Article Title:Paradise lost - breaking sport's big taboo
Author or Credit:David Parrish
Published on:17th August 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1384
Text:Fasitua Amosa The locker room of an American baseball team – complete with working showers for twelve buff men, dressed in nothing more than towels (if that) – is being recreated onstage for the Auckland season of the play ‘Take Me Out'. The play explores the impact on men's relationships when one of their number publicly comes out, shattering the status quo, and leading all characters to question their own identities with a gay superstar in their midst. Written by Tony-award winning playwright Richard Greenberg, the play first opened in London in 2002, and has received rave reviews for seasons in the UK, the US and Australia. Fasitua Amosa, of Sione's Wedding fame, landed the role of Darren Lemming, the egotistical star of the fictitious New York Empires team. “Paradise is lost,” explains Amosa. Lemming calls a press conference and announces that he's gay, igniting a very public media frenzy, and challenging teammates to confront their own ideas on what it means to be a man. “There's a big question mark hanging over the locker room that will never be removed,” observes Amosa. “It can only be dealt with. There's no more ignorant bliss.” Characters respond to the shock announcement differently. Some players are staunchly religious; the coach appears to be supportive, at least initially; one teammate is perhaps “overly supportive” and another fixates on what it means to have a gay man in their midst, particularly when naked and showering. And yes, there is love, or a “seed of hope” amidst an otherwise dark play, as Amosa puts it. “It's all about male relationships, which is a very special thing. Even raising the question of sexuality changes the nature of those relationships. Some sort of order needs to be re-established.” The themes of male relationships and interpersonal conflict (and possibly resolution) are viewed through the prism of the game of baseball itself. “The filter of the play is triangulation. It's interesting how baseball is a big game of numbers, mostly in multiples of three,” observes Amosa. “They have statistics on everything, they can link things back to a hundred years ago. It's very analytical, and this play requires a lot of analysing of male relationships.” So why do men react with such intensity to the news of a gay man in their midst? Amosa laughs: “it seems to flick a switch in men…” But what exactly throws that switch is “something we're all trying to discover. I'm not sure the play answers that, as much as poses the questions.” “This play should raise more conversation. What actually happened here? How did it all come about? Can we say all this came about due to the coming out, or can we say it's all because a racist character joins the team? You look at it yourself and try to come up with your own decision.” When he first read the play, recalls Amosa, the “language just lifted off the page… the way the scenes flowed and what it dealt with… That switched a light bulb on for me. I could hear people saying these words… This play just speaks for itself. It's like a wave – the wave is already there, and the actors just have to catch it and ride it to the end.” The characters deal with the news of Lemming's ‘outing' in the “testosterone-fuelled” locker room. Such an intimate environment perhaps crystallises the men's attitudes to Lemming. Men, regardless of their sexuality, all “like to preen themselves” and compare their ‘assets' with other men, explains Amosa. One scene hits this rather delicate issue head on, and the audience, within arm's reach of the characters' naked flesh, have a bird's eye view of this most thoroughly of masculine propensities. Amosa, a straight lad, has no problem playing the role of a gay baseballer. He took the play on “partly for the challenge of getting my gear off on stage, but mostly because it tells a really good story, a really truthful story… It's very poignant and explores every avenue quite clearly.” He makes no pretence of understanding what it might be like for a gay man coming out in a repressive environment. “Yeah,” he muses, “I can only get a sense of it, but not every gay person who comes out has a celebrity status to hide behind.” “Besides, as an actor you've got to be game for a bit of a challenge, and be ready to go into grey areas that you may never have explored before.” And the creative process has been cathartic for Amosa. He's been in training and “flexing my biceps a lot… I've been pulled up on this by some of the cast members!” “Once you see your body working you either want it to work better or look like something else. I'm trying not to be too vain about it.” Amosa agrees that training his body has become quite addictive. “It's a different feeling. I've never actually been this size, ever. I'm liking it!” He feels positively charged with male hormones when he gets home after rehearsals. “When we're all together it's quite a testosterone force! Twelve fairly buff guys all in shape. There's quite a lot of the old Big T.” He realises the irony in that he, as a straight lad is “around men all day,” and laughs heartily at the suggestion he's been living a gay man's fantasy through the month's of rehearsal. “There's been a few men's magazines floating around rehearsal room, and all of a sudden, it's like, ‘wow, check out that guy, those are some serious abs! Wow, he's got a wicked body – that torso – there's no body fat on that dude!” But he's yet to get his kit off in front of the cast members. One of his best friends is a fellow cast member, and they've already been joking around about seeing each other ‘au natural'. “Getting your clothes off is quite literally freeing, but you get a greater sense of liberation than just less weight. To do it in front of an audience will deepen that sense of liberation!” He laughs, perhaps nervously, at the prospect. “I can do it in my bedroom. I can do it in the gym locker room, but…” It's not about the nudity though, says Amosa. “It's not gratuitous.” “Everything for me comes down to the story. If the story's good and has integrity, then I want to be a part of that. Whether that means I play a homosexual, a nanny or a psychopathic killer, it's all the same to me. What I've discovered in my career is that everybody has their own story. You can't say, ‘oh that's a bad story' or ‘that's a good story'. Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do, and we're all in the same boat.” Directed by Simon Bosher, ‘Take Me Out' opens this Friday 18 August at Auckland's Silo Theatre and runs until 23 September 2006. David Parrish - 17th August 2006    
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