Bent (play)

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Bent
Bent (theater).jpg
Poster for the Royal National Theatre's 1990 revival of Bent, starring Sir Ian McKellen
Written by Martin Sherman
Date premiered May 3, 1979 (1979-05-03)
Place premiered Royal Court Theatre, London
Original language English
Subject The persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust
Setting Berlin, 1934 following the Night of the Long Knives

Bent is a 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives.

The title of the play refers to the slang word "bent" used in some European countries to refer to homosexuals.[1] When the play was first performed, there was only a trickle of historical research or even awareness about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. In some regards, the play helped increase that historical research and education in the 1980s and 1990s.[citation needed]

The play starred Ian McKellen in its original 1979 West End production, and Richard Gere in its original 1980 Broadway production. In 1989, Sean Mathias directed a revival of the play, performed as a one-night benefit for Stonewall, featuring Ian McKellen, Richard E Grant, Ian Charleson, and Ralph Fiennes. After receiving critical acclaim, Mathias directed a full run in 1990, with Ian McKellen, Paul Rhys, and Christopher Eccleston, which won the City Limits Award for Revival of the Year.[where?]

In 1997, Martin Sherman adapted Bent into a film of the same name, which was directed by Sean Mathias.

Plot[edit]

Max, a promiscuous gay man in 1930s Berlin, is at odds with his wealthy family because of his homosexuality. One evening, much to the resentment of his boyfriend Rudy, he brings home a handsome Sturmabteilung man. Unfortunately, it is the night that Hitler orders the assassination of the upper echelon of the Sturmabteilung corps, to consolidate his power. The Sturmabteilung man is discovered and killed by SS men in Max and Rudy's apartment, and the two have to flee Berlin.

Max's uncle Freddie, who is also gay, but lives a more discreet life with rent boys to satisfy his desires, has organized new papers for Max to flee to France where homosexuality is legal, but Max refuses to leave his naïve boyfriend behind. As a result, Max and Rudy are found and arrested by the Gestapo and put on a train headed for Dachau concentration camp.

On the train, Rudy calls out to Max as he is taken away to be beaten, so Rudy is brought back and beaten to death by Max, who denies he knows him. Max lies to the guards, telling them that he is a Jew rather than a homosexual, because he believes his chances for survival in the camp will be better if he is not assigned the pink triangle. Max later confesses to a fellow prisoner that the guards then forced him to have intercourse with the body of a dead pre-teen girl to "prove" he was not homosexual.

In the camp, Max makes friends with Horst, who shows him the dignity that lies in acknowledging what one is. They fall in love and become lovers through their imagination and through their words. After Horst is shot by camp guards, Max puts on Horst's jacket with the pink triangle and commits suicide by grabbing an electric fence.

Productions[edit]

The show featured Richard Gere as Max, David Marshall Grant as Rudy, James Remar as Wolf, Michael Gross as Greta, George Hall as Uncle Freddie, Bryan E. Clark as Officer, David Dukes as Horst, Ron Randell as Captain, and the Guards were Kai Wulff, Philip Kraus, and John Snyder.

  • 1981 - The show made its Seattle premier at Empty Space Theater and ran through 1982. The first Toronto, Ontario, Canada production of Bent was in 1981 at the Bathurst Street Theatre; it starred Richard Monette as Max, Brent Carver as Horst and Jeff Wincott as Wolf/Kapo.

1983 - The show made its Minneapolis premier at the Minneapolis Children's Theatre black box theatre directed by Mary DeMartino and was the most successful black box production of the season running 3 weeks.

