Theater - Gender bender 

Masquers poke fun at the theatre with Anton in Show Business

Imagine a play written for a cast of women who sometimes play men, that was written by a woman who might really be a man. Wait a minute -- what?

Such a play really does exist and it was written by Jane Martin, one of the best-known unknown playwrights in modern theater. Martin is the darling of the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. More plays by her have been introduced at the festival than by any other playwright.

But here’s the strange part. Even though Martin has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, the ATL has kept her identity secret for more than 20 years. However, Martin is believed by many to be a man named Jon Jory, the ATL’s former producing director.

Confused? Don’t worry. There’s nothing confusing about Anton in Show Business, a Martin play that is being presented by the Armstrong Atlantic State University Department of Art, Music and Theatre.

“It has an all-female cast of seven that plays both males and females,” says director Samantha Noon. “The whole basis of the play really is to have a laugh at the theater and all the stereotypes involved in the production of a play.”

The main characters are a self-centered television actress, a jaded New Yorker and an ingenue who have been brought together in San Antonio, Texas, for a stage production of Anton Chekhov¹s The Three Sisters. The play pokes fun at such theatrical stereotypes as incompetent producers, stupid directors, Botoxed actors and self-important critics.

The play consists of several skits. “There are very few light changes,” Noon says. “While the changes occur, the actors are still acting so it’s like the audience is watching a rehearsal of the play.”

Anton is for mature audiences. “That’s really because of the language, and there are a couple of love scenes,” Noon says.

Hillary Kaye plays Holly. “She’s a 30-year-old drop-dead gorgeous TV star with a big ego,” Noon says. “She knows they can’t fire her because the play needs credibility, so she’s a diva.”

Whitney Williamson plays Lisabette, the ingenue. “She’s the youngest at 24, and she’s very naive, energetic, and she’s from Texas where the play is taking place,” Noon says.

Sage Tipton plays Casey. “Holly is from LA and Casey from New York, so there is a very big gap between them,” Noon says. “Casey is 36, kind of plain. She is a veteran stage actress, yet she’s actually never been paid a salary until this play.”

The rest of the cast plays multiple roles. “All the characters are different, and having them play guys is hilarious,” Noon says. “The most difficult thing is that the play requires several costume changes. The most challenging thing is getting tech onboard and making sure everything goes smoothly.”

Ashton Carr plays four different characters. “I play T-Anne, she’s a stage manager,” Carr says. “I play Andwyneth, she’s a director for the play within a play.

“I also play Don Blount,” Carr says. “He works in a tobacco company, Albert and Sons Tobacco Co. He’s really arrogant, pompous -- he’s really all about himself.

“I also play the airport announcer, the gate manager at the airport,” Carr says. “It’s a lot of work, pretty much of it off-stage learning lines. For the guys, I have to deepen the voice and make it male.”

Carr is a theater major at AASU. “When I first auditioned for the part, Sam told me the part I would likely be good for was three to four different roles,” she says. “It’s very fun and it’s never boring.

“With a cast of all women, everyone always has something to talk about,” Carr says. “There’s always something going on.

“It’s a very funny and interesting play,” she says. “It’s kind of insulting to the theater industry, but in a funny way.”

Cassandra Bogue plays three characters. “I’m Kate, the producing director of the play,” Bogue says. “She’s a quirky individual who has a tendency to ramble and not be able to express herself clearly.

“Jackie is a very flamboyant gay male costume designer,” Bogue says. “That’s a very fun part to play.

“Ben is a heterosexual male country singer. That’s probably the biggest stretch for me. I’m from Michigan, so I don’t speak with a Southern accent on a regular basis. It’s a hilarious show that’s full of witty one-liners.”

Bogue is a graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit. “I came in for an audition,” she says. “I’d done a couple of other shows and I’d heard of this all-female comedy and knew it was going to be a lot of fun.

“Sam called me and said she had cast me as Kate,” Bogue says. “Then I got the script and realized Kate also plays two other characters. My jaw kept dropping! But I love a challenge.”

To prepare for the role, Bogue has spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. “For Ben, I’ve been playing with my face a lot and my posture, too, to make it seem more masculine,” she says. “The voice thing comes with practice. I’m trying to change my physical person to look more manly and aggressive. I’m also trying to play up Kate’s femininity to create more juxtaposition between them.”

Bogue says audiences will enjoy Anton. “It’s hilarious, controversial, it tackles race, sex, the theater world, anything you can think of,” she says. “It’s one of those shows where you don’t have be a theater person to enjoy it.”

AASU’s Department of Art, Music & Theatre: Anton in Show Business

A play within a play that pokes fun at the theater world. Audience discretion is advised.When: July 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and July 13 and 20 at 3 p.m.Where: Masquers Chinese Theater (MCT), located in Armstrong Center, 13040 Abercorn St. Cost: $10. Info: 344-2801 or www.finearts.armstrong.edu.

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Linda Sickler

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