Outside the door of the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row: actors Clint Hromsco and Riley Fisher, playwright Lance Ringel, and director Chuck Muckle. Photo: KC Wilson
No longer a one-hit wonder
When I was a teenager (OK, I’ll admit it; and also well after that), one of the pleasures of December was the annual tradition of looking back on the previous year in the arts. Most notably, being an avid fan of pop music, I would positively look forward to seeing how the records I liked best would be ranked on the year-end countdown.
At this much later remove in my life, what particularly strikes me about 2022 were two months that definitely stood out for me as, well, greatest hits. The first was March, when months of planning and weeks of rehearsal culminated in my play Flash/Frozen coming to life on stage at Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York.
I thought I had prepared well for the experience, but I found I wasn’t prepared at all for so much that made it so memorable. The careful navigation of mounting a theatrical production during a still-raging pandemic, with twice-weekly testing, distancing, and masks for everyone but actors at work. The mixture of trepidation and excitement on the faces of audience members as they arrived to see live theater for the first time in more than two years. The extraordinary performances of two actors, Clint Hromsco and Riley Fisher, who had been strangers to us and to each other just a few weeks before, blossoming under the expert guidance of director (and love of my life) Chuck Muckle. And, especially, the depth of emotion from the audience in response to what all of us, cast and crew alike, had created.
That would surely be enough for any month, right? But then, smack in the middle of the run of Flash/Frozen, my second novel, Floridian Nights, was named a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards in the Gay Romance category – the very same honor that had been bestowed on my first novel, Flower of Iowa, the year before. And suddenly, as lovely as the many accolades for Flower of Iowa had been, I was officially no longer a one-hit wonder … not as a novelist, and not as a playwright, either, come to think of it, as there were now two shows I had written that had enjoyed successful debuts in New York.
Then, the week that Flash/Frozen’s deliberately limited run concluded, I got on a plane for the first time since The Beforetimes, and visited a much-changed New Orleans for the first time this century. That’s because I was invited to speak on a couple of panels and read from Floridian Nights at Saints + Sinners, the nation’s foremost LGBTQ+ literary festival. There I had the double privilege of basking in springlike weather while mixing with authors whose works I had read and admired.
Quite a month, no? To quote the first line spoken by the character of Tim Brown in Flash/Frozen, “And it was!”
But there was a second month in 2022 that, on a personal level, was equally a highlight. And I’ll talk about that next time.