Broadway producer Jordan Roth on Larry Kramer’s apology! Plus: Cole Escola’s dream role & Sarah Paulson gets spiritual

Broadway producer Jordan Roth on Larry Kramer’s apology! Plus: Cole Escola’s dream role & Sarah Paulson gets spiritual

You are currently viewing Broadway producer Jordan Roth on Larry Kramer’s apology! Plus: Cole Escola’s dream role & Sarah Paulson gets spiritual
wp header logo png
read now, cry later

Flamboyantly stylish Broadway producer Jordan Roth was the guest of honor at a Pride Month luncheon at MAD (Museum of Arts and Design) to launch two exhibits there: “Identity Is” (an outfit created by Michael Sylvan Robinson and worn by Roth at the ’21 Met Gala) and “Out of the Jewelry Box”, a collection by queer artists and their allies.

Roth is the multi Tony winning President of Jujamcyn Theaters, which has produced revivals like Funny Girl and Into the Woods and new shows like Some Like it Hot and Slave Play.

As we observed the eye popping exhibits, I talked to him about his fashionable trajectory:

Hello, Jordan. How did you develop your affinity for fashion?

Fashion has always been vocabulary for me. When I was little, it was a way of exploring who I was, who I wanted to be, who I could be.

But where does a kid get clothes to experiment with?

When we’re little, anything can become anything. As I started to become a teenager, I was figuring it out through the lens of fashion.

But you knew you were male, right?

It’s wider than that. It’s a way of expanding the canvas of self and certainly gender. I had to learn to not be held back by gender.

The expectations?

And the limitations.

And let’s face it, women have better clothes.

That’s for sure! [laughs] We have two-gendered people unnecessarily. We’ve decided that a skirt is a piece of women’s clothing. It is clothing! We’ve decided that a necktie is a piece of men’s clothing. It is just clothing! We can free ourselves or free the clothes of those limitations. We give ourselves a much broader canvas of the daily act of self expression through getting dressed up.

Agreed. More seriously: In 2020, famed activist Larry Kramer wrote a public letter saying that your father Stephen owns buildings with Trump and you should talk to him to take a stand. I was annoyed by the way Kramer issued his attack: “Take off all those dresses you seem to wear, get a haircut and be a man and beg your father to help us.”

I’m gonna think about that.

Always the diplomat.

I want to give you a thoughtful response.

I just resented his implying that first of all, a man is necessarily stronger than a woman and also that a man in a dress isn’t a real man. Especially considering all that our community’s gone through.

Yes. I agree. But the ways in which each of us has been hurt come out in how we react to one another. Clearly what I was doing pushed something in him. It was not about me.

I’m always amazed that when I’ve been bullied, it’s often by our own community.

Larry gave us so much. And fought so hard and gave us language to understand ourselves—myself—with. Last December, I did a reading of his play The Normal Heart. I played Mickey on World AIDS Day at the LGBT Center. It was such an extraordinary legacy experience to be placed in that language, in that building. I understand how complicated the conflict is in ourselves. And I understand how conflict can be irritated, rubbed up against and pushed by what other people do, say and look like. So ultimately, I have a lot of love for him.

I factored that in at the time and also, he was sick and extra cranky. Larry was monumentally important.

Postscript: Jordan and I then rode up a few flights to the luncheon and after a moment, he came up to me and said, “My husband [producer/author Richie Jackson] just reminded me that Larry apologized!” “Happy ending” we mouthed in unison.

Triumph and laughs at the Drama Desks

A beaming finale to the theater season came with the Drama Desk Awards at the Skirball Center, where the best of Off-Broadway and Broadway was celebrated over air kisses and salad. I talked to some dazzling bright lights in the press room.

Here are some of our most award worthy exchanges:

Cole Escola, winner of the Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award for Oh, Mary!

