The Public Theater — the influential downtown institution that has recently provided the launchpad for “Hamilton” and “Fun Home,” as well as the Broadway-bound production of “Eclipsed” with Lupita Nyong’o — has added the transgender-themed musical “Southern Comfort” to its 2015-16 season, putting out a call to actors and singers who identify as trans.
Based on Kate Davis’ 2001 documentary (pictured above), “Southern Comfort” centers on a group of transgender friends in Georgia. The musical has been seen in New York in earlier productions at CAP21 in New York (where it starred Annette O’Toole in 2011) and in a subsequent showcase at the National Alliance for Musical Theater’s annual festival; a production of the show played Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, Mass. in 2013.
Transgender issues have claimed the spotlight across the entertainment industry recently, thanks to TV shows including Amazon’s “Transparent” and well-known names Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. “Tangerine,” an indie film about with transgender protagonists, is in the running for a handful of trophies at the 2015 Gotham Awards.
The Public has been a longtime proponent of diversity on its stages, and its scheduling of “Southern Comfort” comes at a time when the Broadway season looks unusually diverse. The call for transgender actors falls in line with an overall awareness in the entertainment industry of a need for representation both on screen and off it. (“Transparent,” for instance, tapped trans people for roles on screen, in the writing room and behind the scenes.)
Directed by Thomas Caruso and conceived by Robert DuSold and Caruso, “Southern Comfort” has a book and lyrics by Dan Collins and bluegrass-infused music by Julianna Wick Davis. The show is lined up for a run at the Public that begins previews Feb. 23 ahead of a March 7 opening 7.