will be easy to mount. But, it works.”
Island City Stage, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors, presents Drew Droege’s “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns,” June 4 – 20. Social distancing will be observed and masks required. The production will also be filmed for on-demand viewing at a later date. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.