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For producer Jim Tommaney, age is just a number
by Donalevan Maines
Photos courtesy Jim Tommaney
Jim Tommaney brings “edge” to Houston theater and the offbeat charm of a gay twin Irish-Catholic who was born in a Jewish hospital in New York City and chauffeured home in a racketeer’s baby-blue Rolls-Royce.
The devil is in the details for Tommaney, whose “concert version” (actors on stools with scripts) of Don Juan in Hell, through August 6 at Midtown Art Center, introduces the “eye candy” style of theater that Tommaney has served up for the past 16 years to gay fans in South Florida.
What colorful details they are! The artistic director of Edge Theatre introduces himself as the son of a Tammany Hall alderman who was known as “Tammany’s Tommaney” in the notorious political machine that ran Big Apple government at the beginning of the 20th century.
Another of Tommaney’s calling cards is that he won the Mr. Speedo contest at Works Bar in New York City in 1981 at the age of 51. “Yes, do the math!” he says.
By my calculations, he’s now 81 years young.
Tommaney also boasts of producing 150 plays in Miami since he opened Edge Theatre in South Beach in 1995. He’s written 20 plays and is now casting for the premiere of Antonio, about the bromance of a wealthy painter and his young, bisexual model, which Tommaney says was inspired by his imagining of the relationship between out Spanish film director Pedro Almadovar and Antonio Banderas when Almadovar introduced the young actor in five early movies filmed in Madrid.
Tommaney would like to unveil Antonio during the three-week block of time he’s reserved at Midtown Art Center beginning at the end of November. “I have a wonderful actor in mind for the mature painter, but I’m looking for a hot young Hispanic type for the role of the hustler who becomes a model. Any actor who fits the bill is welcome to send me a headshot. I may have to change Antonio to a Caucasian, if I find an in-shape age-appropriate Anglo actor instead.”
If not Antonio, Tommaney is considering the staging of Norman Allen’s 90-minute solo performance, Nijinsky’s Last Dance, in which an actor plays 14 characters, both male and female, in telling the life of the bisexual Russian ballet star who is mentored by his lover Diaghilev. The play is told in flashbacks from one of the mental institutions where Nijinsky spent his final years.
Two of Tommaney’s short plays, Breakthrough and Cassie, will be performed at the Houston Fringe Festival August 11–14.
Since moving to Houston two years ago, Tommaney has found an outlet for his talents at Country Playhouse, where he directed A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia last September, and where he wrote a play in two hours as part of the theater’s MADCAP event last October. Producer John Dunn described MADCAP 24 as an avant-garde multi-theatrical event in which eight plays were written, cast, directed, and staged within 24 hours.
Tommaney said that a coordinator of the event thought Tommaney had written “the dirtiest play ever,” he laughs. “First, I called it Texas Two-Step, but there were more than two characters and they all had sex with each other at various times, so I renamed it Texas Four-Step.”
Next May, Tommaney is set to direct Entertaining Mr. Sloane by the late out playwright Joe Orton at Country Playhouse’s Black Box Theatre.
Meanwhile, said Tommaney, “Edge Theatre is looking for affordable venues since Midtown is booked up pretty well. I took all the space they had this year with three consecutive weekends. I think you need three weeks to give word-of-mouth a chance, and to have a chance for a review. I would like to do six productions a year in Houston. We need patrons and support—we are not-for-profit.
“Edge Theatre is also looking for choreographers for an unproduced work by me,” he said, explaining that Three Rebels consists of a trio of dance pieces with no spoken words. Instead, title cards are projected, as in silent films. The pieces include “The Resonance of Lust,” about male submissive/dominant relationships; “Fire in the Heart,” concerning women’s struggle against male domination; and “Wigs at Work,” which explores gender illusionists.
What: Edge Theatre presents George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell.
Where: Midtown Art Center, 3414 LaBranch.
When: 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, through August 6.
Cost: $15, seniors $12, students $10. Patrons may pay at the door (cash or check, no credit cards).
Reservations: 832/894-1843 or [email protected]
What: Cassie and Breakthrough (part of Houston Fringe Festival).
Where: Edge Theatre at Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation Blvd.
When: 7:30–8:30 p.m., Thursday, August 11; 6:30–7:30 p.m., Saturday, August 13; and 8:30–9:30 p.m., Sunday, August 14.
Cost: All shows are $10 at the door, cash only. Five shows for $45, or 10 shows for $80.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.