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To see or not to see? That is the question you may ask yourself if you want to see a play and can’t persuade friends to tag along. If you’re like me, you probably wouldn’t like going to the show alone. The good news is, if you live locally, you don’t ever have to. The Ushers, a group for GLBT theater enthusiasts, have been attending plays in the area and in New York City for the past two decades — long before I made my own stage debut as a hunchback in my eighth-grade class’ production of You Ain’t Nothing But a Werewolf.
There were no hunchbacks or werewolves in sight on the recent Sunday when I joined the Ushers at Rep Stage in Columbia, Md., to kick off the group’s 20th season with Wittenberg. In fact, it felt somewhat appropriate to start the season with a show that’s connected to the most famous name in the theater world: Shakespeare. Obviously, Shakespeare didn’t write this relatively new production about Prince Hamlet’s life in Wittenberg, Germany, before he became king. The show focuses on Hamlet’s struggle with religion and reason with a modern, comic twist. So it’s definitely one of those shows that’s more enjoyable to watch with other people.
The Ushers usually buy group tickets to sit together, but for this production, we each bought our tickets individually. Luckily I still ended up seated next to a member of the Ushers, and it was nice to be able to turn to the person next to me and laugh, or look for a reaction when a funny line was delivered. And there were lots of them. Sitting next to a gay theater enthusiast took the experience to the next level. Take, for example, a scene in which a young Hamlet is about to take on a tennis match and is stretching his backside. ”Could you please turn this way?” one member whispered with a chuckle. And watching the show together is not the only thing the Ushers do as a group. Typically, there is a social dinner following productions. And for shows like Wittenberg, that are outside the District — more than 30 miles north of Washington in this instance — the group organizes carpools. For more information, visit www.ushers.us.