Burning Blue, a play examining gays in the U.S. military, was hoping to have its New York premiere in October, with producers Brent Peek and George DeMarco targeting an off-Broadway run. But that was before director John Hickok scored a featured role in Disney's Aida, making him unavailable for nearly a year.
Now Peek and DeMarco are busy weighing whether to wait for Hickok, "who really wants to do it and has been with the project since day one," says DeMarco, or find another director and bring the show in this season.
Back in July, DeMarco told Playbill On-Line, "We're about three-quarters of the way to raising the capital -- $700,000 -- for an Off-Broadway run at a 399-seat house."
D.M.W. Greer's drama about two navy fighter pilots who fall in love -- and the fallout afterward -- was staged in London in 1995 and in Los Angeles in 1998. John Hickok, who helmed in London and L.A., would direct in New York.
A reading of the drama for 225 people was held at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre Monday, Jan. 25. Michael Hayden (Far East) and Robert LuPone (A Chorus Line) starred in the reading, alongside Jodie Markell (Snakebit), Robert Bogue (the Roundabout's Three Sisters), Martin McDougall (the L.A. and London mountings of Burning Blue), Christa Kirby, Melissa Bowen, and UK actor Andrew Halliday. With its look at gays in the military, "[the play] becomes a witch hunt," DeMarco explained at the time, "but the story is really about friendship and being true to yourself.... This spoke to me so deeply. It was so well drawn."
Burning Blue premiered in 1995 at the tiny King's Head Theatre in Islington. The public took note, and Burning Blue transferred to the renowned Haymarket Theatre on the West End, and then to the Ambassadors, ultimately garnering Olivier Awards for lighting and sound design. Since then it has played at L.A.'s Court Theatre and San Francisco's Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, as well as in South Africa.
Playwright Greer is an American. He grew up in a military family and spent nearly seven years in the Navy, training to fly helicopters, then handling Navy public relations in New York City. Burning Blue grew out of his disenchantment over the Navy's treatment of alleged homosexuals. A close friend, the son of an admiral, was subjected to 36 straight hours of interrogation before he resigned from the Navy to avoid tarnishing his father's reputation. "I also learned of four or five other cases of Navy personnel being raked over the coals by the Naval Investigative Service," he said. "The irony is amazing: that freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, and defended by our military, is something that gays can't even enjoy themselves. It's hard to fathom."
Producer DeMarco, whose background is in business and accounting, intends Blue to be his first major commercial production. "I've done Off-Off-Broadway and not-for-profit theatre, so there's a reason my company is called `At Long Last Productions,'" joked DeMarco. He then added, "I saw this show in London four years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I'd seen five plays in four days, all of which were West End productions. The last night in town, a friend gave me a ticket to this show all the way in Islington, in the back of a bar. I didn't even want to go. Yet I was just totally moved by the story."
While he waits for Burning Blue to ignite, DeMarco is producing This is a Test, a multi-media piece about a Texas man waiting for his HIV test results. Penned by Michael D. Conway and directed by Melinda McGraw and Charlie Otte, Test plays at OOB's Sanford Meisner Theatre Jan. 12-Feb. 6, 2000.
-- By David Lefkowitz and Kenneth Jones