In the last blog (October 28), Merce‘s art director called the show raunchy. “The script has its raunchy moments,” Darian Brenner said.
As if! Raunchy? I mean, really?
OK, sure, there’s a few light enema jokes in the show, but they’re tasteful. And sure, Merce at one point sips coffee out of penis straws, but it’s not like they’re actual penises. And there’s a song lyric by Ken Kruper where Merce talks about everyone in the whole room sucking his dick, but it’s a musical! What do you expect?!!?
I needed another opinion, so I asked Director of Photography Johnny Coughlin if he thought the show was raunchy. “No,” he said, “not really.” He took a moment, then a huge smile came across his face, and he changed his answer with an emphatic, “YES, Charles. It’s totally raunchy!”
Well, Hmm. I never thought of Merce as raunchy. Truly.
I will admit that there were several times in the creative process that co-producer Tyne Firmin and I would talk about the proctology jokes in a scene or look at the boob paintings on the wall and shake our heads. We knew we were taking things pretty far. I’d tell him, “my parents are going to hate this,” and Tyne would respond, “my mother will say, ‘oh, dear. Did you have to?'” This kind of conversation happened often.
My goal when I started writing Merce was not to be particularly raunchy or shocking. I wanted to write a show that presented a modern HIV story, but my main goal was to be funny. Also, I think, to be unashamedly gay. For a lot in my life, I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to kind of keep my own flame on the back burner. To try not to act so gay (whatever that means). Basically, to hide the parts of myself that may be too faggie for some people.
I wasn’t fooling anyone. I mean, I’ve been singing showtunes since I was 9. But I never wanted anyone to be uncomfortable around me. Some people just don’t understand.
Wait. Who are these ‘some people?’ And why are their feelings more important than my own?
I’m almost 47 years old. I mean, geez, at what point am I going to just be who I am, regardless of what the world or my momma thinks? So in writing Merce, I decided to let him be unapologetic about his flamboyance, to let him celebrate his life, and let the entire show be silly and campy and even a bit risque. And as Tyne and I got other artists involved, we decided that we wanted to be 100%, bold and unafraid. Once we brought Ken Kruper on board, who wrote amazing songs with clever and funny lyrics that at times are more than a bit blue, we knew there was no turning back.
“More is more” was our rallying cry on set, so if there was a question as to how much cleavage a character should show, the answer was “a lot!” (For both the women and the men!) There wasn’t just some tasteful glitter on the Fairies’ cheeks, it was a ton on their whole faces. And if a joke seemed a little off color, it was always better to go all the way and make it dirty.
All the artists were only too happy to join in! No one ever said no to my requests, no matter how ridiculous. When I asked the Fairies to don S&M gear and crawl on the ground and shake their asses, they said “okay!” When I asked Ryan Daniel Pater (playing Billy the therapist) to take off his shirt and pants (but leave the boots on) and lie on the couch like a porn star, he said “okay!” The costumes, the set decorating, the make-up and hair, every performer in every scene was willing to be daring and mischievous and hilarious.
The show is going to be amazing. We’ve just barely started the editing process, so it will be a while before the show is ready for the world. Johnny is organizing all the raw footage (doesn’t that sound naughty?). He’s also working on a trailer, so that will be helpful for when we start thinking about getting a publicist and/or marketing person on board.
Perhaps I took the word raunchy in the wrong way at first, but now I embrace it. Merce is campy, funny, ridiculous, raunchy fabulousness. I’m so proud of all its humor, heart, cheesiness, and moments of lasciviousness.
And you know what? In allowing Merce be bold and unashamed, I think he taught me to be more bold and unashamed too.