  • 1993 - 24 shows were produced by Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, California. Done in the round, there were many sold-out performances. In February the show is produced in French by Le Moderne Theatre, Liège, Belgium. There were 12 performances. There was a revival in November 2000.
  • 1996 - A production of Bent ran at the Annex Theatre in Toronto, produced by Upstart Crow Theatre Company. Directed by Walter Young, the production featured Philip Cairns as Greta and Darren Stewart-Jones as Rudy.
  • 2000 - The play was presented by Theater in the Round, Minneapolis, MN[2]
  • 2004 - Presented by Graeae Theatre Company, the production's director was Jenny Sealey, and the performances combined audio description, sign language, music and physicality.
  • 2007 - There were several productions that year: The 13th Street Repertory Company in New York City production was directed by Joshua Chase Gold, and starred Ryan Nicholoff as Max and Jim Halloran as Horst; it was received to strong reviews and sold out audiences.[5] The Meta.for Theatre production at Performance Works in Vancouver, British Columbia, starred Seán Cummings as Max and Thrasso Petras as Horst.[6][7]
  • 2009 - Bent was presented in Amarillo TX by AVENUE 10, causing the theatre to be targeted by an anti-homosexual Christian group resulting in the theatre being shut down and forced to find another venue for the show.[citation needed] Bent made its Cincinnati debut at New Stage Collective, and later the play was presented by Pandora Productions of Louisville, Kentucky. A production was staged at Stanford University by STAMP, the Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project, co-sponsored by the Emma Goldman Society for Queer Liberation. In June there was a production by Theatre Engine at the Abrams Studio Theatre in Toronto.[8] and later the play was produced by Hubris Productions at the Greenhouse Theatre in Chicago, with original music by John Kamys aka Jinx Titanic. This production was sanctioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a portion of the proceeds from this show benefitted the museum. In September the Rhodes University Drama Department in Grahamstown, South Africa presented a 30th anniversary revival of the show as a Masters Coursework examination. Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, California staged a production in collaboration with ion theatre company, and Altera Vitae Productions presented the Montreal, Quebec premiere in November 2009 at L'Espace 4001. Directed by Carolyn Fe, the cast included: Christopher Moore, Adam Leblanc, Vance de Waele, Serge Turcotte, Mark Waters, and Yves Jacquier. In November the play was produced by Fullerton College's theatre arts department.
  • 2010 - Focus Theatre presented a revival of Bent at the Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney as part of the Mardi Gras festival. Cardinal Heenan Drama [Sam Kane & Joshua Hale] performed "Bent" in Knotty Ash Hall, Liverpool, and Oxford University students presented an amateur production of the show in the Keble O'Reilly Theatre. Bent was performed at The Landor Theatre, London directed by Andrew Keates. The production was a success, and was transferred to The Tabard Theatre, Chiswick for a further six weeks. An amateur production was presented at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London, and the play was staged at the Lowry Theatre in Saint Paul by the Actor's Theatre of Minnesota. Kidbrooke School and Specialist Arts College, London, staged an A-level Showcase. At the Rivoli Theater in South Fallsburg, New York. "Bent" was produced by the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop and directed by Constance S. Slater; the production was sponsored by the Arthur A. Slater Memorial Fund and starred Matt Meinsen as Max, Rich Hotaling as Horst, and Jim Pillmeier as Rudy. It received four acting awards from The Theater Association of New York State and was recognized as the drama of the year by the Times Herald Record. Later that year the play was staged in California by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company, directed by Denis McCourt, [9] and also at Frostburg State University in Maryland, directed by Linda McCulloch.
  • 2011 - Bent was staged at the University of Kent, and by the Columbia Entertainment Company, a community theatre in Columbia, Missouri. A production at El Centro College in Dallas Texas was directed by Daniel Scott Cates. The show starred Patrick Patterson-Caroll, Benjamin Webster, Bruce Roe, Meg Hargis, Gerrardo Zubiri, Dean Armstrong and Justin Darnell.
  • 2012 - A production at Hart House Theatre, in Toronto was directed by Carter West, and featured Ryan G. Hinds as Greta and Nathaniel Bacon as Wolf. A production by the University of East Anglia Studio in Norwich was staged by the Minotaur Theatre Company, directed by Michael Liam Dolan, and starred Thomas Wingfield as Max, Jonathan Moss as Horst, Elliot Hughes as Rudy, Eliot Ruocco-Trenouth as Wolf, Ashley Fullerton as Greta and Josh Allan as Uncle Freddie. In Baltimore, Maryland, Bent was produced by the Mobtown Players Theatre Company, and in Somerville, Massechutsetts the play was produced by Theatre@First, directed by Nick Bennett-Zendzian, and starred Jason Hair-Wynn as Max, Zach McQueary as Horst, Rocky Graziano as Rudy, J. Deschene as Greta and Ben Delatizky as Uncle Freddie. The Lace Market Theatre production in Nottingham, United Kingdom, was directed by Roger Newman and starred Paul Johnson as Max, Damian Frendo as Horst, Lewis Brookbanks as Rudy, David Wills as Wolf, Jim Brooks as Greta and Piotr Wisniewski as Uncle Freddie.
  • 2013 - A California Institute of the Arts Coffeehouse Theatre production was directed by Fran Bennett, and starred Jeffrey Scott Basham as Max, James Michael Cowan as Horst, Mathew Joseph as Rudy, Emilio Garcia-Sanchez as Wolf, Anatoliy Ogay as Greta and Kevin Whitmire as Uncle Freddie. Pace University Performing Arts in New York staged seven sold-out shows at the Schaeberle Studio; it was directed by Ruis Woertendyke and starred Dominick Pate as Max, Riley Galt Suter as Horst, Jesse Keitel as Rudy, Zack Signore as Wolf, Nick Sanza as Greta and Jade Ziane as Uncle Freddie.

