The unexpected beginnings of Armistead Maupin

JUN 14, 2017

Armistead Maupin is the veteran San Francisco writer known for his iconic series Tales of the City.

In his famous series, which started off in the San Francisco Chronicle, Maupin wove titillating fiction about characters from around San Francisco. They’re told through protagonist Mary Ann Singleton, who moves to the city from Ohio, and meets a host of colorful city characters — rich and poor, gay, straight and bisexual.

A new documentary exploring Maupin’s life will debut at this year’s Frameline Film Festival. It’s called the Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin. Director Jennifer Kroot stopped by to tell us more about Maupin’s personal life. She says he wasn’t always as unabashedly, openly gay as San Franciscans knew him to be through the series.

Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin debuts Thursday, June 15th as part of the Frameline Film Festival. For more information on the screening, click here.

Click here to listen to an interview with Jennifer Kroot, Director of Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.

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Armistead Maupin’s own tale in a documentary

By David Lewis
May 31, 2017 Updated: June 2, 2017 11:28am

Armistead Maupin, one of the world’s foremost gay writers, hails from a genealogical literary tree that includes Marcel Proust, E.M. Forster and Christopher Isherwood. His “Tales of the City” novels, which began as a serialization in The Chronicle starting in the late 1970s, have inspired generations of LGBTQ folks. “Letter to Mama,” an episode from the serial, remains one of the most influential coming-out moments in the annals of fiction.

The longtime San Francisco resident and groundbreaking author is the subject of the new documentary “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” which will open this year’s Frameline Film Festival:

Q: How will you feel about seeing the film at the Castro Theatre?

A: Wonderful. Some of the most exciting film-going nights of my life have been there. It was where I first read “Letter to Mama,” two days before it was published in 1977. Cleve Jones and Harvey Milk were in the crowd. I thought the roof was going to come down, because everyone in the room was feeling it.

Q: If you could write another letter home, what would you say?

A: Supporting a gay child is not compatible with voting for a homophobic politician. When you say, “It’s my politics, but I still love you,” I don’t believe that. You are no friend of mine, or a family member of mine, either.

Q: This has been a big year for you.

A: A lot of chickens have come home to roost: the movie, my memoir (“Logical Family,” HarperCollins, due Oct. 3) — and something else I can’t tell you about. I’ve been very blessed.

Q: Was it difficult sharing your life for this film?

A: It helped tremendously that I had seen (director) Jennifer Kroot’s documentary on George Takei (“To Be Takei”). It had a light touch, yet dealt with serious issues. That’s very compatible with what I’ve done over the years. I couldn’t be more grateful to Jennifer and (co-director) Bill Weber. They’re wonderful — and now they’re friends of mine.

— David Lewis

“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” screens at 7 p.m., June 15, at the Castro Theatre.

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San Francisco avec Armistead Maupin

Check out this gorgeous piece on Armistead Maupin, and San Francisco, from ARTE ,a French and German network.  Thanks to Journalist Virginie Goubier for the heads up.  It’s great to see my friend, David Roundsley interviewed as well.

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“Tales of the City” a concert

I am back home from an extremely short trip to New York to see “Tales of the City” a concert at the Music Box Theater. The musical debuted at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in 2011, and it was wonderful to see the musical come to life in the Big Apple.  Monday’s performance was a benefit for the Eugene O’Neal theater and the Trevor Project, and featured much of the original cast. Here are some photos from the concert, and portions of the Playbill.  Check out some awesome photos from the performance on instagram here.

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‘Tales Of The City’ Will Sex Up New York For One Night Only

A musical version of the wild, queer-inclusive classic will benefit LGBTQ youth.

By Curtis M. Wong
03/22/2017 02:42 pm ET

Though it will be a brief, bittersweet affair, the beloved residents of 28 Barbary Lane are bound for Broadway.

A musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s sexy, unabashedly queer literary series, “Tales of the City,” will receive a one-night staging at New York’s Music Box Theater March 27. The show, which features a book by “Avenue Q” librettist Jeff Whitty and music by Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears and John Garden, was developed as part of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Music Theater conference in 2009.

Produced by the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, the 2017 incarnation of “Tales of the City” will be a staged concert version of the musical as it appeared in its debut engagement at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in 2011. The show, which takes place in 1976, follows Mary Ann Singleton (played by Betsy Wolfe), a naive Ohio woman who moves to San Francisco on a whim. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane, where she gradually befriends the building’s free-spirited tenants, including the openly gay Michael “Mouse” Tolliver (Wesley Taylor) and pill-popping Mona Ramsey (Mary Birdsong). New to the March 27 cast is Justin Vivian Bond, who will play pot-smoking landlady and surrogate mother to Barbary Lane’s pack of eccentrics, Anna Madrigal, while Maupin himself will also appear.

