The King of the Nudies and the generation gap

One of the characters in Boy Gets Girl (Les Kennkat, played by Len Bajenski in our production) was partially based on the filmmaker Russ Meyer. If you’re not familiar with Meyer (I wasn’t until we started looking at dramaturgical research at the beginning of the rehearsal process), Wikipedia neatly summarizes the man’s work in two short phrases in the middle of its full article:

His films are more ribaldry than erotica or pornography, and generally star women with large breasts.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!Les Kennkat is the same sort of filmmaker, and the other characters in the play have different responses to his films (“I think ‘filmmaker’ is a generous term,” Theresa says at one point). We spent some time in rehearsal the other night talking about the response my character (Mercer) has to Kennkat’s films, in contrast to the response that Gary’s character (Howard) has. One of the things we discussed was the age gap between the two characters – Gary and I aren’t that far apart in age, but our characters are clearly from two different generations, and it’s one of the things that causes us to have such different opinions about the films. For Howard, Les Kennkat’s movies were a part of the passage through puberty; they were movies that educated and excited him as he was growing up. For Mercer, who was born too late to see them when they first came out, the movies were campy, silly and not really all that exciting.

In a play that explores how men and women perceive each other (as the main storyline plays out), it’s interesting to me that we see two very different male perspectives on the role that these ribald and/or erotic films play in the ways both genders look at themselves and each other. Interesting also to look at the change over time in what’s considered sexy, shocking, exciting, offensive …

I’m expecting Les Kennkat (and Russ Meyer) to be a frequent topic at post-show discussions. I’m realizing now that most people, especially most men slightly older than I am, have their own strong connections to Meyer’s films, and I think it’ll be fascinating to see what effect those personal connections have on their perspective of the play in general.

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