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Vanguard in the Jungle.

Its namesake may be among the most endangered species on the planet, but Theatre Rhinoceros, America's oldest and longest-running professional queer theater company, is launching its triumphant 27th year. The theater, named after the symbol of the early gay-rights movement in founder Allan Estes' native Boston, demonstrates a strong commitment to representing the diversity of queer experience onstage for all members of the theater community by holding "Pay What You Can" nights and offering a "Straight Night Out" after-show wine reception for its nongay patrons the first Thursday after each opening. Doug Holsclaw, who worked with Theatre Rhino for 20 years and is writing a book about his experiences in theater, explains that lesbians tend to enjoy less theater than gay men, instead directing their energy toward different forms of cultural expression like stand-up comedy, performance art and music festivals. The early '80s, however, brought a flurry of lesbians to the Rhino's intimate stage with Jane Chambers' seminal My Blue Heaven.

Boasting a rich history of lesbian art directorship under Kristine Gannon and Adele Prandini, the theater has hosted the likes of Marga Gomez, the Five Lesbian Brothers and Kate Bornstein. It has recast classic works like the genderbent characters in Doug Holsclaw's remake of Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros and Joan Grinde and Megan Murphy's all-female interpretation of Sam Shepard's Fool for Love. The Rhino has also showcased culture-defining talent like Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive and Lea DeLaria and Janine Strobel's Raging Bull.

Theatre Rhinoceros ( provides a uniquely grass-roots space where all aspects of queer life are explored and celebrated. The ultimate goal of the theater is not to be commercially successful, but to forge a meaningful bond with the audience, says Holsclaw: "If we only judge our success as queer artists by whether straight people like us, then we've co-opted our work."

Next up? Terry Baum's Two Fools, a timely play about lesbian marriage, and Big Big Love II--The Fat Bottom Burlesque.

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Title Annotation:Theatre Rhinoceros
Author:Llewellyn, Rachel
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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