Monday, October 26th, 2020

Nora Highland : only straight actors need apply


I always thought that even if I had the talent  (and I don’t) that I could never ever be an actor .  Mainly because every single time you audition for a job you face the uncomfortable reality of rejection.  The more you try, the more potential rejections. 

Now after seeing actor Ryan Spahn’s new  eye-opening docu-drama , I realise that as a gay man I would have stood no chance of a career as the industry is still so heavily weighted against members of the LGBTQ community.

Spahn kicks off with some very surprising, and extremely disheartening  facts to those of us who have never really thought about them.  During the history of the Academy Awards 52 cisgender/straight actors have been nominated for an Oscar for playing an LGBTQ character  with 11 of them winning.  In the same time there has been just 1 LGBTQ actor nominated for playing gay.

Spahn’s film was made during the current lockdown and is filmed remotely, and the first part is of Sam (Eric Patrick Harper) an actor auditioning for the lead as a gay man in the Broadway revival of Nora Highland a Tony Award winning play.  The Casting Agent (Mallory Portnoy) is too absorbed in her own petty office dramas to give the actor the attention he deserves, and the moment he reveals that he is gay, she cannot get him out of her office quick enough.  As soon as he leaves she deletes the whole taped audition. .

The main part of the film is labelled The Meeting and is a Facetime phone conversation between the director of Nora Highland and a TV star who things he has already been cast for the lead role.  The two of them have history having studied at Harvard together and even having messy sex a couple of times.

This is director Linda (Marin Ireland) Broadway  debut and she is extremely defensive of not wanting to wreck this rare chance for a female director.  She is also overly apologetic about having to explain to openly gay Mark (Michael Hsu Rosen) that he is not a shoo-in for the role and that he will have to audition.  However the problem is the producer is one of those self-hating gays who doesn’t believe in letting gay actors  play gay roles.

To add insult to injury Linda lets slip that they have cast a pan-sexual actress to play the straight woman in the play …….but then she is not only a Film star but also very pretty…. and straight audience members will be attracted to her sexual ambiguity.

Most of the  filmed conversation is a verbal battle of who has it worse in the industry : female directors or openly gay actors.  Both of them scoring points but the reality will not hit them until later when Linda caves into the pressure from the gay producer and casts a straight man for the part.   

He of course not only will patronize the LGBTQ community when he collects Awards for his performance, but he’ll automatically be offered the lead in the movie that is made of the play.  The best that the Mark’s of the world can expect is to take over the lead on stage when the straight actor has had enough.

To an outsider this fascinating film is both an education and very sobering. For those of us who have been undecided about the whole casting of LGBTQ actors for LGBTQ roles after  you watch this film, you know it’s way past time to get off the fence.

(PS Nora Highland is having its World Premiere at NEWFEST NYC on 28 th October 2020)

Posted by queerguru  at  10:24


Genres:  drama

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