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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"

ahhrealmonsters
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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"#26
Posted: 1/16/19 at 10:47am

OP here. Thank you for all your feedback - this is such a great discussion! I'm not trying to start any sort of argument, but I will say that as a gay woman who is very involved in the queer women + non-binary scene, I totally understand where you're coming from. When I reached out to Ethan, I didn't know his sexual orientation. I still don't know. I didn't know he had a wife when he accepted the role, but like others have said, that doesn't mean he's straight. He might be - I have no idea and am not trying to imply anything - but having a wife doesn't necessarily mean he's a 0 on the Kinsey scale. Again, I thank you for your contributions to a really interesting discussion. If you are interested in seeing the reading, I look forward to seeing you there. If it's not of interest to you, I hope you find another show to see that night that you'll love! Thanks!

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The Distinctive Baritone
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Ethan Slater in #27
Posted: 1/16/19 at 3:51pm

nasty_khakis said "Baritone, sure you listed ten or so plays, but need I go on and list all the plays and musicals without a single gay role? I feel that list will be miles longer."

 

That's true, although the list grows longer with each year, and I listed only plays that have been on Broadway.

I'm just saying that there's a point at which this whole "authenticity" thing just goes too far. I don't know at what point that is, but I think that when people go from excited about an actor they assumed was gay playing a particular gay character to outraged when they find out he is actually straight, we have reached it.

And sorry, but straight actors lose "straight roles" to gay actors all the time. You can't have it both ways (no pun intended). Gay men also maintain many - maybe even the majority of - leadership/decision making positions (director, artistic director, casting director) in the theater industry, especially when it comes to musicals. Gay men may be under-represented as characters, but both onstage and off they hold most of the power in this business, so if a straight guy wants to, for example, play the lead in Significant Other, and he can do it just as well as a gay guy, then I do not see a problem.

Updated On: 1/16/19 at 03:51 PM
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Ethan Slater in #28
Posted: 1/16/19 at 5:14pm
Nice post, Baritone. I get both points of view. My partner did say today, what if a straight actor walks in and reads a gay role better than a gay actor, should the gay actor get cast? Thought that was a good point. Incidentally, hes an actor and gay!
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Ethan Slater in #29
Posted: 1/16/19 at 5:28pm

There has been, until very recently, a profound bias against gay men playing straight men.  It's really lovely that this is changing.  But I'll never forget a manager telling me, 'Don't go swishing down 9th Avenue because you never know who's watching.'  And that was maybe 8 years ago.  Plus, I don't really swish when I walk, but that's besides the point.

The question regarding Lee Pace shouldn't be about 'Oh, poor Lee Pace...he was practically FORCED out of the closet.'  It should be, 'Why the hell was Lee Pace in the closet for that long????'  I don't fault him.  This business is still pretty terrible to gay men. 

I've said this repeatedly, but I'll say it again.  I've seen four Prior Walters.  Three are straight, one is gay.  And not one of those straight men even approached the parking lot of the ballpark the gay man was playing in.  I really would have loved to have seen Martin Moran's Bruce in FUN HOME (probably more than I cared for Cerveris, even though I thought he was quite good).

Sure...best actor should get the role.  I just always find it funny that, in these hypothetical scenarios, the straight actor always happens to be the best actor.

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Ethan Slater in #30
Posted: 1/16/19 at 6:25pm

SonofRobbieJ -

Thank you for your post. I totally understand where you are coming from.

I think part of the issue here is that due to social media, you can pretty easily find out basic facts about someone's personal life unless they deliberately hide them. Even Google can be an issue - someone takes a photo of you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife at a public event, and boom - now everyone knows whether you want them to or not.

This can color what one experiences when they see that actor perform. For example Robbie, do you think knowing the sexual orientation of those actors impacted your experience of seeing them play Prior Walter, or perhaps your memory of it? There's nothing wrong with it either way, but we as audience members probably have a hard time totally separating what we know about an actor and the character they are playing. That's why even when someone can "pass" as a certain race, it has become unacceptable to cast them as that race.

I don't think there's a real solution to this, or if it's even really a problem, but it is interesting. Either way, I think that while "authenticity" should be a factor in casting, it shouldn't always be the deciding factor. Just my opinion.

Updated On: 1/17/19 at 06:25 PM
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Ethan Slater in #31
Posted: 1/17/19 at 10:59am

'For example Robbie, do you think knowing the sexual orientation of those actors impacted your experience of seeing them play Prior Walter, or perhaps your memory of it? There's nothing wrong with it either way, but we as audience members probably have a hard time totally separating what we know about an actor and the character they are playing.'