International productions[edit]

Bent was premiered in French at Le Théâthe de Poche in Brussels (Belgium) in January 1980. French translation by Lena Grinda, directed by Derek Goldby, with Alain Libolt, Jean-Pierre Dauzun, Yves Deguenne, Pierre Dumaine, Fabrice Eberhard, Bernard Graczyk, Thomas Hutereau, Jean Couvrin, Tobias Kempf, Roland Mahauden. There was a rerun in September 1998.

The first production in French in Paris was in 1981, with Bruno Cremer, Jean-Pierre Sentier, Didier Sauvegrain et Jean-Claude Dreyfus.

The first production in Brazil was in 1981, at Teatro Villa Lobos (Rio de Janeiro) with José Mayer (Max), Tonico Pereira (Horst), Ricardo Blat (Rudy) and Paulo César Grande. Albeit the country was still under a military dictatorship. Sherman's text was presented uncensored.

A production in Liège, Belgium opened on February 1993 at Thèâtre Le Moderne, directed by Daniel Henry. There was a rerun in November 2000 with Michel Delamarre as Horst.

A production in Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened on September 2000 starring Alex Benn, Gustavo Ferrari and Gustavo Monje.

A French production in Paris opened on April 2010 for 3 months . Directed by Anne Barthel starring Michel Mora as Max, Jean Matthieu Erny as Horst, Valentin Terrer as Rudy, Philippe Renon as Greta, Matthieu Karmensky as Wolf, Gérard Cheylus as uncle Freddie, Fréderic Morel as SS gard Reopened on April 2011 for 3 months and 1 months in Avignon French Festival. This version is considered by the author as the closest of his writing.

A second production in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, opened on 2011 starring Augusto Zacchi, Gustavo Rodrigues, Augusto Garcia, Breno Pessurno, Miro Marques, Henrique Pinho, Vinicius Vommaro e Evandro Manchini.

A production in San Juan, Puerto Rico, opened in June 2012 starring Teofilo Torres, Leonardo Castro and Tony Torres.

A Polish production in translation of Rubi Birden premiered in Warsaw Teatr Dramatyczny on October 2, 2015 starring Mariusz Drężek, Kamil Siegmund, Piotr Bulcewicz, Piotr Siwkiewicz, Maciej Wyczański.

In Israel the play was first produced in 1983, and has since been revived on 5 occasions, the latest being in 2018, in Israeli national Habima Theatre.[10]

References[edit]

External links[edit]