Stuffed toy prompts playwright’s reflection on LGBT equality


“The Boy and the Pink Bear”
June 20 – 23
Southwest Performing Arts Center
915 New Hope Road, Atlanta, GA 30331

“The Velveteen Rabbit”
June 7 – July 27
Serenbe Playhouse
9110 Selborne Lane, Suite 210, Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268

“The Cat in the Hat”
June 13 – July 28
Center for Puppetry Arts
1404 Spring St., Atlanta, GA 30309

“Being an alpha male, I didn’t react well,” he admits. “My girlfriend walked in and tapped me on the head. My behavior was outrageous and many people would have behaved in the same way.

“To me, it brings up the proverbial question – if my son were gay how would I react, would I love him unconditionally?”

Johnson feels that coming out is hard for anyone, but is particularly difficult in the African-American community where religion is such an important factor. He doesn’t have any gay people in his own family – “yet,” he says, although he thinks it is inevitable.

Although Johnson is not gay, he thinks sexual orientation is something society needs to accept.

“People do need to be judged by their character and who they are,” he says.

A lawyer whose first play dealt with Christianity, Johnson hopes to take this show to Charlotte next and then to several theater companies in California.

Children’s favorites revisited

Serenbe Playhouse’s three-play summer season gets underway this weekend with a new adaptation of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” directed by Brian Clowdus, the company’s artistic director. Serenbe Playhouse uses outdoor settings to stage their productions and the director feels exterior locations are perfect for this work.

Rachel Teagle has adapted the original story by Margery Williams and modernized it. It’s been updated to a Civil War-era Savannah, where a young boy gets a gift of a stuffed rabbit from his nanny.

Gay audiences can relate, Clowdus feels, to the story of an unconventional family here. The character of the Bunny, too, is identifiable: He has long been ostracized and gets the courage to accept himself for who he is and that he can be loved, says Clowdus, who is gay and also directs Serenbe’s upcoming version of “Hair.”

Finally, when the Center for Puppetry Arts debuts a new version of “The Cat in the Hat” next week, it does so with a gay actor in the cast — Aaron Gotlieb, who portrays The Fish.

The actor, who has been a regular at the Center for many years now, feels gay and straight audiences, as well as children and adults, will enjoy Jon Ludwig’s adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic.

“It is everyone’s rainy afternoon story — a universe to fill, the house to keep you going when you are five and are your parents are away,” says Gotlieb.

The character of The Fish acts somewhat as the voice of reason, says the actor, when the Cat character enters the picture and almost literally turns the house upside down. 

“The Cat in the Hat” was originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain before heading to the U.S.

On Stage

Through June 16 at Actor’s Express

Gay director Freddie Ashley helms this tale of four writers getting more than they bargained for during a writing class lead by a world-class author.

“The Book Club Play”
Through June 23 at Horizon Theatre

A closeted gay man is part of the ensemble in this comedy about six friends/colleagues whose book club proceedings become part of a documentary.


“Shakespeare Follies”
June 15 at Arts Exchange

This bawdy romp through Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” features jugglers, dancers, drummers and more.


Top photo: Serenbe Playhouse brings ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ to its unique outdoor setting, starting June 7. (Photo courtesy Serenbe Playhouse)