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In 2003, Vincent Worthington, who had worked in theater since he was 14, was faced with an important decision. Keith Waters, founder and Artistic Director of Trumpet Vine Theatre Company had decided to leave the company, and it was up to Worthington whether or not to keep the Arlington-based company active.
“It kind of fell in my lap,” says the 38-year-old Worthington, who was working as the company’s managing director at the time. He decided to keep it going. And then he decided to move the company away from its focus of reexamining the classics and instead take it into an all-gay realm.
Hence, a GLBTQ theater company was born.
The company has had several significant hits — Not as Pretty as Picture and Kilt among them — and is starting to gain serious traction in the local arts community. This week it opens Hidden: A Gender. Written by transgender author Kate Bornstein, Hidden follows the lives of several gender-unspecific characters, including a few ripped from the pages of history, notably a French hermaphrodite who lived during the 1800s.
Not exactly the kind of material that absolutely guarantees butts in the seats — for that you do Hamlet — but Worthington is unfazed, believing that there’s an audience for quality gay-themed work that is at once thoughtful and entertaining and doesn’t necessarily rely on skin, skin and more skin to sell tickets.
“I don’t want our theater to be about, ‘Let’s get people in to look at naked people!’ Not that I don’t appreciate nude bodies on occasion, but I think we need to go beyond that. We as a community need to mature and we need to push our own agenda. We want rights and we want respect and we want people to see us as just human beings who are trying to be happy.
“I think there’s a die-hard gay audience that likes to see their own lives on stage.”
But like any artistic director worth his salt, Worthington wants more than gay audiences at Trumpet Vine’s productions. “Our greater mission,” he says, “is to bridge the gap between gay and straight, to try to increase understanding and acceptance of the GLBTQ people and also to depict the human experience through the eyes of GLBTQ protagonists.
“We want to expand beyond the gay audience. We’re preaching to the choir if we’re just getting people who are gay to come and see the shows. We want them to bring their straight friends and their families. We want our gay audience to come in and say, ‘This is me on stage and this is my life or my people,’ but we also want other people to come and say, ‘Gee, I have problems with my parents, too.’
“I really still believe that theater is theater,” he continues, “and gay issues in many cases are just human issues. So we try to find plays that just kind of capture that universality. Relationships are relationships whether you’re gay or straight. Your family is your family whether you’re gay or straight and the plays we choose kind of drive that home, that we’re just people like anybody else, just trying to find happiness and make it through life.”
Trumpet Vine’s Hidden: A Gender runs through April 30 at Theater on the Run, 3700 Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington. Call 703-912-1649 or visit www.trumpetvinetheatrecompany.org.