Hi, Cole. Your play is moving to Broadway in a few days. Did you ever think that would happen? “It’s the stupidest thing I‘ve ever heard,” replied Cole, “but it also makes sense.” What’s your dream theater role? “Grace Farrell in Annie!” exulted Cole. A rather thankless part, no? “A sort of blank slate that you can fill in however you want.” Do you feel the Broadway community will welcome you? “They just gave me an award,” Cole responded. “But that was for Off-Broadway,” I reminded. “True,” Cole said. “We’ll see if they slam the door in my face.” [Laughs]

Jessica Lange, co-winner of Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play for Mother Play

Hello, Jessica. Does your homophobic character feel she’s doing the right thing by abandoning her gay son? “I don’t know,” answered Jessica. “For her, it’s inevitable in a way because of who she is, how she was brought up. The climate in the country when her son comes out to her in 1968, it’s a very different environment. I think in some way she struggles with it because it breaks her heart, but at the same time she thinks she cannot accept him.” And your job as an actor is to humanize the character and find motivations, not just play her as a mean mother, right? “Right. You can’t do that. But you also can’t pull back from her behavior.”

Were you intimidated by the 12-minute, dialogue-free passage in the play where you fill time in your apartment alone, having alienated your kids? “Oddly enough,” said Jessica, “that was my favorite part to investigate. We read a lot about the epidemic of loneliness in this country. How would she navigate when she’s come to the end of her resources? It’s very exciting for me to play that, with the physicality and the face.”

Sarah Paulson, co-winner of Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play, for Appropriate (She later won the Tony too.)

Sarah, your role in this family dramedy as Toni (the executor of her dad’s estate) is so visceral. Do you draw upon reserves of energy you didn’t know you had? “Yes. I think I’ve surprised myself in terms of where those reserves are stored. I’m curious as to where I keep them and where they are when I need them when I’m not doing a play. People have come backstage after a matinee on a two-play day and said, ‘You’re going to do this again today?’” But you adore the theater and a play gives you a vehicle with which to soar, no? “I’m not a religious person,” Sarah replied, “but doing a play is as spiritual an experience as I can imagine. Something happens between you and the audience…” And how do you like your new portrait they unveiled at Sardi’s in May? “It looks like a combination of Jodie Comer and Winona Ryder. I’ll take it!” [laughs]

Kara Young, co-winner of Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play for Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through The Cotton Patch (She later won the Tony too.)

Hello, Kara. Your character, Lutiebelle, can see through Purlie’s bravado and realize he’s a gem, right? “Yes. She’s intuitive. She takes the biggest chance of her life—leaves everything she’s ever known, all security. If not now, then when?” Did you ever feel the urge to break into the showstopping song “I Got Love,” which Melba Moore sang in the musical version of Purlie? “I wish I could sing ‘I Got Love’,” laughed Kara. “I can’t sing!”

Patrick Page, winner of Outstanding Solo Performance for All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain

Hey, Patrick. I loved the thesis of your show, which is that the Bard made villains into real people. “We know people like them,” replied the actor, “and if we look in the mirror, we might find them a bit closer. I have all of those urges–revenge, envy, and malevolence. It’s only by bringing them into the light that I can manage them. I’m terrified of people who say they don’t have those urges.” “Don’t look at ME”, I joked. “Anyway, was Iago Shakespeare’s most evil villain?” “Yes,” intoned Patrick. “I think he was born without much ability to empathize. And when you have a violent psychopath like Iago becomes, there were things that happened to them in childhood…He was abused.”


Ever since it was announced that six-Tony-winning Audra McDonald will play Mama Rose in an imminent revival of Gypsy, tongues have wagged about the rest of the show’s casting. Well, my little birdies swear that Herbie will either be Stephen Colbert (though scheduling may prove un-doable) or Jason Sudeikis.

And of course, if Audra really wants someone to sing “Together, Wherever We Go” with, there’s always [husband] Will Swenson!

Don’t forget to share:


Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.