Be who you are and don’t apologize with Troy Stanley

Welcome to our LGBT podcast and in this episode we’re talking with actor Troy Stanley (he/him) about Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. This novel kicked off a landmark series as well as numerous television adaptations. For Troy, he told us, “I think what Tales of the City said to me was be who you are don’t apologize for who you are be who you want to be.”

See Troy live in these upcoming productions!

MNM Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show opens December 2, 2022 and runs through the 18th. https://mnmtheatre.org

Anything Goes at the Wick Theatre. It runs from January 12, 2023 through February 12th. https://thewicktheatre.thundertix.com/events/197579

Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s production of Oliver. It runs from March 14 through April 2nd. https://www.jupitertheatre.org/season-productions

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TRANSCRIPT

[theme music]

J.P. Der Boghossian: On today’s episode

Troy Stanley: What I saw in Tales of the City was a person who could not only talk about these places I had been to but could show what type of person who though the same things I did, and who had the same values that I did, and also some of the same misunderstandings of who they were as people.

J.P. Der Boghossian: I’m talking with Troy Stanley about the novel Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Tales of the City kicked off a landmark series of novels, as well as numerous television series, the best of which are the original series on PBS and my personal favorite the 2019 mini-series on Netflix.

For Troy, the original novel told stories of characters who not only represented him, but who were also being molded for a certain kind of life, but they said no. they’re going to go out and have the life they want to have.

So let’s get into it. My name is J.P. Der Boghossian and you’re listening to This Queer Book Saved My Life!

Hello, hello, hello. As we get started here I want to, as always, give my thanks to Quatrefoil Library, our promotional sponsor. If you haven’t checked out their growing queer e-book collection, you really should! Visit them at qlibrary.org. Also, hello to our new listeners in Bangladesh and Australia! Our podcast service let’s us know which countries our listeners are tuning in from and we’ve seen a lot of new listeners joining us from your respective countries and we’re happy to have you! No matter where you live in the world, if you would like to share the book that saved you life, we are booking guests for upcoming seasons. Head over to thisqueerbook.com, there is a form on our homepage that you can submit and we’ll be in touch with you!

And now, let’s drop into my conversation with Troy.

J.P.: Troy, can you tell us what was your favorite book growing up?

Troy Stanley: Growing up, my mom took us to the public library a lot. I ended up getting involved in a lot of the boys adventure series like the Hardy Boys mysteries; the Happy Hollisters and books like that, even some Encyclopedia Brown things that were just boys doing things that were exciting and fun.

J.P.: So you grew up in a reading household then?

Troy: My mom placed great value on books. She used to refer to books as her friends and I grew to understand that more as I grew older. A good book can be an old friend. It’s something comfortable. It’s like eating comfort food. It’s something that just makes you feel better when you go back to it and you grow to love those characters and become enamored with those characters because they’ve become a part of your life.

J.P.: Absolutely and ho have been some friends over the years?

Troy: I had, as a young gay boy growing up, privilege to see Sean Cassidy and Parker Stevenson do the Hardy Boy mysteries on ABC TV and so I sought out their book see. I just had this thing for Frank and Joe Hardy. I thought it was so cool to see brothers who were getting along so well and they were young and handsome and having all these adventures and I didn’t have that at home. I certainly had a brother and I love my brother very much but we weren’t very close growing up. There was probably a matter of trying to find a little bit of what I wasn’t feeling I was getting at home within the books that I was reading. *I was a big Frank and Joe fan for a long time. The other big influence on me which some people kind of look down on but is a huge, important part of my upbringing was that I was a comic book fan. I was a BIG comic book fan for years and years and years. I started reading comic books when I was 12 and I still pick one up every now and then and I’m going to be 60! Comic books taught me to read because some of the stories got more and more sophisticated. The vocabulary got more sophisticated and the ability to follow a plot got more sophisticated. It wasn’t all just aimed at children. Comic books kind of grew up with me. Their stories became more complex and their characters became more complex. I like the artwork. I was a big fan of comic book art.  I’m still a big fan of comic book art and Disney animation; all of that type of thing.

