May 6, 2011


The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill

Mike Pingel

On Saturday, May 14, The SkyPilot Theatre Company presented the world premiere comedy The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill by playwright Jeff Goode. The play is set in 1865 as a Civil War town is gripped by controversy when the dreaded Emancipation Proclamation threatens to redefine freedom as they know it. The city's most eligible sea captain, the deacon of the local church brothel and the friendly neighborhood Klansman are united by their mutual hatred of that liberal pantywaist Lincoln. 

Frontiers sat down with two of the stars of the play, Frank Ensenberger and Matt Valle. The actors opened up about the comedic play concerning gay marriage set around the civil war.

Tell us a bit about this world premiere play The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill.
Ensenberger:  It's a simple love story about two men who want to marry each other, set during the Civil War, and the tornado of overreaction that surrounds them.
Valle:  It's a new comedy by Jeff Goode with history as a backbone to a comedic romp about Civil Rights.  

Does Emancipation shine a light on more than just gay marriage?

Ensenberger: Yes. It also deals with the politics of race and immigration and how every social issue is blown way out of proportion. It's hilarious.
Valle: It touches everything from abolition, abomination, civil rights, genesis—and that's just in the first aisle of Baggot's General Store.

Which character do you play in the show?

Ensenberger: I play Baggot, the owner of the general store.
Valle: I play Evan, a young sprite looking to the elders for answers about war, sex and switching.

What attracted you to the role?

Ensenberger: He's the bad guy. He's always trying to manipulate everyone into doing things his way. His way is the right way.
Valle: The writing and the bravery of Jeff Goode. 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your character?

Ensenberger: I love his name, Baggot. I took it as a combination of Bigot and Faggot. I love that he says very funny things and he doesn't realize he's being funny. I don't like his politics—I don't agree with them. He's very conservative. He's racist. He's homophobic, even though he's gay. I got to grow a full beard for the role!  I've never had facial hair. Now, I'm a strawberry blonde, so my beard is red and it looks like pubic hair. Eventually they're going to become mutton chops. I'm kind of scared to have Civl War-era mutton chops in 2011 Los Angeles.    
Valle: At his age, his ability to stand up for himself is my favorite. The amount he has to hear I imagine to be the least. 

Who would your character be most like in today’s society?

Ensenberger: He's Rush Limbaugh with a libido, which is exciting and frightening at the same time.
Valle: Any teenager, on the cusp from being a kid and into teenage-land, starting to find himself, friends and relationships, all while the world changes around him. 

What song would your character be listening to in today’s music?

Ensenberger: Anything country—probably Toby Keith. Something patriotic and Christian.
Valle: "Come Sail Away" by Styx.

What excites you about doing live theater?

Ensenberger: Getting an immediate reaction from the audience. That's the best feeling ever, and it's different every night.
Valle: The feeling of walking on the ledge of a burning building ready to jump 100 stories to safety and knowing you are gonna live.  

Being an openly gay actor, has it been a harder road do you think?

Ensenberger: No. I think it's a hard road for any actor, gay or straight. If you keep working at it, you'll succeed.
Valle: I think that I've felt that before. There was a time I thought it to be harder because of my sexuality, but it was a battle in my head and not the industry. It seems just as equally hard for my straight friends. I think we all have a path, and if we spend time comparing our hardships on who's got it worse, then our road pauses. I'd rather keep moving forward. 

What are your thoughts about straight actors playing gay?

Ensenberger: I have no problem with it. I've played straight characters and I'll continue to do so. Actors are actors. Their sexuality doesn't matter when they're on stage. Actors play a character. They're not playing themselves.
Valle: I've seen it done brilliantly ... and horrifyingly.  

Any advice to new gay actors?

Ensenberger: Be versatile (pun intended). Be prepared. Don't be a one-trick pony.
Valle: Do like Babs. Songwriting, acting, producing. Throw yourself in and trust you won’t drown. 

What one thing do you want the audience to go away with from your show?

Ensenberger: A sore face from laughing.
Valle: A wider eye, so they may see an opportunity to smile. 

Where can your new fans contact you?

Ensenberger: They can come to the theater, T. U. Studios in North Hollywood, and they can have all the contact they can get their hands on. And touch my face pubes!
Valle: You can be my friend on facebook:

The Emancipationof Alabaster McGill opened Saturday, May 14, and will run through June 19. Tickets are $20. More information at  SAVE $5 when reserving your ticket by using the promotional code “NoProp8.”