Alumnus scripts plays about gays
I was sitting with some friends at the National Theater Institute in Waterford, Connecticut when I heard Adam Bock casually mention to us his status as a Bowdoin alumnus. Could it be, I wondered, that a man I had come to admire for his creativity, his kindness to we budding playwrights, his commitment to social change through theater, had graduated from Bowdoin, a school that only added its English/Theater major two years ago?
I was pleased to find that Bock, weeklong playwriting advisor to NTI students, was indeed Adam Bock '84. I recently contacted Bock to speak about his experiences as a Bowdoin student and as a professional playwright.
A History major, Bock "did loads of theater" at Bowdoin. He remembers not only writing plays, some of which were produced during Masque and Gown's annual one-act competition, but also performing in theatrical productions and acting as a house manager. He cites William Watterson of the English Department, "a great teacher," as an important contributor to his education.
Bock has made it his mission to write plays about the gay community, of which he is a part. By challenging traditional playwriting form, Bock strives to tell new stories about gay people that resonate with his own experience.
"I think new form necessarily leads to new stories," he said. "It is impossible to tell the same old story with brand new words. I think this all echoes some of the challenges faced by the gay community. Are we going to continue to listen to the same old stories being told about us?"
Bock created the Gayboy Nutcracker in the early '90s as an antidote to the loneliness many gays feel during the holidays. With a few volunteers and a borrowed dance studio, he wrote and choreographed such pieces as "The Dance of the Butchies," "A Dyke Ballet," and "The Fairy Schoolteacher" to Tchaikovsky's original music.
"All the actors were amateurs, most had never been on stage before-certainly not as gay, lesbian, or transgendered performers," Bock says. The show has been performed one night a year for four years, audience numbers growing by the hundreds as the years passed. All the money raised at the event-"the second largest gay event in Rhode Island after the pride parade"-went to an AIDS hospice.
"People had a blast," he said, "that was what was most important. Theater actually did one of its jobs-it created community. It reminded me why I love theater-it gets people up and working together."
The San Francisco production of Bock's play Five Flights performs at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City until February 22. Swimming in the Shallows, his play about a gay man who-literally-falls in love with a shark, will be produced in both Los Angeles and Santa Cruz this year.
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