Out Front said ‘Golden Girls’ holiday, but make it gay(er)

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Fans of The Golden Girls already know that it gained ground in the culture wars for LGBTQ equality. They also know the beloved sitcom remains a queer touchstone in watch parties and trivia nights in Atlanta and around the world.

Now those fans can rejoice in a drag reenactment by Atlanta’s only specifically queer, exclusively LGBTQ theater company. The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes – Holiday Edition plays at Out Front Theater through Dec. 19.

“For decades now, The Golden Girls has endured and endeared audiences from all walks of life,” Out Front Artistic Director Paul Conroy told Project Q. “I think they have stood the test of time, especially with queer audiences, because we can both identify with them and see in them many of the women in our lives.”

“Even all these years later, the writing and the characters feel fresh and relatable,” he added. “The four actresses were all early and vocal supporters of queer rights, and there were topics on the show that no one else would mention at the time.”

Those topics included Blanche’s gay brother and Dorothy’s lesbian friend who falls in love with Rose. Even the pilot episode features a gay cook named Coco. One of the most memorable episodes for Conroy tackled the AIDS crisis.

“During one exchange between Rose and Blanche, Blanche declares ‘AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose, it is not God punishin’ people for their sins,’” Conroy quoted the episode, entitled “72 Hours.”

“The show might as well have said, ‘We see you, gay community, and we stand with you’ at a time when the government was ignoring our community,” Conroy added.

Out Front’s ‘Golden Girls’ cast includes (l-r) Robert Hindsman, Blake Fountain, Andi Stanesic and Precious Anika West. (Photo by Alex Pirtle)

Making it gay(er)

Clearly, it’s not a stretch to say reenacting an episode of The Golden Girls stays true to queer roots. The Out Front production features a screening of a classic Golden Girls episode, followed by two original parody episodes with gender-diverse casting.

While drag casts are relatively commonplace to GG reenactments, this one gives the concept a twist.

“We decided to not cast an exclusively drag cast for a couple of reasons,” Conroy said. “We wanted to cast the best performer for each role, regardless of their identity, and we wanted to make sure that we were not denying opportunities to female actors.”

“I think this has given us a cast that is a trove of talent who have tapped into the essence of the character and the show,” he added.

The cast includes Blake Fountain as Dorothy, Andi Stanesic as Rose, Precious Anika West as Blanche and Robert Hindsman as Sophia. TJ Ruth, Max Mattox, Lisa Boyd, Rial Ellsworth and Kait Rivas play supporting, sometimes dual roles. Micahel Bartkiewicz directs.

“What I love most about the show is that it feels both familiar and fresh at the same time,” Conroy promised. “It is like a family cookie recipe that you have every holiday season – something you look forward to, but this year it has some extra sprinkles on it.”

“I think this is something that, while audiences are laughing, will awaken memories of Christmases past or maybe a moment from the first time they saw a certain Golden Girls episode,” he said.

“People should be ready for something irreverent with a heart of gold.”

The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes – Holiday Edition stages Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Dec. 10-18. Sunday matinees both weekends are already sold out. Visit Out Front Theatre Company online and buy tickets here.

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