LGBT Actors Join the Court of Camelot
Camelot has come to Nashville, and the hit Lerner and Loewe musical has never been as fresh. Camelot retells the English legend of King Arthur, whose rule brings peace and prosperity to a troubled land. The peace is troubled, however, by one of the most infamous love triangles of all time as the beautiful Queen Guinevere dallies with dashing knight Lancelot. This intimate and fresh look into the passion, pageantry, and betrayal of Camelot’s royal court is delighting theatregoers through the weekend.
Just before Camelot came to Nashville, two of the show’s LGBT actors, Brandon Cordeiro and Matthew Curiano, talked with Out and About Nashville about joining the tour and what it’s like to play roles in one of the most well-known stories.
O&AN: When you were growing up, were you familiar with the story of King Arthur’s court? How did that influence your love of literature or theatre?
Matthew: My history with Arthurian legend began with my 5th grade play when I played the role of Sir Thomas in "A Knight to Remember" (oh yes, the pun was intended). That was back in the day when the moms helping out would put way too much makeup on the kids, so I more closely resembled a child-like version of Dustin Hoffman's "Tootsie" than a Knight. But it was so much fun, and I was so grateful to be part of a school that supported theater for kids! After that I remember reading The Once and Future King with my mom. We read the first chapter together and I was hooked. I recently reread the story upon being cast in this show and it was amazing to have the memories of my childhood flood back to me, while also finding new relevance in the story after over fifteen years of life experience. And I believe that's exactly what our production does, it bridges the gap between generations and exposes a whole new audience to this timeless classic.
Brandon: My grandparents lived in New York and were BIG theatre people -- they attended Broadway frequently and saw the original production of Camelot. It was one of their favorite shows. When my grandmother passed away, I inherited her substantial Playbill and Original Broadway Cast album collection, Camelot included. To know that my grandparents, who were some of my most encouraging supporters and who brought me to my first Broadway show, saw and loved the show that I am now taking part in means the world to me – I think about them every time I step on stage.
O&AN: What’s the most exciting thing about playing roles in one of the most enduring stories in the Western canon?
Matthew: I was eager to see how the public would respond. Was Camelot still relevant? Would people remember the
tale and the way it once affected them…? After receiving a standing ovation that night with cheers and bravos coming from the crowd, I was positive that we had a very special piece of theater on our hands…. Also, carrying around a sword and wearing armor is awesome! Our costumes are stunning. And who doesn't love wearing chainmail every now and then?
Brandon: First, it is a major honor and so exciting to be part of a fresh interpretation of the story. The exchange between audience and players in this show is what excites me most. That amazing connection that you sometimes get with an audience, their willingness to go on a journey with you, is the best feeling ever. That’s why I can’t help but smile and be a happy guy with this job. Secondly, I mean, I have TWO capes, not one – TWO! It’s also just hilarious to me that it’s my first national tour and they’ve put me in a “manly” dress, guess you have to see the show to find out what that is. #TypeCasting.
O&AN: This is your first outing on a national tour. What's it like being a young gay actor facing this momentous career milestone?
Matthew: I am having a blast! I feel extremely fortunate for this experience and am reminded of it with each city we come to and each new face I meet along the journey. On top of that, Phoenix Entertainment has been nothing but warm and generous to all of us and because of that we are like one big family. This is a very unique family, especially for the theater world. The cast consists of predominately straight men, which is not usually the case. This has made for a wonderful dynamic, spurring an open dialogue about our life experiences. We talk about sexuality in the 21st century, the stereotypes of gay and straight men and breaking them down, and so much more. These guys are above and beyond accepting our culture and it is both refreshing and inspiring to see that our world is heading in this direction. These men see us, treat us, and love us as their equal and I know they would gladly stand behind us if we needed their help. It also doesn't hurt that they have big muscles and are usually donning swords and shields. Therefore, this tour is meaningful for me not only as an actor breaking onto the scene, but as a gay man accepting my individuality. I feel honored to be able to live in a world where I can be proud to be an openly gay actor touring the country with my band of brothers and sisters, revitalizing this amazing piece of theater.
O&AN: Brandon, what advice would you give to gay actors trying to break into theatre?
Brandon: Be you. For gay actors trying to break into the industry our opportunities are expanding as we are more visible on a larger scale and as we acquire more rights. I recently had lunch with a friend of mine and we were both reveling about how we, as gay men, can actually now play gay, bi, trans characters and not have it negatively affect our career. We are in a time now where our stories matter, people want to hear them, and, even if they don’t, they will, thanks to producers, directors, & networks who are willing to push the envelope with their creative projects. My unsolicited advice: Make your identity your strength; don’t get bogged down because you think you are perceived to be too masculine or too feminine. Observe people, see more theatre, watch movies, and identify characteristics that are required for the role you are working on. More often than not roles call for certain masculine and/or feminine qualities that we as actors must be able to play. Since you are an actor, it is your job to adapt -- being gay, we spend a large part of our life adapting to heteronormative culture, so, you inherently are prepared to experience to this creative challenge. Also, find someone you trust and work on these qualities, see how it translates through eyes of a mentor. Lastly, write about your experience and start to develop your creative voice because who you are is special and your take on the world is unique. Even if you don’t end up having a career on the stage, you may end up a writer, producer, director, manager, you name it; the possibilities are endless and in the arts you can find a family.
O&AN: What's it like being gay men traveling with the theatre? Do you get to enjoy the gay nightlife in cities like Nashville when you're in town or is it all work, no play?
Matthew: Oh yes, we find the time to play. We work very hard and the show is our first priority, but when we have some time off, we definitely like to reward ourselves by exploring the nightlife of the city we're in. For instance, we had a few days of vacation in Louisville and went to see what the city had to offer. Brandon and I found ourselves in a LGBTQA friendly karaoke bar and of course started unabashedly singing Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston (you know, the classics). By the end of the night we had met some amazing people in Louisville and had created many fun memories. That has been the most wonderful thing about traveling the country: no matter what city we are in, the LGBTQA community welcomes us with open arms. It's what makes me proud to be part of such a beautiful family of people. I can't wait to see what Nashville has to offer!
Brandon: Matt and I tend to go out on gay adventures together … [In Louisville our duets included] Wicked’s “For Good” – I was Elphaba, Matt was Glinda – and The Prince of Egypt classic “When You Believe” – we were both Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston at the same time. I'm so thankful I have him on tour. Lastly, I am a Northeast boy so I am very excited to see what the gay nightlife will be like in Nashville. I'll definitely be on the lookout for a Cowboy ;)
So there you have it Nashville: be on the lookout for the boys of Camelot after the show! And there are still opportunities to see the men don their tights and chain mail, with show times on Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm. For more information, visit tpac.org.