In the end, our opinions are shaded by our perceptions.  So, it's very difficult to come to any other conclusion than 'Sure...it probably did color my view.'  But I'll offer another example.  I did a reading of new musical not long ago that was a big, gay musical extravaganza.  Nearly the entire cast was gay, including the guy playing everyone's object of affection.  And as I watched him perform, I kept thinking, 'How is he just not getting the 'gay of this right??'  This was a musical that had a certain level of high camp, which is a style all to itself.  And I kept watching and thinking, 'He's super talented...but he's missing...something.'

The thing he was missing was the actually gay thing.  Turns out he was straight...and randomly seeing a friend of mine.  It all clicked.  He didn't have a fluency in that particular camp style that is strongly influenced (if not created) by gay culture.  And that's the thing.  It's not just 'playing gay.'  It's that, if a particular sense of camp is required (as it is for Prior Walter), you not only have to be able to perform the mannerisms ('playing gay'Ethan Slater in , but also understand the depth of where the armor of camp comes from ('being gay at a certain point in history).  I can watch straight boys give flamboyance all day long, but if you didn't spend a lifetime being called a f*aggot and worry about your safety and build up an entire arsenal of camp to help shield you from the world, you have to dig so so much deeper to be able to live that flamboyance, rather than just show it. 

Conversely, 'playing straight' isn't just about reducing or enhancing mannerisms.  It's about understanding the worldview that moving through the world isn't difficult because the world is ordered for you.  I would suggest that being completely surrounded by this worldview throughout our lives (and the work we do to 'pass' in situations where we feel threatened) actually makes it easier for gay men to play straight men than the other way round. 

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Ethan Slater in #32
Posted: 1/17/19 at 12:10pm

The instances of someone coming out and it totally surprising me are few and far between. 

Being queer is a very different life experience than being straight. Just to start with, there's the innately traumatizing conceit of the closet, which forces people to live, at the very least and in the best case scenario, untruthfully for years, and almost always during the years of the most growth and development. This... really shapes people profoundly. 

I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of meritocracy when you have systemic advantages. But until there is a totally even playing field- which, despite progress, is still not the case- there can't be meritocracy. 

 

 

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
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Ethan Slater in #33
Posted: 1/17/19 at 12:22pm

The word 'privilege' is a hot buzzword these days, and lots of people roll their eyes for various reasons.

But understanding privilege, particularly in this case. will not only make you a better person, but it will make you a better actor.  Gay actors, due to what Kad brought up above, move through the straight world...ALWAYS.  There's not getting around it.  The world is oriented toward heterosexuals.  True, straight actors can spend time watching Rupaul and other queer forms of entertainment and think they are doing their research, but...well...not really.  That is NOT understanding the gay world (whichever gay world that may be.  The fight for equality is different in London in the 80s than it is from NY in the 70s than it is in Uganda now).  You can't understand the jargon, the use of camp and the other survival methods if you don't understand the why of it all.  If you don't know what it is to grow up alone in your family, you don't get why some of us retreat to fantasy worlds.  If you don't understand that realizing how you're acting is note 'acceptable' when you are 5 and 6 years old, you don't get truly get the concept of a lifelong retreat into being someone or something else.  If you don't understand the daily terror of walking into a school and hoping today is the day you finally get through it without being called a 'f*ggot'...you don't understand the strength we had to build up to get through just a few hours each day.  And then...some of us went to homes where we would be called 'f*aggots.'  So you don't get the idea that nowhere is safe. 

These 'mannerisms' come from somewhere.  It's not enough to just give big arms as Robert Preston tells Julie Andrews to do.  It is part of a deep strength to say 'f*ck you' to the entire world telling you no.

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Ethan Slater in #34
Posted: 1/17/19 at 3:35pm

Robbie and Kad -

You both make very good points, and I agree that for ANY actor, the closer the character is to themselves - their own personality, and their own history - the easier it is to act.

The big question of the moment is, when a character is a member of a disenfranchised group of people (i.e. LGBTQ, disabled, living in America and not white), is it okay for someone who is not a member of that group to play that character? The predominant attitude has suddenly become, "Absolutely not." And although I see where people who feel this way are coming from, I believe that there need to be exceptions. It is "acting" after all, and I think the history of theater and film shows that you don't have to have lived it to act it, and act it beautifully with respect, compassion, and understanding.

What has happened at this point in time is that we've politicized the casting of theater and film. And while art and politics are very much intertwined (and should be), sometimes I think we should just allow the artist to do their art. And I would even go so far as to argue that an actor playing a character very different from themselves is a greater achievement in art than an actor basically just playing themselves. 