J.P.: Absolutely.  I have to ask: Who were your favorite comics characters growing up?

Troy: Okay, now part of this is also based on the 1966 Batman TV series. I thought for the longest time I should marry Bat Girl. I thought Bat Girl was going to be my wife. She had that red hair and that beautiful purple outfit and she did all these high kicks. It wasn’t until later I realized that I probably wanted to be more LIKE Bat Girl than actually marry Bat Girl! Then there was Robin played by Burt Ward in his cute little green shorts and as I grew older I began to appreciate those little green shorts just a little bit more! I was a big Batman and Robin and Bat Girl fan. My husband Michael was a big Wonder Woman fan. So our avatars are Wonder Woman and Batgirl. As a matter of fact, on our wedding cake or nearby our wedding cake, we had a Wonder Woman and a Batgirl for our wedding because we just like those two characters so much. 

J.P.: I Love that! What are you into reading these days?

Troy: I read a little bit of everything as an actor now because I do theater professionally. I read a lot of plays more than I ever used to. I do like some nonfiction as well. I particularly like historical biographies. I’m a big fan of Benjamin Franklin. I just read a book by Sheila Skimp which kind of dissects the whole relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his eldest son.

They went from being the best of friends to enemies and it was a fascinating book called The Making of a Patriot. I like to reread things. My husband reads and rereads books a lot. He’s a big fan of the Harry Potter series. We’ve  both read the Harry Potter series and Tales of the City which is such a big, important part of my life. It is a whole series of books and I do find myself gravitating back towards the series.  They’re on the top of my shelf and I like going back and revisiting them. The wonderful thing about rereading a book is you discover something new. Every time,  you discover that thing that you missed or that you didn’t realize that they had started that plot point so far back and that the groundwork was being laid for future episodes and future chapters and future books. Even in some of the early things that the author did and I think the author does that on purpose and sometimes I think that’s just a happy accident that the author can capitalize on but it still makes rereading the books that much more fun. 

J.P.: I Love that! Tell us a little bit about your acting career.

Troy: I started doing theater professionally when I lived in Minnesota many years ago. I escaped Minnesota not because it isn’t a beautiful state and not because I don’t love the people but because I can’t stand winter. I just can’t stand winter. I just don’t deal well with cold weather. So I came to Florida. I had an opportunity with FAO Schwarz, the big toy store and they moved me down to Florida. I worked for them for a while and that had a certain theatricality to it. But then I got back into doing professional theater  about  fifteen years ago. My mom came to live with me. She wasn’t always the healthiest woman and she’s no longer with us at this point but having her around enabled me to focus on some other things and I was able to kind of get back into doing theater for a living which was really nice. Now that’s what I primarily do is live theater work and I am doing regional theaters all over Florida. I do some things out of state but not a lot just a couple of gigs here and there in California for example. But mostly I stay down in South Florida. There’s a big senior market down here. Theater is a really important thing for them to do. It  gives them an activity and an opportunity to get out of the house and  do things and so there’s lots of places down here where I can trod the boards and and spread my wings a little bit. I do a lot of musical theater. I have a whole bunch of shows coming up that will require me to sing and to do some comedy. I’m very happy doing that. I’m very happy entertaining people.

J.P.: Most memorable role?

Troy: Oh wow! It’s like asking your favorite chid.  I have played some  very funny roles like Max Bialistock in The Producers.

J.P.: Top 3?

Troy: I loved Man La Mancha.  I played the governor and that was an incredibly moving experience for me. I recently did a Civil War drama called Ben Butler which was both a comedy and a drama because I had some very funny lines in it as well. That was a very moving experience for me. One of my very early roles when I was way too young to play him was back in Minnesota and I did My Fair Lady playing Henry Higgins. That was my one time that I had ever realized that you could play a character who wasn’t always the nicest character but still find sympathy for the man and still find sympathy for his life and  understanding of what drove him to do the things that he did. I had a great Eliza so I had a person who was very strong on stage opposite of me. It was one of the  times I really felt myself connect with another actor and have a real experience that transcended just playing in front of people. That was a real sense of communication and creation of art and I like that.

