SEPTEMBER 26 - 29, 2019


September 2014

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Illustration by David Chick

An Otherwise Hopeless Evening

by Travis Chamberlain & Joseph Keehn II with plays by William Inge
Four one-act plays by William Inge take a kaleidoscopic look at unrequited love between men, and conservative Midwest culture. This theatrical mash-up, performed by an all-male ensemble, taps the light and dark humor running through four outrageous stories of pain and joy.
directed by Travis Chamberlain

art installation by Joseph Keehn II
featuring drag performer De De Deville

A Hidden Splendor

Kansas City, MO

"I'd give anything to see it."
— Hilton Als, theatre critic for The New Yorker

"A theatrical gem... Something like perfection."
— Don Adams, Kansas City Star

About The Show

Justin Speer as Byron in The Love Death - Photo courtesy of A Hidden SplendorAn Otherwise Hopeless Evening is a site-responsive collaboration between theater, art, and LGBTQ history. Four newly anthologized William Inge plays trace four stories of extraordinary men struggling to be themselves. The show is staged within an exhibition of new artworks tackling the complex relationship between Tennessee Williams and William Inge, and is performed by an all-male ensemble of Kansas City-based actors.  

At times campy and unhinged, at other times melodramatic and deathly serious, these works reveal Inge's struggle to reconcile his sexuality with a conservative Midwestern upbringing. Unlike Tennessee Williams, Inge kept his sexuality private.

De De Deville (left) and Brad Shaw in A Tiny Closet - Photo courtesy of A Hidden Splendor

Director Travis Chamberlain and artist Joseph Keehn II created this all-new production last year, first performed at the site of the former Jewel Box Lounge in Kansas City (the first venue for female impersonation in the Midwest 1948-1872). For further information on the Kansas City production, read more here in OUT Magazine.

De De Deville, Pitch magazine's "Best Drag Queen of Kansas City," appears alongside Andre Du Broc, Ray Ettinger, David Wayne Reed, Brad Shaw, and Justin Speer. The performers shift rapidly between characters, settings, and time periods.


Ray Ettinger in The Killing - Photo courtesy of A Hidden Splendor

In one moment, an actor plays a nosy landlady in The Tiny Closet, an absurdist comedy about privacy at the height of the McCarthy era, and in the next moment transforms into a handsome gay hustler in The Killing, a psychological thriller about suicide and seduction.

Deville appears in 'boy drag' for the first time in eighteen years, portraying a closeted mortician in The Boy in the Basement, the play which has been credited as the inspiration for the hit TV show "Six Feet Under."



De De Deville and Ray Ettinger in The Boy in the Basement - Photo courtesy of A Hidden Splendor

And in The Love Death we meet our host for the evening: Byron Todd, a flamboyant, self-entitled, and profoundly misunderstood artist and drama queen, played intermittently throughout the night by every member of the ensemble.

Underscored with melodramatic abandon on a vintage 1950s organ, An Otherwise Hopeless Evening [of Very Gay and Extremely Grim Short Plays by William Inge] offers audiences a fierce dose of farce, thrills, melodrama, and unflinching satire.

About The Creative Team

Photo courtesy of A Hidden Splendor

Travis Chamberlain is a director and curator based in New York City. His directing credits include the New York City and Boston premieres of Tennessee Williams’ Green Eyes (distinguished “2010 Best Theater of the Year,” The New Yorker) and the 2013 Kansas City world premiere of an anthology of short homophile plays by William Inge entitled An Otherwise Hopeless Evening (which will be presented at the 2014 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, September 25-29). Both productions are part of an ongoing series of site-specific projects that repositions artists' legacies in relationship to queer history. Chamberlain is also the Associate Curator of Performance at the New Museum in New York City, where he has organized several research and development residencies including “NEA 4 in Residence: Performing Beyond Funding Limits” (with Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller), “Movement Research in Residence: Rethinking the Imprint of Judson Dance Theater 50 Years Later,” “Ishmael Houston-Jones in Residence: THEM AND NOW," and most recently "Performance Archiving Performance," which surveyed several artists' projects that engage archive as medium and included an exhibition of work by Jennifer Monson, Julie Tolentino, a canary torsi, and others. He is the curator of the forthcoming project "AUNTSforcamera" in which Brooklyn-based artists AUNTS will produce a group of dance-for-camera works onsite at the New Museum as part of an open studio residency this September. These works will then be exhibited as a moving image installation at Trouw, an arts space in Amsterdam, this November, and at the New Museum in December.

Photo courtesy of A Hidden SplendorJoseph Keehn II is an artist, curator, and writer born and raised in Topeka, Kansas. His conceptually driven projects have combined text, images, videos, and performances to address issues of conventional norms, history, and power structures. As in the case of An Otherwise Hopeless Evening: Kansas City, Joseph’s projects are often temporal and site-specific, residing in an intentional place for a particular reason. His works have temporarily resided at the Stiefel Theater (Salina, KS),  Moss-Thorn Gallery of Art (Hays, KS), Shift Space (Wichita, KS), Mulvane Art Museum (Topeka, KS), Campbell Square (Salina, KS),Hobbs (Kansas City, MO), and Center for Contemporary Art (Seattle, WA). His work is also in the collections of the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) and the Mulvane Art Museum. Keehn has initiated several LGBTQ public programs in the Midwest, and has been reviewed in publications including OUT MagazineCAMP Magazine, KC Studios, & The Pitch, has curated projects at Johnson County Library, Salina Art Center, and The Smoky Hill River Festival, and has published writings for the New Museum & Routledge Publishing, the HR Art Space, KC Studios Magazine, and Zócalo Public Square. Keehn most recently received the 2014 Rocket Grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, MO and the KU Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, KS, with funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


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