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4 Front Magazine

From Prairie Sheriff to Weho Leading Man
Chad Allen Comes Home to the Theater!

by John Price

At only 24 years of age, Chad Allen has already done more than most people do in a lifetime. He's been on network television almost non-stop since he was eight years old and just completed a six year stint on the "Little House" of the 90's Dr Quinn Medicine Woman Chad's career has been consistent and good to him. Many child actors have a difficult time making the transition from young actor to adult, Chad had the luxury of making this transition during the run of Dr Quinn. America got to watch his character grow up in their living rooms.

America and West Hollywood also got to watch Chad grow up in the tabloids. What to most of us would be totally innocent pictures of two guys at a pool party ended up, causing Chad a lot of grief as he was "outed" by a tacky grocery store tabloid. Chad had much to lose being on such a wholesome all-American show. He was also under tons of pressure from the gay community to come screaming out and make some kind of proclamation. Despite a 20 year acting career, it didn't change the fact that Chad was still a young man in his early twenties with a family, personal issues and a life he wanted to lead - with dignity. It was not an easy time for him.

Young Chad Allen dealt with the drama like a true champion. He pressed on with his work on Dr. Quinn and shortly thereafter his TV family did what we hope most real life families will do in such situations - they showed support Dr Quinn aired an episode in which Wait Whitman came to their. town and they all had to deal with issues of homophobia and tolerance. Chad went on to participate in the anniversary reading of The Boys in the Band and continued unabashed in his work with AIDS related charities. Chad bravely didn't give in to either side and now enjoys the freedom that comes from that strength.

His current project *change at Babylon, is a play that by description hails back to The Boys in the Band Another story about a group of gay men from New York together for a summer holiday to party and deal with dramatic issues including relationships, family, tolerance and, of course, AIDS. Why would Chad choose this script that on the surface sounds so gay and so over-done? Well, read on and you'll find out.

I had the privilege of seeing the first preview performance of *change at Babylon at the West Hollywood Tiffany Theater and met with Chad afterward. We were joined by author Brian-Paul Mendoza (nicknamed Beeper) to discuss the play, the world and the state of Chad.

John Price: After seeing *change at Babylon other shows immediately pop into my head. The subject matter is quite similar to Love! Valour! Compassion! or The End of the World Party. I think you've got something more though - something different What drew you to this material?

Chad Allen: I'll tell you this. In the last couple of years, I was looking, Creative Outlet was looking for a play with a gay theme to do in L.A. I started reading scripts and looking around. I've seen a ton of, theater in town and a lot of shows that have gone before us. I thought some of them were good. Some of them were weak. A lot of them raised a lot of questions that I thought were good, but didnít have a lot of answers... for me. Then they brought me *change at Babylon in New York. When I read it I said' "This is the script that brings home all those points. It answers all the questions that I wanted."

JP: It has closure.

CA: Yeah, absolutely. Closure - to address the issues of drug abuse, the issues of relationships, of families, about how we pass on what we learn from one generation to the next in a community that's lost a generation of its forefathers. Where do we learn stuff from? That's why I fell in love with it, and thought we oughta do it.

JP: (To Beeper) As a writer, obviously you're aware, that this subject matter, has been tackled a lot. What made you dedicate two years of your life to try to say something, that's already been said, but to try to say it differently?

Beeper: Well, I'd been in New York for eight years, and I was doing the Fire Island scene and having a blast. I saw Love! Valour! Compassion! and Angels, in America and as a gay male in my, twenties, I didn't identify, with those people. Their struggle was not my struggle. The media was calling these pieces the gay theater for the next millennium and to me these aren't the stories that I know in the circle of people that I surround myself with. There's a select group of gay men that live for the party. It's about being accepted and fitting in the, "A list" events and circuit parties and drugs. I wanted to explore "why?" Where that came from. I wanted in my head to justify why we thought were good, but didn't have a party and carry on and think about things

"I so clearly identified with Eric... He found was a gay community where he could become the leader of the pack... They accepted him for who he was and he was able to become their leader. He created a family around him to substitute for a family that he lost."

JP: Like where it leads us and what we learn.

Beeper: Exactly.

JP: (To Chad) Now on your character Eric. Here's a troubled a person, dealing with abuse, relationships, his own homosexuality. What's exciting to you as an actor? What attracted you to this character?

CA: When I first read the script I so clearly identified with Eric. He's obviously hung up on an extremely troubled past - a lot of emotional and sexual abuse and stuff. He left all that behind to find something that would fulfill something inside of him. What he found was a gay community where he could become the leader of the pack, through partying and drugs and everything else. It didn't matter where he came from or what had happened to him. They accepted him for who he was and he was able to become their leader. He created a family around him to substitute for a family that he lost. The simple fact is, all of those issues are still there, as they always are with all of us, as we carry on throughout our lives. He had so much anger inside of him that in his lifetime it killed him in this play, the neat thing about it is, he gets to find resolution. It's a lesson that we all have to learn take care of what we have and take care of it here while we have a chance. Take care of those we love u who we have in our families in both senses of the word "family" - while we still have a chance.

JP: And that's what you want people to take home from this show?

CA: Absolutely. And I have to tell you, I set up a theater company in LA with the goal of providing a place for young talented artists like Brian-Paul Mendoza, like the actors on stage tonight, to have a forum for that kind of expression. My greatest dream was to provide a place for a writer to put up a work that's never been produced before. We're able to do that.

JP: Indeed you have. It's a great production. Now, to get a little Chad overview. I know you've been acting since you were a fetus, but what was your first big role?

CA: The first big thing was probably the series St Elsewhere.

JP: That's right, it was all your dream wasnít it, all your character's dream?

CA: Right. I was eight years old when I started. I played the autistic character, Ed Flander's autistic son for four years on that show, I now know to be one of the best written television shows... ever.

JP: Ed Flander's autistic son. I watched St Elsewhere constantly because I was so compelled by the darkness and issues it was so real. I didn't even know that Chad was...

JP: Ed Flander's autistic son. I just like saying it.

CA: Tommy Westfall, exactly.

Beeper: We were sitting there talking once, and I just went, oh my God, that was you! You're the kid with the snow globe. Oh my God! You changed my life. Now here we are! It's just so weird, to come full circle.

JP. How long were you on St Elsewhere?

CA: Four years. It ran for six years.

JP: And then Our, House?

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