Anyway, the thing everyone wants is equal representation. I agree that this is very important. However, as I previously pointed out, gay men practically own the theater industry, so although I truly empathize with the struggles of being a gay man, I don't think it's fair to only allow gay men to play gay male characters.

This is just my opinion. Personally, I'm too old for Prior Walter at this point anyway. Just let me play Bruce in Fun Home and I'm good!

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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"#35
Posted: 1/30/19 at 7:09pm

Just a friendly bump because this is the tomorrow. There are a few tickets left (which you can purchase here). It promises to be an amazing evening. Hope to see you there!

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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"#36
Posted: 1/30/19 at 11:23pm
Iíve held off on commenting because I honestly go back and forth on how I feel about heterosexual cis-gender men (and women) playing LGBT characters. As a gay man, I struggle over it. Iím still in conflict over it but hereís where I am:

On one hand, many of my favorite LGBT movies (Longtime Companion, Capote, Milk, Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain, The Normal Heart, Carol) feature heterosexual men and women playing gay characters. The performances in those movies are so transcendent and iconic, itís hard to imagine them played by anyone else. It leads to the argument that the role should go to the best actor for the role regardless of sexual orientation.

Expanding this to the stage, one of the most transcendent stage performances Iíve ever been blessed to witness was Andrew Garfield last year as Prior Walter. It was as if he was summoning all my dead friends up on that stage.

On the other hand, openly gay men and women are still largely relegated to only playing gay characters on screen when they can wrestle one away from a non-gay actor. I do think the stage world is more equitable, but I could be wrong.

I do think there is no doubt that transgender actors and actresses have faced discrimination in all realms of the entertainment industry. They are seldom cast at all. Cis-gendered actors/actresses are often cast (to great acclaim) to play trans characters. Partially because its more palatable for the general public as well being all that more impressive when the actor ďtransformsĒ for the role. Meanwhile, trans actors are also not given much opportunity to play cis-gender roles. With the tv shows Pose and Transparent, thatís starting to change. Alexandra Billings from Transparent, in fact, was on Broadway last year in The Nap, I believe playing a cis-gender female.

So, yes, at the end of the day it should be about the best actor for the role. It just often seems that more times than not, the best actor at least in Hollywood seems to be a cis-gender person who lives life as a heterosexual person. In the end, there should be an even playing field.

And then there is the reality of gender-fluidity and pan-sexuality which is a new concept for many, including me. If a predominantly heterosexual actor playing a gay character comes out as saying (often it seems defensively) he has had same sex attractions or even flings, does that change the equation at all? I still donít know.

It will be interesting to see how things evolve over the next few years.
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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"#37
Posted: 1/31/19 at 8:22am

Let's complicate things further: even beyond gender identity there are issues of gender performance and gender non-conformity that don't necessarily correspond to easy notions of gender and sexuality. Consider professional and vocational drag queens like Sharon Needles or Dixie Longate (or even Dame Edna if we reach backwards); consider also actors of gender-non-conforming aesthetic like Ezra Miller, Alex Newell or Mason Alexander Park, who have essentially made "presentation" a third category alongside "gender" and "sexuality."

All I can say is, thank god Bowie came to pass in the 1960s through 1980s, so we don't have to decide how we'd feel about THAT whole thing today.

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Ethan Slater in "Significant Other"#38
Posted: 1/31/19 at 10:35am

Not that it's really important here, but wasn't Lee Pace "outed" already by Ian McKellan years ago when they were working on The Hobbit films?

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Ethan Slater in #39
Posted: 1/31/19 at 11:07am

jpbran said: "Not that it's really important here, but wasn't Lee Pace "outed" alreadyby Ian McKellan years ago when they were working on The Hobbit films?"

I just love what he said in the W interview...

 

I’ve dated men. I’ve dated women. I don’t know why anyone would care. I’m an actor and I play roles,” Pace said. He appeared to be taken aback, adding, “To be honest, I don’t know what to say  I find your question intrusive.”

 

And it is.

 

Just give the world Love.
Updated On: 1/31/19 at 11:07 AM
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Ethan Slater in #40
Posted: 1/31/19 at 12:02pm

(Well, this has come back around again!) My point in bringing up Lee Pace to begin with was more that for a lot of people (including people like actors who are in the public eye), sexual orientation remains something that they spend their whole lives working to understand. And with society at large having a greater understanding of sexual/gender fluidity (while there's tons more work to be done, a lot has changed in even the last 20 years) I don't begrudge anyone who tries to keep that part of themselves private until they're confident they have it entirely figured out.

Then again, I don't begrudge any public figure who wants their privacy and feels their sexuality is irrelevant to their competency in their career.


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