J.P.: Great. Thank you! If you recall from the episodes, I use all of those background questions for the introduction to you. So now, tell us….What is the Book That Saved Your life?

Troy: I am going to go with Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. There’s a pretty good reason for this, Tales of the City, which had nothing to do with where I grew up and it had nothing to do with the type of life that I was living but it was the one time I saw characters like me in print. It was the one time that I saw something that I could identify with that I didn’t easily see in the entertainment that I was reading. I grew up  in a small town about 30 minutes outside of Minneapolis. I grew up in a place called Prior Lake. it is very much  a bedroom community and a suburban community for people commuting into the cities and a lake community for those people that  had the boat and wanted to be out on the lake. My family didn’t have a lot of money. My dad had died when I was two. My mom was raising us and she was going back to school and worked as a schoolteacher. My aunt moved in with us and helped support us by working at a glass factory of all places. I grew up with this very small town attitude and when you’re a Gay guy and you start to realize that you’re having those feelings in a small town. You don’t see anybody like you around you. In pre-internet days, you don’t see yourself on television and you don’t see yourself in movies and you don’t see yourself in books. I felt very alone. I felt very lonely. A girl who was my best friend and I ruined our friendship by trying to have a relationship. She wanted us to move out to San Francisco right after high school so she could go to college. That’s what we did. A small town Minnesota boy goes out to the big city and boy do his eyes get opened!

Ironically, I didn’t start reading Tales of the City, which takes place in San Francisco, until I got back from San Francisco. What I saw in the books was a person who could not only talk about these places that I had been to, but could show the type of person who thought the same things that I did. A person who had some of the same values that I did and also some of the same misunderstanding of who they were as people and what society was trying to make them be instead of what they wanted to be. Armistead Maupin is really good about not making it a quote unquote Gay book and yet a homosexual sensibility runs all throughout the book. It more encompasses the whole human experience and talks about the things that we all experience as human beings whether we’re Gay or straight or Bi or wherever we fall on the continuum. I found that in his characters that I love, he interwove characters together. His chapters were very short because as you may know, he started the book by writing it as a column for one of the San Francisco newspapers and so the chapters are sometimes only one and half pages long because it would be the length of a column. He would go back and pick up characters that he had talked about in previous chapters and suddenly weave them back into the story and weave them back into the lives of these people and how they all knit themselves together. The most significant thing about it for me though was it taught me that you can create your own family which they talk about in the book quite a bit. You don’t always have the family that you want, sometimes. You love them. You care about them. They’re always going to be a part of your life but the family that you make for yourself sometimes is the family that understands you and accepts you without question. They will be there for you and sacrifice for you and that’s what the characters in Tales of the City did. They showed me that you can create that family and create that support system for yourself. It is not without pitfalls.. It’s not without obstacles and challenges but it certainly was a group of people who all recognized the need for each other and recognized that they all wanted to be loved and they all wanted to be accepted. They wanted to be able to have a quality of life that they weren’t getting in their own homes. I kind of felt that same way. I had a mother that loved me. I had siblings that I knew cared whether I got along with them or not at the time but I wasn’t able to be me. You read a book like Tales of the City and suddenly you see people who are willing to stand up and say, no I am going to be me I am going to be an authentic person. I am not going to hide who I am. I’m not going to hide my light under a bushel. I’m going to be able to say this is who I am. This is how I feel. What I believe and know is that you can have that sense of pride in yourself without having to apologize for it all the time.

J.P.: So take me back. You move back from San Francisco. How did you find the book?

