Projects Created by Ronnie Larsen
Projects Produced by Ronnie Larsen
I’m a hundred percent Cubano. Hello, that’s different! Mexicans are a whole ‘nother tipo de machismo, if you know what I mean. You got your rancheros, your cholitos, your mestizos, your homeboys and hoodlums, your immigrant separatist types -- Oh, and all them pissed-off Chicano Studies majors at UCLA. Then, you’ve got your other countries. Like the papis from Guatemala. Uff! Great kissers. But they’re so sexually confused. And the from Honduras? ¡Papasótes! just tease the hell out of you and never deliver. Everybody’s different. Just like Wally here.
Honey, I don’t even know where you’re from.
“White Boy” has been seen in a variety of venues across the country, from San Diego to New York City. It’s a love story that no one saw coming: a small town boy from Missouri moves to the big city and immediately falls for a Chicano gang member. White and brown, two colors and two cultures that should mix beautifully, yet it’s never quite that simple. Honest and provocative, funny and romantic in a way that might well surprise you. It touches on topics of today: racism and coming to terms with ones sexuality with just the perfect twist of fantasy. It offers an exploration into Latino culture and coming to terms with our inner desires that resonates and lingers.
Born in Missouri, Los Angeles-based writer and playwright Michael Patrick Spillers has been weaving his tales for more than 20 years. Beginning with his first opus, “Whiskey Rainbows,” which won him a Jack Nicholson Playwriting Award, Spillers has followed up with a string of hits, including “Follow,” “Clean” and “Always and Forever,” which have all been seen and produced across the country. “White Boy” premiered in Santa Monica, and Spillers later received accolades with a production of “Divine Thing: The Joey Stefano Story,” staged in Hollywood at the St. Genesius Theatre. He’s been a member of L.A. Company of Angels, which often leads his storytelling to include situations and characters from his adopted home in Southern California.
WHITE BOY Q&A WITH PLAYWRIGHT MICHAEL PATRICK SPILLERS:
Q: What is “White Boy” about?
Michael: “White Boy” is a gay romantic comedy about a small-town kid from the Midwest, who falls in love with a macho Hispanic homeboy from East Los Angeles. It’s a funny, sexy memoir full of music and dance, with the title character taking the audience on a journey into the Gay Latino community. “White Boy” explores the dreams and desires of a group of beautiful young Hispanic men, in a way that we don’t usually get to see on stage.
Q: What was the inspiration for the play?
Michael: I grew up in the Ozarks, and moved out to Los Angeles after high school to study theatre and film. But I never felt at home in the squeaky-clean private university housing where I was staying. I couldn’t keep up with the rich surfer kids, or the flashy gay scene in West Hollywood. Instead, I found myself drawn to the East Side — taking the city bus into the heart of LA’s Central American immigrant communities. While the other “white boys” were studying for finals, or dancing to pop music in expensive clubs across town, I was exploring the underground Gay Latino scene: Cavernous cash-only warehouse dives, where closeted Mexican men wearing cowboy hats and tight jeans would dance together to the honky-tonk/polka beat of Ranchera music. I felt at home among the Salvadoran go-go boys, and the dolled-up Honduran drag queens lip-syncing to Spanish Rock. Beautiful, resourceful young men, scratching out a life any way they could. Surviving. I made some of my deepest, most lasting friendships with these young men - and of course I got my heart broken, way too many times. This play is my attempt to tell their stories, to document and celebrate those wonderful, painful and passionate memories.
Q: I remember the play being a big hit on the West Coast. What was that experience like?
Michael: The play started out as a one-man show, developed at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t fair for me to be the only person on stage, telling these other men’s stories. So we added four gorgeous Latino cast members, and gave the show a twist - as it all plays out, the White Boy sort of steps aside, allowing these other young men from diverse backgrounds to take the stage and tell their own stories.
Audience reaction was fantastic. Sold-out shows in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and San Diego. And yes, a lot of that is because you’ve got a cast of sexy Latino boys on stage, flirting, dancing, baring it all. But the trick we play on the audience is that it’s all very heartfelt. You really come to care about these men, to root for them. My goal has always been for the audience to walk away with new insight into Hispanic culture, and a new appreciation for the hopes and dreams of these young men.
Q: Why do you think the play resonates so deeply with audiences?
Michael: I think most of us are just so eager to connect. We turn on the news, and this country is drowning in fear and “walls” and negative stereotypes about other races and cultures. And in the LGBT community we know a thing or two about surviving prejudice. But now the pendulum has kind of swung the other way too, where white men are looked at with suspicion any time we interact or relate to communities outside our own. Interracial romance is taboo all over again. We’ve circled all the way back to Anita in West Side Story singing “Stick to your own kind!” It’s just bizarre, and so counter-productive.
“White Boy” reminds us that it’s OK to reach out. To recognize the beauty in other cultures, even to get turned on, or fall in love! As long as we are careful not exploit or objectify or hurt each other. Respect is key. The play reminds us of all the things we have in common: looking for love, acceptance, family. But also, it celebrates our cultural differences, which are exciting and sexy and nothing to be afraid of! I think audiences are really hungry for that.
Q: I love the dance sequences in “White Boy”. Very sexy, but also very well choreographed.
Michael: Yes! “White Boy” is full of fun Spanish music and dance cues. The go-go boys are two of my favorite characters. But instead of just gyrating on stage, these guys can move! They surprise the audience with some exciting Latin Ballroom choreography, developed by Joe Elvis Alway, one of our original cast members. We hope to retain this choreography for Empire Stage in Ft. Lauderdale, which should really be dazzling up close in that intimate space. There’s even a nude dance sequence that is very moving and beautiful.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about the play? What excites you the most?
Michael: What excites me most is the chance to see a fresh, young cast take on these roles. Now that I’m a little older (and a little heftier), I get to step aside and welcome a new talented “white boy”, along with a sexy cast of young Hispanic men. It’s such an honor to share this story with a new generation.
And as far as favorite moments in the play… Well, it’s gotta be the “sex in a Catholic church” scene. I don’t want to spoil it by saying too much, but there’s nothing more erotic and deliciously taboo than succumbing to a hot Latin lover on the altar, bathed in votive candle-light, with a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe looking down on you! The Madonna (and Madonna) would be proud!
Q: Are you excited to come to Ft. Lauderdale?
Michael: Definitely! I’ve never been to Ft. Lauderdale before, or had any of my plays produced there. This is a first! I’m thrilled to learn more about the city, and the local arts scene. And of course, I can’t wait to learn more about the local Hispanic community. I’m a devotee of all things Mexican (met my husband in the heart of Mexico City), but Florida’s predominantly Cuban/Caribbean sub-culture is very new to me. Perhaps I’ll get some ideas for a sequel!