by Peter Scot-Presland
We had a little group ready to do readings of two short plays/librettos from the cycle the Gay Century, as a way of choosing which would be appropriate to take to Belfast as part of the LGBT history festival there. This got blown away by the lockdown.
The Gay Century is a cycle of 16 projected one-act operas which I am writing with Robert Ely with an eye on performance by pop-up opera companies. The cycle comes at the gay history of the 20th century crabwise, with some new angles on the events which shaped and changed who we are, some well known and some obscure, some private and some public. I still think the words stand up as a coherent narrative even without the music.
Now we are going to turn a crisis into an opportunity, with a series of readings of the complete cycle, minus music, two a week every Tuesday for the next eight weeks – assuming I manage to get the last three written in time. To do this we will need a minimum 2 – 5 performers each time; plus we will be glad of an ‘audience’ if anyone wants to log on and just watch. It will also be a great way for Robert and I to get feedback.
The scripts can be downloaded from homopromos.org/gay-century.html, but the planned programme is as follows:
8pm. 1900 Two Queens. One male [Oscar Wilde] One female [Queen Victoria]
9pm. 1907 The Jewels: A Vaudeville of Vengeance. 5 males, minimum with doubling. Main characters (1) Lord Arthur Vickers/Edward VII (2) Lord Ronald Gower + various (3) Frank Shackleton, brother of explorer Ernest (4)Ballad storyteller/Robert Ross (5) Captain Gorges/Inspector Kane
8pm. 1912 A Helping Hand. 3 males Edward Carpenter, EM Forster, George Merrill
9pm. 1918 Front. 3 males [Robert Ross, Siegfried Sassoon, Podge, the Boy Actor], 1 female [Splodge, Podges’ friend]
8pm. 1928 Sauce for the Gander. 3 males [Compton Mackenzie, novelist, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the Home Secretary, James Douglas editor of The Sunday Express] 1 female [Radclyffe Hall, novelist and martyr]
9pm. 1932 The Berlin Boy. 2 male Gerald Harley an older English ‘businessman’; Pauli a country lad turned Berlin rent boy One female Lotte, a very handsome lesbian
8pm. 1936 Fishing. 3 male [Philip Dalton, teenager; Old Philip,80; Lord Alfred Douglas, 65] One female [Mrs Dalton, Philip’s Mother]
9pm. 1944 Home Fires. 3 male [Ivor Novello, Mad Frankie Fraser, Warden], 1 female Mrs Clara Novello-Davies, Ivor’s mother
8pm. 1957 Separate Beds. 3 male [Edgar Wright & Eric Thompson, lovers; PC Allcock] 1 female Esme Langley, author, an exceedingly butch and commanding lesbian
9pm. 1962/76 The Dog it was that Died. 2 male [Norman Scott, Jeremy Thorpe/Andrew Newton]. 2 female [Mrs Tish a Jack Russell, Rinka a Great Dane]
8pm. 1973 November. 3 male [Valentine de Vere, 81, an old cabaret star; Walter Craig, a Marxist member of the Gay Liberation Front, Penny Dreadful, a radical feminist member of GLF] 1 female [Mrs Goodheart, a social worker]
9pm. 1982 After Sefton. 4 male [Corporal Robert Duggan 35, Bandsman Adam Fraser 19, Major Wilder, 50s, Military Police, Sergeant Trossley, Duggan’s friend.
8pm. 1984 Quarantine. 3 men, 1 woman in multiple roles [could be split between more readers]. This is the only full-tength libretto, with an interval built in.
16th June 8pm 1987 A shot at the future. 2 men [Perry and Flip, lovers] and 2 women [Bev and Lou, lovers] Lou wants a baby; she wants Perry to be the father. Can the two relationships survive the shock?
9pm. 1999 Skin Deep 2 men [Jackie, a student barrista, Queenie a bar manager] 1 female [Jodie, a student barrista, friend of Jackie] plus multiple small parts. Three people struggle to come to terms with the aftermath of the Admiral Duncan bombing.
23rd June 8pm. 2001. Hitched. 4 men [Gary and Barry Foster-Darling, aged 101 and 98; Danilo, a young Filipino carer; Ken Livingstone] Ken has opened the first Register of civil partnerships in the temporary GLA headquarters at Marsham St, SW1. The first ceremony is for two gay men who have been together for 82 years. The press is waiting, Ken is waiting. The only problem: Gary and Barry have decided to split up. Can the day be saved? 9pm. Odds and sods, left-over bits, new ideas, etc etc
At this stage – and I haven’t got long – I’m trying to get people to commit to reading. It can be for one play, the whole cycle, or anything in between. The readings will be conducted on Zoom. I’ve taken out full membership for the duration, so we won’t have a problem with the length of the meeting, Anyone signing in does not have to be a member, or pay anything, if I invite them. If you haven’t yet discovered the delights of Zoom [so much better than Skype] you can join for free at https://us04web.zoom.us/pricing. It’s very easy to join. But, as I say, I can invite you anyway.
I’d be extremely grateful if you could let me know by next Sunday [26th], so I can cast and send out invitations, which will have to be per week. Please also feel free to pass this email on to anyone who might be interested.