Now She Dances! began as a response to the hilarious histrionics and fruity language of Lord Douglas' translation of Oscar Wilde's Salome. Written with overwhelming earnestness in no-doubt equally florid French, Wilde's play has become a touchstone for decadence, equating lavender eau de cologne and slavering smears of silver eyeshadow with degeneracy. I decided to rewrite it as The Importance of Being Salome (Richard Barr found the right title in one of the last lines of the play). The resulting play became an angry, ironic, nightmare metaphor for the trial of Oscar Wilde (the quintessential closet queen, it was Wilde's determination to establish his heterosexuality in court which lead to his fatal second trial).
The Cino cast of Now She Dances! was headed by the ever articulate Tom Lawrence (Lane), with zany Zita Jenner (Lady Herodias), and the so very beautiful Lucrezia Simmons (Miss Salome) and Joe Cino's favorite actress, Jane Lowry (Gladys). If you were there, you still remember the soup speech. The one act Cino play was extended into a two act version for the Playbox in the East Village in the late 1960s. On the way to the first rehearsal, Jane Lowry and Sloane Shelton traded roles on the 10th Street crosstown bus the way bobbysoxers used to switch sweaters. Opening night, the actor playing Bill, flying high on psychedelic drugs, was too busy watching all the pretty lights to bother coming on stage for his entrance. A happier memory was Berrilla Kerr swathed in yards of scarlet swishing satin, slipping away from dinner "unnoticed".
In 1976 Now She Dances! was rewritten once again for TOSOS. Druid high priestess Sally Eaton (from the cast of Hair), and later Caroline Yeager gave harrowing and searing performances in brilliant and totally different interpretations of Miss Salome. Glamorous Mary Portser, forever juvenile Dale Carman, Machiavellian Michael O'Brien, jaunty John Michel, matinee idol John Murphy (and later the towering Brian Benben, mischief making Marianne Leone and Greg - the hottest man I ever saw - Michaels) kept Salome dancing for nearly a year in the Church Street basement home of TOSOS.
The play was again thrown into the rewrite mill where it ground round and round until Steve Bottoms convinced Larry Johnson to convince me to finish it (a debt waiting payment). The new (and hopefully final version) premiered in Glasgow, Scotland in the winter of 2000 with Steve Bottoms directing. For the first time Now She Dances! was played in tandem with Oscar Wilde's Salome. The cast was doubled, the actress cast as Salome also assayed Miss Salome (I suggested a gender switch, the Herod from the Wilde in drag as Lady Herodias; Herodias to beard up as Sir Herod, but nobody ever listens to me.)
A very complex and difficult play, in Now She Dances! even the levels have levels. For all it's insanity and layered complexity it is my most fiercely autobiographical play. Painfully private and highly sensitive details of my youth are shattered, stitched back together and scattered liberally throughout the play. No, they are not the ones you think they are.
Audiences generally have no problem with the play's complexity, gleefully enjoying it moment to moment. On the other hand, most academics and the gay intelligentsia tend to loath it. Perhaps the character of Lane hits too close to home?
New York City, June 17, 2000