A greek god in New York: Kyle Hall plays several classical deities in Broadway’s hit production of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but he was creating divine theater long before that – theater – Brief Article

Erik Meers

Unlike many actors on the verge of stardom, Kyle Hall never considered heading for the closet. “I always knew I was gay, and it’s alway’s been a part of me,” says Hall, who plays Poseidon and Hermes, among other Greek deities, in the new Broadway smash Metamorphoses. “I feel that my life has always had that at its core. I’m gay, gay, gay, gay.”

Since Metamorphoses moved to Broadway in February, the barrel-chested hunk has been on display eight performances a week. The show, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, was developed as a theater project at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where Hall had been Zimmerman’s student. The director reinterprets Ovid’s classic tales for contemporary audiences, using a sleek set (complete with a pool in which actors joyously splash throughout the performance) and dialogue that freely mixes the ancient text with the modern vernacular. Since arriving in New York from Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre in September, Metamorphoses has been embraced by critics. “We were all at a party last year and it started going around that Time had ranked us number 1 [for all of 2001],” recalls Hall. “Suddenly, we were like, `Oh, my God, this is a big deal.'”

Broadway seemed as distant as Mount Olympus for Hall when he was growing up in rural Eldridge, Iowa. After a brief childhood flirtation with becoming a clown, he settled on acting in grade school. “I always wanted to be a chorus boy,” he says, “except I couldn’t carry a tune.” Those goals changed when Hall learned the joys of more cerebral material in Zimmerman’s performance studies class at Northwestern.

After earning his master’s in 1995, Hall founded About Face, a Chicago-based theater group dedicated to exploring the lives of lesbians and gays, with classmate Eric Rosen. “We wanted to challenge the idea of what gay and lesbian theater is,” Hall recalls. “It could be an institution within the community that strengthened it by being something [gays and lesbians] could be proud of and by presenting challenging stories. At the time, we started asking more complicated questions because the AIDS crisis had come to a new place. We didn’t have to spend all of our time on that. Now we can say, `OK, gay is good, but we’ve got some problems.'”

Tending bar at Chicago’s Sidetrack to make extra money, Hall saw the job as the perfect complement to his theater career. “I wasn’t into the whole starving artist thing,” he says “I loved tending bar and think I learned a lot about the gay and lesbian community and made a lot of connections–that bar made our theater company possible.” In addition to gay classics like The Boys in the Band and Cloud 9, About Face has staged innovative literary pieces such as Eleven Rooms of Proust, in which audiences were led around a 90,000-square-foot warehouse to view scenes from Marcel Proust’s epic Remembrance of Things Past, and an adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel A Home at the End of the World. The company recently received a $200,000 grant from the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund to expand its youth theater workshop program nationally, including to San Francisco and New York.

After being so intimately involved with About Face for the past several years, Hall appreciates the perspective he’s gaining from his time in New York. “I feel like I’m at this really incredible point right now,” he muses. “I always wanted to be on Broadway and always wanted to have my own theater company. I feel so lucky and blessed to have those things. When people say to me, `Maybe you shouldn’t be out,’ I always say that being honest with myself and the people around me has resulted in all my dreams coming true.”

Meers is managing editor of Paper.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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