Troy: It was actually recommended to me. Somebody had said to me it was probably a co-worker I was working with at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters at the time and Janet had just left. We. did get engaged at one point. It had fallen apart. It wasn’t just the homosexuality issue. There were a whole bunch of other things. We were very young and dumb and stupid. But I got back to Minnesota and somebody said, oh you lived in San Francisco, have you ever read the Tales of the City books?  I had said no. I had kind of heard of it before that but somebody recommended it to me. They said I’ve got an old copy. I took it home and started to read it and I instantly fell in love with the characters. I loved Maupin’s style of writing. It was an easy and accessible read. At the same time, he didn’t insult his reader’s intelligence and his characters were thinking some of the things that I was thinking. I love that his main character is a woman by the name of Mary Ann Singleton which is not a very disguised way of saying I’m a single person. Here’s me. She was exactly who I was. She was this small town person coming to this big city to have a life for herself. She didn’t want to get stuck in the life that her parents wanted for her. It’s in the very first chapter that her parents have her life planned out for her and that’s not what she wants for herself. So I recognized that about myself too. I recognized that I was seeing other people in my life such as my ex-fiancee, my mother, well-meaning friends all had plans for what they wanted me to do with my life. Here was a group of people who were saying no, I’m going to go out and have the life I want to have and the life that I want to choose. It’s a process going through all of that. I loved the book when it was recommended to me. Of course, he’s written several other books in the series and I have devoured every one of them when they’ve came out. I just love him as a writer and I love what he presents.

J.P.: Were you out when you read it the first time?

Troy: I was just coming out. Coming out for me was a  process. My girlfriend would have had to have been pretty blind to not realize that I was having feelings for guys. I will freely and fully admit that I wasn’t as faithful as I could have been in the time that we were together. I experimented and  I had to experimented even before I met her with boys when I was growing up. Growing up in that small town and at that time, I had a sense of god, I hope this is just a phase. Maybe this is something I can hide for the rest of my life. Maybe this is something that I can just do on the side and nobody ever needs to know about it.

I once told a young man who asked me if I was going to come out and I said I hope to god my mother never finds out. I hope she never ever knows. I hope she goes to her grave before she ever finds out that I’m Gay. What a sad and sorry existence my life would have been if that had been the case. I came out in pieces. I came out to friends first. I was taking voice lessons at the time. I came out to my voice teacher because she was a very sympathetic ear. I came out to a few friends. My actual coming out to my family was a remarkably different type of story. I didn’t have that situation where I had to sit my mother down and  have the talk that way. I had gotten arrested in Minneapolis. 

J.P.: Whoa wait. What?

Troy: I had come out of the Gay 90 s bar and I had gone into an adult bookstore and made a pass at the undercover cop who was in there and he arrested me. They took me downtown. I was very green at that point: young and green. I think I was about to turn 20 and in tears. Oh my god I thought my life was over because I really did truly believe at that point that there was no future if I came out. I really believed from everything that I had ever seen that there was not a lot of future for a Gay guy if he came out. I was afraid that my family would disown me. I had no reason for that. It was an irrational fear but I had that fear and they released me on my own recognizance. It was a $50 fine. A man who is important in our lives, Jim, put me back together again. I went to his house that night in tears thinking my life was over and he helped put me back together again and I went home late that night.I had to wake my mother up and I had to tell her I’d been arrested. Well why were you arrested? I was arrested because I was Gay. She looked at me and she said, well I could have told you that honey! I was like, god why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you say so sooner? If you knew, why didn’t you speak up? Surprisingly my mother and my family were far more accepting than I ever gave them credit for. Not every Gay kid gets that and I realize now how fortunate I was. There were a couple of bumps along the way. I had a sister who forgave me at one point for being Gay!.

I just about hit the skylight that day! It was a far less traumatic experience for me than I thought it would be. I learned how to start being proud of who I was and that took some work to be able to understand that you could be proud of who you were as a Gay person. Our friend Jim helped me do that just by example. It was important to me that I could find some pride in who I was as a person so that you can continue with your life. My mother always said that the families of Gay people have to go through a coming out process the same way that homosexual people do or transgendered people: any of the people who fall into those categories. She said you really have to understand that you as a parent are judged just as much as the Gay person is for raising a Gay child. She had some battles and some fights. She was very involved in her church and she went toe to toe with a few people. She started working with a group of people within her church to help them to understand that Gay people were just like everybody else and that Gay people needed to be loved and to be accepted in their lives. She became quite the champion as she got older.

J.P.: That’s great!

