In his one-man-show, The Incident, Terry Vandivort performs a two hour monologue he wrote himself, recounting what we describe today as a hate crime. It is set in the 1970’s (I believe) and he is lured into a kidnapping while cruising the peep shows at an adult book store. Vandivort’s personal narrative is refreshing for its frankness. Like any great confessional piece he doesn’t conceal anything less than flattering. Otherwise first person feels like vanity. Besides (and I think this is crucial) we get a portrait of what men can be reduced to, when they are marginalized and criminalized and vilified, for their orientation. There is something eerily democratic about the peep shows, whether you are out and proud (extremely rare in the ‘70s) or passing in the world at large. In the dark, trolling for the comfort of other-male sexual connection, we are all the same. Vandivort has the courage and character to include many details, and again, I think its impossible to minimize the role of controlled substances and alcohol. When you live in a culture that has a thousand ways to indoctrinate, and cultivate self-loathing and terror in the hearts and minds of queerfolk, chemistry can help ease the agony.
Vandivort paints a vivid mural in The Incident, taking us along on a horrific odyssey that would have traumatized anyone for a lifetime. We suspect this piece may be his way of exorcising merciless demons. There are many, many surprises, and under the direction of Cameron Cobb, Vandivort’s delivery is well-modulated. Considering the intensity of the subject, it might have been tempting to lapse into overwhelming emotion too often. Vandivort’s relaxed, casual manner is pitch-perfect. As members of the audience, we never want to feel manipulated or exploited by the ease of punching our keys. His honesty about the ordinary pieces of his life, the parties and pizza, and simple joys of seeking love and a satisfying career, create a kind of coziness and connection, that make it possible for us to empathize with his profound woundedness.
I’m sure for certain members of the audience, Vandivort was guiding them through alien territory. His unique ability to discuss what it means to be the survivor of this particular kind of abuse is never wasted. The term “hate crime” has become part of our ongoing discussion, which is good. But few realize that when you belong to a particular group, way, way back in your mind, you always wonder when your turn is coming. Few realize that this ritualized kind of shaming and degradation never happens in a vacuum. It takes an odd kind of courage (I think) to seek out the more dubious channels to experience “love” however fleeting, because society has left you no admirable or respectable choices. What Camille Paglia described as creating “little altars” in whatever secret venues one can find, whether it’s an alley, a park, or a tearoom. The Incident probably goes on a bit longer than necessary, and they might have made more use of screen images. But overall, Cobb and Vandivort have handled this material with grace, warmth, and meticulous tone and execution. Cheers and blessings to Terry Vandivort, Cobb and The Drama Club, for providing this marvelous forum.
The Drama Club presents The Incident, playing October 15th-29th, 2016. Bryant Hall, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75204. www.thedramaclub.org. 214.337.0004