Shades of gay

Michael Best wanted to see real gay men in entertainment. So he wrote Gay White Trash. Natalie Pendergast digs in.

photo Jon Hutt

Seeing that lower-income earning gays were not being well-represented by the media, Michael Best decided to take matters into his own hands. Five years ago he began to compile a series of unusual experiences from his personal life, and eventually his confessional anecdotes became a full-length play. It’s been a long time in the making, but Best’s Gay White Trash, directed by Fat Morgan Theatre founding member Marty Burt, is ready for public viewing.

Instead of working hard to forget what most people would describe as a horrible first date encounter, Best, an award-winning writer for such programs as This Hour has 22 Minutes and Street Cents, decided to base a comedic sketch around it.

“About 10 years ago, I met this guy and he invited me over to his house for dinner. So I go over to his house and all he served me for dinner was a bowl of creamed corn and a glass of milk. That was his idea of a first date,” says Best. “That was the starting point for the sketch and it kind of went on from there.”

Although he wouldn’t classify himself as “white trash,” Best thinks the characters in his play represent real gay couples just as accurately as some of the more mainstream gay entertainment.

“I relate to these characters much more than I relate to gay characters on TV who portray the stereotype that we are all well-to-do, like on Queer Eye,” he says. “I think these characters make up a much greater segment of the gay population than people you see in the media. I’ve never seen economically disadvantaged yet fairly normal gay guys who are not so beautiful and well-dressed anywhere in the media—in print and especially not on television or on film.”

The play’s leading couple, Gary (Best) and Terry (Kevin Curran), have spent the last 15 years living modestly together in rural Nova Scotia. When Gary decides he needs some urban enlightenment and moves to the big city of Halifax, he finds out sophistication comes at a price.

“When they move to Halifax they think they’ve come to this great place, but they end up living in low-income rental housing in north-end Dartmouth,” says Best. “They’re not aware of the whole bigger gay world around them.”

Best says that the characters’ inexperience and naivete makes for very humourous theatre, but it also accomplishes something else: it sheds light on the reality of sub-cultures within the gay scene.

“As a writer I like to stir things up as well and do something original that’s never been done before,” he explains. “And personally, I’ve never seen characters like this in a play.

“I’m rallying against the stereotype a bit—I’m creating a new stereotype. You might call it the anti-stereotype; I mean these guys are pretty much the exact opposite of how people in general would view gay guys living in the city. It’s a very honest, realistic and funny portrayal of a large portion of the population that is never seen in the media.”

Best says that after leaving the small town where Gary and Terry were the only gay men, who happened to have met each other at a young age, they begin to ask themselves if they stayed together out of necessity and habit, or if they really did love each other. By exposing this new shade of gay and poking fun at the less advantaged, less beautiful and less cultivated gay population, he is making his characters vulnerable.

“When people can recognize themselves in a character it makes them feel better about their own life,” he says. “I’ve never felt a part of the stereotypical gay culture myself. I can’t decorate, I’m not wealthy and I don’t have sex with 10 different guys a week. I do dress well, that’s about the only one that I’ll adhere to.”

Gay White Trash, November 24 to December 3 at The Crib, 2103 Gottingen Street, 8pm, $12 ($10 students), 492-3062.

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