I pride myself on being someone who does his best to thwart “drama” in real life, but when it comes to the stage, I’m there in spades, be it for tragedy, comedy, musicals, or improv and experimental theatre. Which is why I’m so pleased that there’s such a thriving theatrical community of professional companies doing great, varied work throughout the Palm Springs Valley. But did you know that Rancho Mirage is home to the only local troupe of theatre artists committed to putting on gay-themed works? True fact!
The non-profit in question is run by husbands Paul Taylor (producer) and Jim Strait (director), and goes by the name The Desert Rose Playhouse. It’s located at 69-620 Highway 111 at Frank Sinatra Drive, and will mount five productions during its 2014-2015 season, including holiday romp “Scrooge in Rouge” in December, Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” in January, “The Divine Sister” by Charles Busch in March, and Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Little Dog Laughed” in April.
The new season’s fun kicked off on Friday, September 26, with Brian Christopher Williams’ comedic family drama “Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins.” Set in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State from 1970 to 1977, it revolves around a 15-year-old boy named Horace Poore who struggles within his clan when his attraction to a Mark Spitz-lookalike gym teacher dovetails with former singer-beauty pageant contestant-orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant’s infamous “Save Our Children” anti-gay campaign in Dade County, Florida. In addition to the Poore family (mom Etta, dad Myron, and draft-evading son Chaz), the play features such other key characters as mentally challenged neighbor Agnes, the aforementioned studly gym teacher Jake, newsman Walter Cronkite, Anita Bryant, the televangelist who places her on a pedestal, and the activist who topples her thanks to a choice fruit pie in the face.