Shears told The Huffington Post that when Whitty asked him and Garden to help turn “Tales of the City” into a musical over a decade ago, the pair jumped at the opportunity. The singer-songwriter’s personal history with the source material – he said he “devoured” the books in high school, shortly before coming out as gay – made the decision a no-brainer. “I knew it was something I had to do, and something I wanted to do,” he said. “The books were a real eye-opener for me, and made me feel settled about who I was [as I was coming out]. They’ve always had a special place in my heart.”

The inclusive nature of Maupin’s work was certainly ahead of its time when his first “Tales of the City” stories were serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle in 1976, but continue to impact the musical’s cast members, too. The stories struck a personal chord for Taylor, a Florida native who was raised in a conservative Christian family. The 30-year-old actor-singer, who appeared on Broadway in “Rock of Ages” and “The Addams Family,” said relocating to San Francisco for “Tales of the City” offered him a fresh start after years of New York theater gigs. The city’s “weird, kooky and unabashed” queer community, he said, embraced him wholeheartedly.

“It gave me this gay fraternity that I never had before, which I think is important for a young gay person,” he told HuffPost. In some respects, Taylor had a unique challenge, given that Maupin had written the character of Michael as a stand-in for himself. Noting that the author “couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming” during the development of the musical, Taylor soon found that the role “resonated so much. Michael is lost, but not in a spiritual sense. He’s seeking the love and the support that his family can’t provide for him, and I identify with that struggle and that journey.”

Wolfe, 34, likened her “Tales of the City” experience to her work in the 2016 Broadway revival of “Falsettos,” which starred Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells as an embattled gay couple during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Though “Tales of the City” was extended three times during its San Francisco run, a Broadway production never materialized. The fact that the show has never been produced outside of the Golden State, she said, has sparked a cult-like interest in the musical among theater fans. “People at the stage door of other shows that I’ve done will constantly say, ‘Man! I wish I could see that,’ or ‘I have a secret recording,’” she said. “It was really, truly, a special story to tell, and that doesn’t always happen in the theater.”

Whether or not “Tales of the City” will live on beyond the March 27 production in New York or elsewhere remains to be seen. Of course, the team is cognizant of the implications of staging an LGBTQ-inclusive piece at a time when many members of the queer community feel uncertain about the future. Hence, proceeds from the show will benefit The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth.

The concert’s charitable aim, Garden said, will undoubtedly please the author. “A lot of these stories are about finding family – about finding the family you want to spend the rest of your life with, or the family that’s right for you at that point in time,” he said. “Maupin treated everyone’s story equally. He presented people’s lives as human lives, rather than any particular gender or sexuality. Anyone I know who loves this story feels like they own it.”

“Tales of the City” plays the Music Box Theater in New York March 27. Head here for more information.

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“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” Screenings

Here are a few screenings for “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”, keep posted for additional updates!

Prince Theater, Main Stage | Friday, March 17th @ 5pm

BFI Flare
NFT 1 | Saturday, March 25th @ 4:10pm
Studio | Saturday, March 25th @ 8:20pm

Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival
Brattle Theatre | Saturday, Apr 1st @ 7:00pm

QFest St. Louis
The .Zack Theater | Sunday, April 2nd @ 5:15 pm

Ashland Independent Film Festival
Armory | Friday April, 7th @ 6:00pm

Cleveland International Film Festival
Tower Cinemas | Friday, April 7th @ 11:20am
Tower Cinemas | Saturday, April 8th @ 9:50pm

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Armistead Maupin’s Memoir, “Logical Family”, Available October 3, 2017

Armistead Maupin’s “Logical Family” will be released on October 3, 2017 and is available for pre-order now!

Critical Praise

“I fell in love with Maupin’s effervescent Tales of the City decades ago, and his genius turn at memoir is no less compelling. Logical Family is a must read.” — Mary Karr

“An enormously talented writer—witty but always sympathetic, generous in showing us the secrets of his heart…. By writing about what’s seemingly different Armistead Maupin always manages to capture what’s so hilariously painfully true for all of us.” — Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement

“Maupin deftly illustrates how far America and the pioneering Anna have come, and nearly 40 years into the [Tales of the City] series, his writing remains wildly addictive but is deeper and richer.” — People

“Together, the nine volumes of ‘Tales’ constitute a cultural touchstone that has enlarged our understanding of the varieties of human behavior…. ‘Tales of the City’ remains an immensely readable accomplishment that wears its significance lightly.” — Washington Post

“A consummate entertainer who has made a generation laugh… It is Maupin’s Dickensian gift to be able to render love convincingly.” — Edmund White, Times Literary Supplement


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