Troy: Anybody who ever knew my mother knew that she was never  a shrinking violet. She was that type of person who attacked everything. Whether it was a cause celeb or not she rose to the challenge.  I didn’t give her enough credit for that when I was younger because I was so afraid that I would be alone. I was so afraid that I would be cast out and  just the opposite happened which is really lovely.

J.P.: So you had this moment which is traumatic in itself right? Being arrested and you have this friend, Jim who is helping you navigate this identity so I’m curious. That’s a theme  of Tales of the City. All these Queer folks, not so much Marianne, but going to San Francisco and finding this house right? A magical creating of this family of choice so I’m curious: How did Tales of the City, if at all, help you in that search for your family of choice? Did it impact the friends you were making or the choices that you were making as you were looking for that family?

Troy: I Think so. I think that reading the book helped me to learn to live in my truth. When you’re young, so much of your life is  dictated by your biology and having to learn that homosexuality was more than just sleeping with people. Who you slept with and who you had sex with, that’s part of the whole culture which is a lot of what I learned in reading Tales of the City. It wasn’t just a matter of who shared my bed. It was a matter of how I conducted myself and how I comported myself and how honest I was with myself.

I guess I would say that one of the most important things I took away from the book was this ability to say I can have an honest life. I can admit to people what my feelings are and who I am as a person and stop worrying that they’re going to judge me so much. Um, I’ve taken that into my older adult life. I think when we’re younger we worry so much about what people think of us and nowadays I see people with their Instagram accounts and their Twitter accounts and their Tik Toks and they carefully groom their image so that it’s the image that they only want you to see. It’s only the part of them that they want you to see and I think it’s very closed off. I think what Tales of the City said to me was, be who you are. Don’t apologize for who you are. Be who you want to be because that was the message that Mrs Madrigal gave all of those people and that Armistead  Maupin gave to all of those people. Accept who you are. Grow in the situation that you’re in. We understand your fears. We understand that you’re scared because we’re all scared. Eventually you need to be able to live in your truth and be able to say this is who I am. All of his characters end up not wanting to put up with a lot of crap. All of his characters eventually stand up for themselves Marianne learns to stand up for herself. Michael Mouse learns to stand up for himself. Even Anna learns to stand up for herself. They don’t escape and run away and hide. They all learn and grow in the book and they all take on lives where even though they have challenges, I think that they’re more fulfilled people in the long run.

J.P.: Did you have an Anna Madrigal in your life?

Troy: It’s very funny. The woman who was my music teacher. Her name was Karen. She had been our next door neighbor for many years. My brother and her son had been buddies and played and I had played with both of them when we were growing up. But it wasn’t until I was a young adult and right after I got back from California that we took advantage of what she did professionally which is that she was a singing teacher and a vocal coach and a piano teacher. I got involved in her voice lessons so that I could become a better singer. I studied with her and funny enough, she was a staunch republican. She held some conservative outlooks on the world. She was a very religious woman and yet on the social spectrum, she understood that Gay people

needed to have a place that was safe and that Gay people needed to have a haven where they could express who they were and be who they were. It might be because she saw that in music. I think that music is a language of its own. I think it’s a form of communication. I think that when you sing, it is not only just words that you’re singing but it’s emotion that you’re expressing and she could see the unexpressed emotion. She could see the longing. She could see the  needs sometimes and so she was the real one sympathetic ear that I had and the person who said it’s all right. It’s okay and we’re going to let you sing things that express who you are that not just show off your voice but that take you to being who you want to be. She talked about her male students as her frog princes that they started out as frogs and became princes. I like that. I like that very much about what she taught me and what she believed: how she challenged people. There have been other people in my life who have provided that for me just through the example of how they’ve lived their lives: Jim and Gordy included. She was the first one who had said it’s okay, it’s all right. We accept you. We love you for who you are. So I think she’s probably the closest thing to an Anna Madrigal now as far as her fighting spirit and her ability to not take or to take on the world. I should say her ability to kind of take on the world that was my mother in many many ways. My mother had had to deal all of her life with people telling her why don’t you just get married and have a husband and sit back and clean your house and let your husband work and she was bound and determined to have a career for herself. She was bound and determined to be a free thinker and to be  a person who was quite liberal in her beliefs in the long run and would stand up and fight for herself. She taught her kids independence. Independence was so important to her. She wanted us all to be independent people so that we can all think for ourselves and sometimes that backfired on her because then her kids thought different things than she wanted them to think but on the whole I think that she appreciated the fact that all of her kids grew up to be very independent people. We all still get together every once in a while at family reunions and functions and things like that. None of us have followed the same path. We’ve all gone different directions, doing different things in our lives and it was because we were taught this sense of independence. You can go out and go after the dream that you choose to go after which was very important to us.

