THE TEMPERAMENTALS – A Must-See at New Conservatory Theatre Center

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

For everyone old enough to remember – especially those of us who had reached legal drinking age by the summer of 1969 – news of riots at the Stonewall Inn proved to be the shot heard ’round the world and marked the day when homosexuals decided to start fighting back. But twenty years before that, a handful of daring young Queers – in suits and ties – organized and developed a determined underground, a movement, and called themselves The Mattachine Society. The fraternity would extend itself to San Francisco and take root. In 1956, The City became its headquarters.

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THE TEMPERAMENTALS – Seth Thygsen, Steve Salzman, J. Conrad Frank, Justin Gilman, Jeffrey Hoffman
Production photos by Lois Tema

The Mattachine Society was ultimately daring. Their manifesto was really attractive. Intelligent. Hot. And challenging. When Hollywood film director Vincent Minnelli was approached – he seemed very attentive. Surely others of his ilk might take an interest. The organization started attracting financial support – especially after one of its members, Dale Jennings, made the headlines on a charge of “lewd behavior” in a men’s room located in what is now MacArthur Park. Jennings acknowledged his homosexuality, but absolutely denied the charge. “The Temperamentals” – as Mattachine founder Harry Hay described his Gay brothers – pooled their assets and backed Jennings to the limit. They attracted an attorney who was a member of the Citizens’ Council to Outlaw Entrapment. In other words, bring it on. Ten days later, the case closed with a hung jury and an acquittal for Jennings. Very huge. Lots of publicity. Lots of very frank talk. Justice is hard to come by.

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J. CONRAD FRANK (Rudi) and STEVE SALZMAN (Harry)

Playwright Jon Marans’ The Temperamentals, now playing at the New Conservatory Theatre, is a 5-man show, the very appealing cast taking on multiple roles. The play is a series of sketches, filled with a familiar brand of characters, all of them bobbing and weaving around each other during a seminal period in Gay history, where something or somebody had to give. Or “they” will be rioting in the streets! There’s also a love interest. Founder Harry Hay (Steve Salzman) had been a 15-year member of the Communist party when he hooked-up with budding fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (J. Conrad Frank). Harry was married. Rudi was designing for Lana Turner. The two men stayed together for a couple of years. Harry eventually turned his energy to a counter-cultural movement, the Radical Faeries. Rudi went on to New York and became an international sensation with the first topless swimsuit. It’s complicated. But director F. Allen Sawyer (It’s Murder, Mary; Dames At Sea and The Stops) provides smooth transitions for the quick-change characters, convincing shifts in atmosphere and location, and an overall stylish sense of rhythm and ensemble.

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Steve Salzman, Jeffrey Hoffman, Seth Thygesn, J. Conrad Frank

The Temperamentals continues through Sunday, December 18th.
Click here for ticket information: NCTC

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