Preview: Greg Campbell takes on multiple roles in Out

OUT written and performed by Greg Campbell, directed.

OUT written and performed by Greg Campbell, directed by Clinton Walker. Presented by Big Bappis at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George). July 1 at 7 pm, July 2 at 1:45 pm, July 4 at 4:30 pm, July 6 at 7:30 pm, July 7 at 11:15 pm, July 8 at 5:45 pm, July 9 at 2:15 pm. Buy tickets.

Greg Campbell loves playing multiple roles in a show, and he’s doing it big time in Out, for which he’s created over 20 characters, sometimes several in the same scene.

The semi-autobiographical play follows Glen, who comes out in 1970s Montreal.

“I recalled a time of fun and excitement,” says the writer/performer. “My memory was that the bars and the music were great, and I wanted to celebrate that time in my life. But then I looked back at my journals of the time and discovered that a number of entries were about depression and fighting with a gay friend. I’d forgotten that I wasn’t always happy.”

Campbell’s inspiration was hearing a disco song of the period he quickly wrote a scene about being with some other queer guys on Christopher Street during Gay Pride Day 1977.

“I eventually had all these scenes but not much linking them together. Jane Miller dramaturged and helped me create a through line, and director Clinton Walker encouraged me to add moments of humour, go emotionally deeper into the people we meet and let the narrator speak directly to the audience.”

The play includes two of Glen’s friends: Mario, “who’s openly gay, sleeps around and is comfortable with doing so,” and the more closeted Dmitri, who’s not out to his family and worries that they’ll find out about his sexuality.

Glen’s initially also guarded with his own parents. His alcoholic father shames him for being overtly emotional, while his mother knows he’s gay but protects Glen from his father and won’t talk openly about her son’s sexuality.

Campbell, who’s appeared in several VideoCabaret shows in multiple roles, has here set himself the challenge of fast changes, creating several figures in a back-and-forth fashion.

“I especially like the heightened, bigger-than-life characters like Bohemia, a drag queen at the Pride march [Campbell does great drag], or the Indian who’s part of the Village People. I also get to play everyone in scenes from Mary Poppins and a movie that helped define 70s gay male culture, The Boys In The Band.”

We’re speaking the morning after the horrific massacre in Orlando, and the tragedy gives Campbell a moment of sad reflection.

“In my lifetime, the world has changed in terms of LGBTQ acceptance, and I’d like to think that coming out is a different story now than it was 40 years ago. In many cases that’s true, but an event like the shootings is a reminder that some of what I went through at 17 is still happening.

“As celebratory and self-affirming as much of this play is, it’s still not easy to come out.”

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