South Florida Gay News
by JW Arnold
Anyone who has visited Times Square in New York City can attest to the power of corporate America. Disney reigns at the Broadway box office as busloads of tourists crowd “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” Giant flashing billboards advertise big brands like Sony and Calvin Klein. Retailers from The Gap to Toys R Us operate mobbed flagship stores.
Turn back the clock just a few years and Times Square was a very different place, lined with seedy movie theaters where prostitutes worked the corners as nervous tourists hurried through to the theater district.
This was the New York City playwright Ronnie Larsen discovered as a young college student in the late ‘80s. It was also the New York City he quickly grew to love and immortalized in his play, “All-Male Peep Show,” opening next weekend at Empire Stage.
“New York used to be crazy. It was very exciting. I think it’s sad all that stuff went away. It was exciting to be harassed by the hookers. (Mayor Rudy) Giuliani took a piece out of New York when he shut all that down,” Larsen recalled. “How do I say that without sounding creepy?”
Larsen is best known for his play, “Making Porn,” a satirical look at the porn industry that has been produced around the world, including South Florida. But it was a chance encounter with a woman who “performed” behind the glass in one of those Times Square peep shows that inspired this rarely produced play.
“She was so glamorous, sitting there behind the glass taking these men’s money.
It wasn’t like ‘Magic Mike,’ there was no art to it at all, but I was fascinated by the people who worked in these sex shops,” he said.
The original version featured female characters, but soon Larsen began to question whether he was reaching the right audience. He rewrote the play with a cast of male characters and had a hit, especially after he cast porn legend Jeff Stryker.
“You couldn’t get a ticket,” boasted Larsen.
Unlike “Making Porn,” “All-Male Peep Show” had a relatively large cast and cumbersome set, making it impractical to tour the play. According to Larsen, the play sat for nearly 10 years when Empire Stage producer and friend David Gordon suggested the play be revived in Fort Lauderdale.
Larsen reworked the book, cut some characters and a more manageable set was designed. The cast includes familiar South Florida actors, along with several fresh faces. A friend of Larsen, a Los Angeles-based casting director, actually cast many of the actors via Internet.
“I really like the cast. All the strippers are kind of novices, but they’re like their characters in the play,” he said, pointing out there is full frontal nudity in the show. Not all the performers are gay, either, just like many real life sex workers who are “gay for pay.”
In addition to “All-Male Peep Show,” Larsen is also bringing “The Penis Talk Show” to Empire Stage for two performances on Wednesdays, March 11 and 18. Unlike the play, this show is largely improvised and Larsen serves as the “emcee.”
Three men will be seated naked on the stage with a curtain that covers their faces and protects their anonymity. The audience is then invited to ask the men just about anything.
“They’re not actors, just regular guys,” he explained. “Nothing is scripted and I can’t believe the shit people ask. Eventually, the audience ends up divulging their secrets, too.”
In Empire Stage’s intimate space, there’s nowhere to hide, but he promises the show is always funny. Just don’t be too shy.
Ronnie Larsen’s “All-Male Peep Show” will be presented March 5 – April 12 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $30 at EmpireStage.com.
Play: All- Male Peep Show
Playwright: Ronnie Larsen
Story: After working on the female version of Peep Show in New York, Larsen decided to do a male version. The male version explored the world of “gay erotic dancers” in Times Square. He adapted the script and the show was a bigger hit than the female version. Then after a while, Jeff Stryker was added to the show. Stryker only had 5 short lines and he wasn't hired for his speaking abilities. After Jeff Stryker did All-Male Peep Show in NY he went and did his own show called. It was called, Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time. Ronnie Larsen had NOTHING to do with that show.
Length: 90 Minutes
New York Production/Off-Broadway
SF Production/Victoria Theatre
History: Listen to podcast.
Produced Cities: Off-Broadway, New York City, San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale
Audio Description: http://ronnielarsen.com/m/sounds/view/All-Male-Peep-Show-Description
Video: Video Coming Soon
“…reveals Larsen’s penchant for bitch wit with a touch of poignance...and just like in real life, the boys come out in to the orchestra for some touchy-feely audience participation.” GENE PRICE, SF BAY TIMES
“…alternates between a fairly trenchant satire on the male porn industry and at times moving piece about the individuals who populate it.” CHRISTOPHER BYRNE, LGNY NEWS
“Larsen is a clever writer and director and knows how to write a funny line or develop a witty scene. Some of his best jokes are self-referential, with biting references to his past stars Ryan Idol and Jeff Styrker and even to the folly of spending 35 dollars to watch porn stars act.” RICHARD DODDS, BAY AREA REPORTER
Licensing Availability: Available for production, co-production and/or licensing.
Future: Currently in Ft. Lauderdale.
Royalty Information: Available for licensing.