— Kevin Jackson Acting Studio

I first came across the play, THE TEMPERAMENTALS by Jon Marans two years ago when I saw it in New York at the New World Stages. The Artistic team of the New Theatre invited me to direct the play as part of the 2012,Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations.

The play deals with the group of men who in the early 1950′s set up the Mattachine Society. The Mattachine was led by Harry Hay and was organised to assert the human rights for sexual minorities using a structure based around that of the Communist Party in Los Angeles. it soon spread across the United States. I had vaguely thought (although the name Mattachine did chime in my deep memory) that the Gay revolution had really begun with Stonewall in the 1960′s in New York. This play sets out to put that historic preconception into a better chronological perspective.

The first impression of this play is that it is a kind of docu-drama, as it covers the early attempts of these men to find support among the many social stratum’s of Los Angeles for this movement. It is a kind of history lesson and I think therefore an apt play to do and see at Mardi Gras. That the Mardi Gras festival exists in Sydney at all, and similar events around the world, may, possibly, have to do with the long ago (really only 60 odd years) historical impulse and courage of these men. Like the recent film STONEWALL and the documentary predecessor of that subject matter, THE MAYOR OF CASTRO, I believe that this play will give a valuable context for the gay community to realise the long political activism that has been led by brave men, in the past, in dangerous times, to secure evolutionarily, the rights for the sexual minorities of the human race (another idea for a play: on the life of Doctor Magnus Hirschfield of the Wiemar Berlin struggle, perhaps!). On seeing this play, the Mardi Gras Parade and Party celebrations may have a more powerful meaning for the community. That the contemporary issues for Gay Rights around marriage recognition fits seamlessly into the contiguity of the need to be political and active for things to be changed, may become a more focused vigilant realisation for some of us.

On seeing the play in New York, and now working on it, here, at the New Theatre, I, we, the cast, have also come to admire the compressed style of the writer in his deftness in covering many historical points of the Mattachine story whilst subtly weaving the very moving personal stories of the actual men and their own struggles with sexual identification and the self-permission to live the lives that they instinctively knew was their destiny and right in very unsympathetic times. To be a Temperamental and to be ‘overt’ about it could mean, then, imprisonment, and, or, a psychiatric ward and inhuman medical interventions. On the other hand, not to be able to freely acknowledge one’s true self often led to very unhappy circumstances in very many ‘normal’ marriages where the ‘collateral damage’ was desperately, socially, widespread. Or, a single life style of intense isolation, depression, and possibly suicide. Living this life “out there” was a very difficult and taboo thing to do. Those that did, deserve the credit for their heroics from us who can, and now do this, relatively, freely.

This story is that of American Temperamentals struggling in their culture. I would like to dedicate this production to all the unheralded pioneers of the Australian history who pursued our societal prejudices for our rights. My own particular mentor was Arthur Dicks. Arthur came to Australia from the United Kingdom and was responsible for the set up of the Design Course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1969. He was also a fearless demonstrator for the right to be gay. I have many personal stories of Arthur’s activism in a time when he was far too overt to be countenanced publicly by Sydney society, both, unfortunately, straight and gay, theatrical and non-theatrical, but whose example, gave me personal confidence to become a happy individual in the world. He along with Max Ifland attempted to set up a Gay Theatre Company, based around the Gay Sweatshop model in London at the old Nimrod St, Stables Theatre in the late Seventies. I should also like to dedicate and remember with this work the transgender icon Carmen Rupe who recently passed away, after living a life of outrageous leadership in the Sydney Gay Culture (she was 75). Lest we forget.

The New Theatre has a history that has attempted to serve the social needs of its community. It is the longest continuously running theatre company in Australia. Their recent loyalty to the Gay Community in the past decade or so, reminds me of the production that I did for them in 1995, THE BOYS IN THE BAND by Mart Crowley – the 25th anniversary of that plays’ history. The resources of the New Theatre are remarkably lean. So, we have approached this production with a sense of the educative as well as the entertainment strengths of this work by Mr Marans. I have borrowed extensively from the house style of the SHARED EXPERIENCE company in the United Kingdom. The text, the actor and the audience are the primary creators in a style of work that is stripped down to the necessities of economic communication. I hope you invent, imagine with us and enjoy this very interesting play.