J.P.: So aligned with the themes of Tales of the City.

Troy: I think so. I think that it was important for me to read it at the time because I still had a little bit of that small town boy in me. I still had a little bit of  only knowing what small town life was like. Sure I’d lived in San Francisco for a year and it was overwhelming, by times, but here were people who were striking out on their own and not only just surviving but thriving. They were trying to find enough of their way in the world that they could be the people that they wanted to be whether they were doing that by conscious choice or not. Some of it is fate throwing them together. Some of it is Anna Madrigal sticking her hand in and kind of making some matches. Some of it is just cosmic fate of how we all run into each other. I always got the feeling that his characters in Tales of the City didn’t just work to exist. They worked towards a purpose. As an author, I would imagine that purpose is that they have to tell the story. They have to be the ones to propel the story. He introduced us to characters from all different walks of life. He showed us as much of what was the same about them as what was different about them and that gives me hope. I mean right now, we live in a time where we have precarious extremism on both sides and we don’t always find the commonalities that can bring us together. Part of what Maupin’s books did was do that. It said this is this person from this  wealth bracket or from this walk of life. They’re completely different from this person who doesn’t have any money at all. Is it a waiter at Perry’s? But that they all eventually reveal that they all have needs. They all have desires. They all want to be loved. They all want someone to love in return. They all need the interconnectedness and the human relationships that we all need. That was important to read.

J.P.: Did you watch the PBS adaptation when it came out?

Troy: I did! I was pretty proud of Armistead Maupin because he stood up for himself. The stories that you read talk about how every producer came along and wanted to change what his book was. We love your book except we don’t like the marijuana use. We love your book but we really don’t want eight characters in it. We love your books but what if we made this  a completely different family? You know this would be so much more relatable if we make it a sitcom. HBO at one point wanted to make it a sitcom and he stood up for himself as an author and said no. You’re going to do it the way that I wrote it or we’re not going to do it at all! I appreciated that it took him a long time to get it made then because of that. They were pretty true to the books. There were a few changes made here and there but they were pretty true to who those characters were. He talks about now, years later, that he wished he could have done some things differently and you know instead of hiring a woman who is born biologically female and  identifies as a a woman to play a transgendered woman. Wouldn’t it have been better if he could have just hired a transgender actor for the role? Then, the same thing with the Gay character? One of the things that I find so interesting as an actor looking at something like that is it used to be that straight men played Gay characters as a badge of honor like, see how much range I have and see how much I can manipulate myself into playing this character who is nothing like me. Nowadays Maupin says they’re all nice guys, but I wish I had hired a Gay actor to play my Gay character because there’s something intrinsic that would be brought in with something like that. As an actor I find that a double-edged sword because you should be able to play almost any part. You should be able to stretch yourself and you should be able to play different people. I mean just because I wasn’t born in the time of the pilgrims doesn’t mean that I can’t play a pilgrim on stage. I have played straight people on stage. I have played Gay people on stage. I have played people whose sexuality is a complete mystery and by times very well should be. I think it’s important  if he were to produce that now to understand where some of those people are in in his characterizations and then to be able to find actors and actresses and people who can play those roles who identify with those roles. He did a sequel in 2019.

They went back and visited the characters one more time and he introduced some Transgendered people and he introduced an actor to play Michael Mouse who was a Gay man in real life so that there was a certain amount of authenticity. I think authentic storytelling is incredibly important.  I think the difference between commercial storytelling and authentic storytelling is that you tell your story warts and all and you don’t worry about whether that won’t sell to the beautician who’s reading this in the beauty shop in St Louis or the the guy who’s reading it in the cabin in Idaho. You tell your story as it needs to be told and you tell it with the people that you need to tell it with so that it becomes real and authentic. Then let the people decide whether they’re going to want to read that or not.

