Those well-versed in Utah’s theatre community should recognize Jerry Rapier—if not the name, then certainly his work. Plan-B Theatre Company’s producing director has done exceptionally well with his demanding role and shows no signs of slowing down.
Originally brought in to direct Molly Sweeney in 2000, Rapier took the reins when Tobin Atkinson took off to join the army. His involvement helped raise the company to new heights. He is perhaps best known for pushing boundaries that earned Plan-B a reputation as a daring, bold company, staging productions of The Laramie Project as well as newer plays including Amerika, Facing East, Exposed and Block 8. During this time, he brought in new playwrights with bold ideas, including the multi-script virtuoso Matthew Ivan Bennett. Within a few short years, he changed the outlook, attitude and public image of the small theater company.
Hitting Rapier up for an interview was pretty easy, but you wouldn’t know it from the schedule he keeps. Aside from the morning jaunt to grab a soy latte at Rosie’s Deli, Rapier is either hard at work at the Plan-B office or planted in front of his Macbook at home into the wee hours. OK, so he squeezes in time for Wii Tennis; every chap needs a wee bit of exercise in his life!
“I get so focused that an entire day can pass where the only interaction I have is with my bevy of pets and my partner, Kirt,” says Rapier, who has been off the singles scene for 14 years now (or, as he refers to it, “a gay century.”) When asked about living in Salt Lake City as an openly gay man, he says there’s a night-and-day difference from when he moved here 16 years ago.
Over the past decade, Rapier has been involved in several organizations and received the Mayor’s Artist Award in 2008. On top of his Plan-B duties, between May and November he’ll also be directing Hair for Egyptian Theatre Company, Believing for Theatre Arts Conservatory, and The Last Five Years for Dark Horse Company Theatre. And somewhere in the thick of all this … sleep! When asked about all the work he’s up to, Rapier couldn’t be more enthused, particularly regarding Amerigo, “a crazy-ass play with Niccolo Machiavelli moderating a debate between Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus. What I’m most excited about with that play is how big ideas are communicated with surprising humor,” he says. “I’m also extremely excited about the spring shows I’m directing. I’m amazed at the skill and tenacity of Richard Scharine and Carleton Bluford as they inhabit the skins of Wallace Stegner and Wallace Thurman, respectively.”
Currently Rapier is working on Plan- B’s newest creation, Wallace. Making its world debut next week, the play focuses on two distinct men who claimed Salt Lake City as their home: Wallace Thurman, a gay black writer who helped influence the Harlem Rennisance, and Wallace Stegner, the historian and novelist who was dubbed the Dean of Western Writers by his peers. Their individual experiences are intertwined from two one-act plays into one production.
In the midst of rehearsals for Wallace (opening March 4), City Weekly asked Rapier to sit down and play our musical version of Russian roulette, with surprising results when he clicked on “shuffle.”
Jerry Rapier writes about his iPod picks:
|Buddy Guy ft. Tracy Chapman, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bring ’Em In
I have every song ever recorded by Tracy Chapman. Her eponymous debut album came out when I was in high school. Yes, I’m that old, and she’s been my favorite ever since. And I’m glad she finally came out!
|Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise,” 99.9F
I just bought the Retrospective album and really re-discovered her. This song reminds me of driving my 1970 Chevy Nova around Thatcher, Arizona—I went to school at Eastern Arizona College for two years, right after I got home from my LDS mission. Yes, I went on a mission to the exotic land of Minnesota.
|Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready To Make Nice,” Taking The Long Way
I love the anger in this song. It makes me smile, realizing that there is no longer a member of the Bush family living in the White House. And it brought the house down at Plan-B’s banned fundraiser two years ago.
|Zoé, “Nada,” Reptilectric
Um, to be honest, this was the Free Single of the Week on iTunes—I downloaded it but haven’t listened to it yet.
But I love the pointy little hats they’re wearing on the cover!
|Nena, “99 Luftballons,” 99 Luftballons
Favorite. Song. Ever. Not sure why. I had a little gay-boy crush on her when this song was new, hairy armpits and all. I used to listen to the cassette over and over. The A-side was in English, the B-side in German. I loved the B-side and can still sing along in German, even though I have no idea what they’re saying.