Into the woods… and out of the closet

Into-the-woods

Queer playwright Ben Schroth explores fairy tale mythology through a gay lens for his comedy ‘Little Red’

Into the Woods isn’t the only place you can get a fresh look at Little Red Riding Hood this week. Playwright Ben Schroth is contributing his own revisionist version with the staged reading of his latest play, Little Red, which will be performed May 19, 25 and 27 at the Bath House Cultural Center as part of Pegasus Theatre’s Fresh Reads festival of new works.

“I’ve always been interested in reclaiming mythology and folklore through a gay lens,” Schroth says. “I think that’s very important, but you can also have a lot of fun. Basically, Little Red is just an extreme comedy about being a gay prostitute —seeing Little Red Riding Hood as a little gay boy… It’s mostly a comedy.”

“Mostly” may be the key word there. Schroth admits the genesis for the play was a serious conversation he had years ago.
“I had a friend who got himself into trouble because he had a thing about dick dancers — he was obsessed with them,” he explains. “I can see that, to a certain point, but in his case, the ones he was interested in were predators to see what they can get from an older man.

I asked him, ‘Why are you wasting your time, effort and money on this go-nowhere relationship?’ And he said he was ‘following his bliss.’”

The phrase resonated with Schroth, a fan of the godfather of mythology, Joseph Campbell, whose big catchphrase was “follow your bliss.” “But what are the moral and ethical consquences of doing that?” Schroth wondered. “There was a set-up there for a serious moral debate … or a comedy … or both.”

He cast Little Red as the tension between temptations posed to gay men (say… a hunky, seductive Big Bad Wolf?) and their desire to do the right thing (i.e., get those groceries to gramma!). He just decided he could make the point best “with a 50 minute romp of camp,” he laughs.

He debated the best avenue for telling his tale. “I thought about Jack and the Beanstalk and Chicken Little, the character who says the sky is falling, That might be in the future — sometimes the sky is falling. But there was something about Little Red Riding Hood that stuck with me.”

Schroth first started working on the play as far back as 2012, but when Pegasus decided to stage it, he began making revisions, some as recently as the first week of rehearsals. He admits he has a “pro-gay agenda.” “Straight people don’t even think that they live in a straight world that can be oppressive and soul-crushing to gay people. It’s not always malicious, but growing up gay is very hard. I want to reclaim these myths for ourselves, to give us a cultural legitimacy by finding out own myths in the culture.”
Still, Schroth demurs at the idea his work is primarily political.

“I would say it’s behavioral,” he says. “I have questions for anybody who blindly follows their bliss [to extremes]. I think there’s a limit to hedonism. So I hope the comedy brings out question of personal choice. And that you just get laughs at the dirty jokes.”

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Little Red will be performed as part of the Fresh Reads Festival, at the Bath House Cultureal Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, through May 27. PegasusTheatre.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 19, 2017.

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