J.P.: I guess my take on the actor, I don’t want to call it a controversy, I feel like actors are artists. They are storytellers. They do interpretation of character and text. So I think for me I’m kind of over listening or watching straight cis artists tell our stories. You know it’s still so rare and I’m like what more do they have to say about Queer life? Let Queer artists tell our stories. We don’t have that enough right now. I could go on about that forever. Was the 2019 mini series based off the books or was it a completely new story?

Troy: I think it was a little of both because I did watch it all the way through and there were elements that he introduced that were not in any of his books but there were things that he heavily borrowed on from the books. We did learn some new things about the characters that we had never learned before. The benefit of writing characters for that long for writing characters that you take from youth to old age is that there’s a different perspective every time that you write the characters and they are all too human. I like a story where a character isn’t perfect. I like a character have faults and foibles and things that we can understand and empathize with. A character who we recognize as traits within ourselves. I think Maupin did that. I think he managed to certainly refer back to some of his later books things like Marianne and Autumn and Michaels and  Olivers lives. I also think he took it all in a new direction too. It felt a little bit more commercial to me. Far be it for me to know whether he was selling out to the producing organization and making some more money. Some of it felt commercial to me but not enough that it detracted from the story. When books are comfortable old friends reintroducing characters sometimes is the same thing. No matter what that character has done, there’s still a recognizable character to you. You still want to know about them. You still want to know the things that they have done. I think that he wrapped up the story in a fairly neat way too: certainly Anna Madrigal’s story. The lovely thing about any character when you tell their story is that it’s just a slice of their life. You’re only seeing them from the point of the beginning of the story to the point of the end of the story but unless the character dies there’s more to tell about them before they ever were in the story and there’s certainly more to their life. After the book is finished  and you can give your audience an idea of what direction their life might head but it’s all a mystery. It’s all going to be whatever happens to them in their life. So I did enjoy that.

I think that what’s so unique about Armistead Maupin is that he understands those characters so well, not only because he wrote the characters but because they are all parts of him. They are all representative of certain aspects of his life: what he values and what he wants to see happen in the world and the types of people that he would like to be around. There are times that he says that the  real people who are in the books are very transparent. It’s very obvious who he’s writing about in fictionalized form or that some of them were even influenced by his friends but there’s as much of himself in every character that he writes as there is this whole fictional background. he’s created for them.

[contemplative music]

I want to thank Troy for joining us. For this theatre season he will be featured in MNM Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show opens December 2nd and runs through the 18th. If you’re in Boca Raton, Florida, we’re including a link in the show notes on how to buy tickets.

Also in Boca Raton, Troy will be performing in the tap dancing musical Anything Goes at the Wick Theatre. It runs from January 12th through February 12th. We’ve included the link to buy tickets for that show too, as well as for Troy’s next performance in March.

He will play Mr. Bumble in Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s production of Oliver. It runs from March 14 through April 2nd. He told me that one of the reasons he loves working at this particular theatre is their motto that you must be kind and you must be talented and if you can’t be kind and you can’t be talented then you have no business being there. He appreciate the affirmation, yes, but more so that we can all do this together as long as we’re all kind to each other.

[theme music]

Cheers for listening today! If you haven’t subscribed to our show on your favorite podcast listening app, or if you haven’t rated us, please do so. It helps other listeners find the show through all the algorithms and what not. For folks in the Twin Cities, you can listen to all of season 1 every Saturday morning at 7am on AM950, the Progressive voice of Minnesota.

And in the meantime, stay tuned to this space every Tuesday for new episodes of This Queer Book Saved My Life!, 7 Minutes in Book Heaven, or our cross-over episodes. And next Tuesday we are crossing-over with the phenomenal podcast The Sewers of Paris with Matt Baume.

Until then, see you Queer and Allies in the bookstores!