Writer, actor and activist Timothy Conigrave’s best-selling memoir (winner of the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction and listed as one of the “100 Favorite Australian Books” by the Australian Society of Authors) is one of Australia's great love stories. The stage version by Tommy Murphy captures all its special magic. Producers Nick Hardcastle and Nate Jones launch their newly formed Australian Theatre Company with the Los Angeles premiere of Holding the Man, featuring an all-Australian cast and directed by veteran Hollywood acting coach Larry Moss. Opening night is May 10 at the Matrix Theatre.
The course of teenage love rarely runs smooth, but it is a white-water adventure if you are a gay boy in an all-boys school in 1970s Melbourne with a crush on the captain of the football team. Despite the odds, Tim and John fall in love and for fifteen years their relationship survives everything life throws at it — the separations, the discriminations, the temptations, the jealousies and the losses — until the only problem love can't solve threatens to part them. The play’s title refers to a transgression that incurs a penalty in Australian rules football.
“Tim’s story is funny, harrowing, honest and universal,” says Moss. “Like some of us, he discovers too late that he is loved. By the time he finds out he had it, he can no longer get it back.”
Highly theatrical in style, Holding the Man runs the gamut from absurdism to magical realism (including unique puppets designed by Alex “Jürgen” Ferguson) to naturalism to farce to deep drama. It is a celebration that speaks across generations, sexual preference and culture.
“There's a great deal of character work involved in a play like this where the actors must play a variety of parts,” Moss continues. “Acting is about transformation and Holding the Man is full of that. I’ve taught Down Under for the past four years and fell in love with the passion and commitment the Australian acting community has for the theater. There is a depth of talent that the world is only just beginning to recognize.”
The all-Australian cast of Holding the Man includes Nate Jones (Australian stage production of A Chorus Line and feature film Restraint) as Timothy Conigrave and Adam J. Yeend (Australian stage productions of The Hurting Game, Chain of Fools, The Girl from the West of the City; lead in the Australian feature film Offing David; Lifetime’s Liz & Dick, World Music Independent Film Festival Best Actor nomination for Alchemy, lead role in upcoming An American Piano) as John Caleo. Taking on multiple roles are Cameron Daddo (best known in Australia as the host of Perfect Match and for mini-series The Heroes, Golden Fiddles, Tracks of Glory, Bony, Beaconsfield and Packed to the Rafters; and in the U.S. as a regular on series such as She Spies, Hope Island, F/X and Models Inc.); Luke O’Sullivan (Australian theater credits include Alan Ball's All That I Will Ever Be, Elizabeth Coleman's Almost With You originating the lead role of Dan, and the U.S. tour of The Silver Donkey); Adrienne Smith (Australian TV movie Dangerous Remedy and series including City Homicide, Blue Heelers, Neighbours, The Secret Life of Us and We Can Be Heroes); and Roxane Wilson (recurring roles on popular Australian TV series such as Home and Away, Out of the Blue, The Alice and Stingers).
Holding the Man smashed box office records for Australia’s Griffin Theatre Company when it premiered in 2006, garnering three “Best Play” awards including the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, Australian Writers' Guild Award (AWGIE) and Aussietheatre.com Award. The production went on to complete four sold-out seasons in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House and Belvoir, then moved to the Brisbane Powerhouse and Melbourne Theatre Company before opening in London's West End. Last year, La Boite Theatre Company brought the original production back to Brisbane for yet another run. Variety calls Holding the Man “a theatrical triumph,” the Australian says, “wickedly funny,” and the Melbourne Herald Sun gives it “10 stars out of 10… a must see.”
Larry Moss, perhaps best known for coaching Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning/nominated performances by actors such as Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets; Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby; Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile; Hank Azaria in Tuesdays With Morrie; Jim Carrey in The Majestic; Tobey Maguire in Seabiscuit; Sutton Foster Anything Goes; and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island, Inception, J Edgar, Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street, also has extensive directing credits: Michael Raynor's Who is Floyd Stearn; Richard Kalinoski’s Beast On The Moon; Jack Holmes’s RFK (Drama League Award); April Daisy White‘s Sugar; Richard Vetere’s How To Go Out On A Date In Queens; Richard Hellersen’s Dos Corazones both as a play and film; and the world premiere of Jam, a new musical, starring Clint Holmes at the Judy Bayley Theatre. He directed Josh Jonas’s Capture Now Off-Broadway, I Love My Wife starring Jason Alexander at Reprise and John Patrick Shanley’s Beggars In The House Of Plenty at Theatre/Theater. Moss directed and developed Pamela Gien’s The Syringa Tree, which had its world premiere at ACT in Seattle, opened in New York in September 2000 and won the Obie Award for Best Play, Drama Desk Award, Outer Circle Critics Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, a Drama League Honor and a nomination for the John Gassner Playwriting Award. The Syringa Tree has played to sold out houses and critical acclaim around the world, including London (National Theatre), Toronto (Can Stage) where it won the Dora Award for Best Actress and Best Play of 2005, and, most recently, South Africa (Baxter Theatre). He also directed the TV version that was filmed by Trio Arts Network. Moss developed and directed Bo Eason’s Runt Of The Litter at Manhattan Class Company in 2002 and again when it re-opened in 2007 at 37 Arts Theatre. It was voted one of the top ten plays of the year and bought by Castle Rock to be made into a major motion picture. Runt is currently on a national tour which began in Seattle at ACT. Mr. Moss is scheduled to direct the feature films Relative Insanity and Monty (a biopic about Montgomery Clift) in 2015 and 2016.
Set design for Holding the Man is by John Iacovelli, lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick, sound design is by Cricket S. Meyers and costume design is by Shon LeBlanc. Nick Hardcastle, Nate Jones and Mike Abramson produce for the Australian Theatre Company.
Holding the Man opens on May 10 and continues through June 29, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Two preview performances take place on Thursday, May 8 and Friday, May 9, both at 8 p.m. General admission is $34.99. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (west of Stanley Ave., between Fairfax and La Brea). For reservations and information, call 323-960-7735 or go to www.holdingtheman.us.