In the 20 years that it’s been around, the Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company has become known for putting superheroes onstage long before Marvel reigned at the box office. They’re also a troupe that champions diversity — but in the early days, they never advertised that part of their mission.
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“Twenty years ago, we kind of hid the fact that we were a company of diversity,” said playwright Qui Nguyen (“Vietgone”), the co-founder and co-artistic director of Vampire Cowboys, on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “We were afraid that people would think we were medicine, and no one wants medicine. I said, for us: ‘We’ll make superheroes. That’s going to be the heartbeat of what we’ll do, and people just won’t know [until they’re watching the show] that all our superheroes are LGBTQIA, POC and female.'”
Nguyen’s latest play, and his newest outing with Vampire Cowboys, is “Revenge Song,” now premiering at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. It’s a bit of a departure for the playwright and for the company, because it’s the first Vampire Cowboys show to be inspired by a pre-existing source — in this case, the swashbuckling life of 17th century French woman Julie d’Aubigny.
“When people see the show, I think the craziest s— that’s on that stage is going to be what they assume is the stuff we made up,” Nguyen said. “All we did was make superhero fights, and we made her speak like someone from 2020. But basically the story of her falling in love and grave-robbing and burning down churches and beating up opera singers and running away from the law, that was all her!”
He added, “She was special because she was a rule breaker, and … that was something that I felt a kindred spirit to, and my company felt a kindred spirit to.”
On “Stagecraft,” Nguyen, a writer on Netflix series “The Society,” also talked about his upcoming Off Broadway show “Poor Yella Rednecks,” but wasn’t allowed to disclose any details about the film project he’s working on for Disney. He also revealed how Vampire Cowboys cultivated a fanbase that’s helped sustain the troupe for the last two decades — including an early appearance at what was an unknown start-up event at the time: New York Comic Con.
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere that finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.