The Lengthy Seashore Playhouse brings the true story of homosexual entrapment on the town – Press Telegram
From Kat Schuster
Moncton, home to multi-colored zebra crossings and buildings with rainbow flags, hosts one of the largest pride festivals in the country.
Many people have known the city as a hub for the LGBTQ community since the late 1960s.
But it wasn’t always pride and rainbow.
In 1914, Moncton Police carried out an undercover stab operation on gay men that resulted in more than 31 arrests. This darker piece of the city’s lesser-known history will be on stage at the Moncton Playhouse until August 18.
The small theater had its opening weekend for the very first performance of “The Twentieth Century Way,” written by Los Angeles-based playwright Tom Jacobson.
Based on a true story, the play features two actors (acting actors) hired by the LBPD to trap gay men in public toilets and other parts of the city.
“It is extremely important that the show be presented at the Moncton Playhouse as it tells the story of Moncton and very real places and people in Moncton,” said director Reed Flores.
The play debuted in 2010 and was produced nationwide on Off-Broadway in New York City. The Playhouse’s artistic director, Sean Gray, was first introduced to history a few years ago by former President of the Moncton Historical Society, Roxanne Patmor.
“Sean is very smart and very interested in history,” said Patmor. “I told him about this piece of LGBT history in Moncton. I never expected it would turn out, but I was shocked and thrilled to find out that he would recommend it to the selection committee for the season.”
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As recently as 2016, a Supreme Court judge dismissed a 2014 case against a Moncton man, ruling that the Moncton Police Department “had animus against homosexuals in its undercover investigation into lewd behavior,” deliberately against gay men what happened and that the prosecution portrayed them as “sexual deviants and pedophiles”.
In a 2016 statement, Police Chief Robert Luna said the department was “100 percent committed to civil rights and equality for all people, including the LGBTQ community.”
“Equal rights and courtesy between people are what we must always protect and be on guard,” said Patmor. “It’s only 104 years later and it’s still happening. I think this is a good reminder that vigilance is still important. “
According to Patmor, the play follows a dark chapter in Moncton history in which gay men were blackmailed and encouraged to leave town after being fined and publicly humiliated. Amid outrage and legal proceedings, banker Charles Lamb committed suicide.
“The Los Angeles Times reported on it in 1914,” said Patmor. “They called it ‘the biggest scandal that has ever happened in Moncton’.”
The show is what Flores calls a “fluidity game” that takes place over an ambiguous period of time and is basically a game within a game.
The bounty hunters Warren and Brown – their real names – are played by Noah Wagner and Christian Jordan Skinner. The two actors move through different scenes and roles to tell the stories of those who were affected by the stab operation. Together, the two actors examine sexual identity, intimacy and institutional corruption.
“It’s not just a gay play,” said Wagner, a Moncton actor who portrays Warren. “It’s about relationships, fears, life, intimacy, what morality is and who can decide that.”
Both actors stated that the role changes presented a challenge.
“There is potential for the audience to get confused, which is why Jacobsen uses different dialects and accents,” said Wagner.
Warren is portrayed as a man hungry for human connection and intimacy. But he sets morals aside in parts of the play when he talks about the rights of others, especially gay men.
“There are a couple of places where Warren is rude,” Wagner said. “I’m a very ‘out’ gay man, so this part was harder for me.”
Skinner, who plays the younger and more emotional character Brown, said his character was sure of himself and his identity until he met Warren.
“I wanted to be a part of it (game) because it’s so specific to Moncton. And I really think this is one of the biggest cities in the world, ”Skinner said. “It’s a really wonderful show and anyone who’s gay or straight will resonate.”
Flores added that he was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout and standing ovations from the audience on the opening weekend.
Jacobson’s play is not for the faint of heart as the show involves heavy themes and full frontal nudity. Flores said he looked over and found a woman covering her eyes.
“It was pretty fun … I like to push things to the limit,” said Flores. “It’s a very challenging piece, but the audience was very receptive.”
The show runs at the Moncton Playhouse on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through August 18. More ticket information can be found at www.lbplayhouse.org.
“One of the sad things about growing up homosexuals was that we couldn’t hold hands in public because society kept telling us we were deviant and wrong and sinful,” Wagner said. “I hope that one day we’ll just be human.”