Saturday, September 23, 2006

MOMS IN AMERICA: J Marcus Newman

Moms in America is the current pride and joy of playwright J Marcus Newman. He’s producing and directing this show as an official LGBT 2006 Pride Month event.

This world premiere event will play from July 6 through July 30 at a new space at 2790 Lytton Street in Loma Portal (just around the corner from “The Hole”). Don’t be shy about asking for a SD Pride discount.

The play, which features a gay character, is about finding the means to fill an empty spot in your heart and soul. Son, Dad, and Pop meet head-on for a confrontation over a family burial. Each generational member of the family has a survival story to tell; think Cossacks, Woodstock and HIV. In the end, that dreaded love word pops up.

I visited J Marcus at this newly-found theatre space and chatted with him about his latest “coming-out party.” I’m not speaking about coming out in the gay sense. Marcus doesn’t have any problems being gay; he’s fully embraced that aspect of his life a long time ago. I’m talking about his re-emergence in the San Diego theatre scene, when many simply called him Nonnie.

Cuauhtémoc Q. Kish: Welcome back to the San Diego theatre scene! What were some of the circumstances that kept you in hiding for some seven odd years?

J Marcus Newman (JMN): To say it succinctly, it had less to do with burn out and more to do with full participation. I had been doing theatre non-stop (directing, acting, and producing) for a long time and it just reached a point where it wasn’t paying the bills, so I had to walk away from that life for awhile.

CQK: You’re reentering the theatre scene full throttle; as a playwright, director, and producer.

JMN: Yes; after having shopped Moms In America at the Mark Taper Forum and a number of New York venues I decided that I would produce it in San Diego. It seemed a perfect fit for San Diego Pride Month. And it doesn’t hurt that it has a full frontal nude scene as well.

CQK: Some in San Diego remember you as a director and actor called Nonnie Vishner; any comments?

JMN: Yes; it’s a long story. Let’s just say I changed my name to accommodate my new self.

CQK: You have the distinction of being part of the historical birth of Gay theatre in San Diego.

JMN: I was one of the actors in the very first gay theatre production of what is now Diversionary Theatre. Tom Vegh (founder) directed me, Devlin and others in a show called Lunch and Dessert at the West Coast Production Company.

CQK: You’ve had a bit of experience in directing new works in the San Diego theatre community as I understand it.

JMN: For a time I had directed all of the new works in the Streisand Festival of New Jewish plays and participated (as Director) with eight award-winning plays by young writers for Playwrights Project.

[J Marcus Newman, FKA Nonnie Vishner, has directed plays all over the San Diego theatre-scape: North Coast Rep (Isn’t It Romantic and The Sisters Rosenweig), La Jolla Stage Company (Picnic), and at the Coronado Playhouse (The Zoo Story) to name a few.

CQK: Apart from a new world premiere play, what do you bring to the San Diego Gay Community?

JMN: I believe—since I have been a successful director, actor, portrait photographer and administrator—I think I remain a positive role model in the gay community.

CQK: Tell me a little bit about the cast of Moms in America.

JMN: Jay Michael Fraley plays the son; he has acting experience in venues such as the Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company and South Coast Rep. Paul Halem (Dad) is a New York trained actor with numerous off-Broadway credits and Ed Eigner (Pop) is an actor and playwright.

CQK: I hear that your theatre training began in New York at a fairly young age.

JMN: I attended the High School of Music and Art (FAME) in New York and then studied at Syracuse University and Cal Arts where I received my MFA in theatre.

CQK: Is this your first experience as a writer of a play.

JMN: Yes, this is my first play, but I have another “in the works.” I’m back in the San Diego Theatre community and ready to act, direct, write and produce, as often as I am able.

J Marcus Newman has been involved in 35 theatre projects in San Diego. Coming back from his self-imposed temporary hiatus he hopes to log in many more successful shows, starting with the world premiere Moms In America. He’s revitalized and ready to go. J Marcus has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Craig Noel (founder of The Old Globe) and other luminaries in San Diego and I have the feeling that this second time around he’s back to stay and ready to rub a lot more shoulders. New blood and old blood mixes easily and adds to any theatrical project. I can only encourage the San Diego GLBT community to support J Marcus by attending Moms In America during Gay Pride Month. I have no doubt that this production will be successful.

After our conversation, on my way out of the theatre space, I looked at the stage-in-progress. The walls were painted lavender and the stage-floor rug boasted and sang a dark purple note. J Marcus excused himself to chat tech with stage manager and lighting designer, Becky Pierce. I thought at that moment that it doesn’t matter that he was formerly known as Nonnie; he’s still the same talented actor/director of years gone by; ready, able and willing to contribute to the gay community as well as the theatre community at large from now until whenever...

(Moms in America will play from July 6-30 at 2790 Lytton Street in Loma Portal, 8:00 pm Thursday thru Sat, 2:00 pm on Sunday. Reservations at 619-683-2256.)

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