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Exclusive Q&A with Chad Allen

9/28/2001
by Duane Wells

Chad Allen in Corpus Christi

Itís unclear whether controversy just finds Chad Allen or whether he seeks it out, but with his latest role as producer of Terrence McNallyís highly controversial Corpus Christi itís pretty clear that Allen is perfectly at ease with a little (or a whole lot) of controversy in his life.

Probably best known for his portrayal of the super butch, super hunky Matthew Cooper on televisionís Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Allen has been dodging the mediaís zings and arrows ever since he was outed by The Globe a few years back. Since that time heís morphed from a teen idol into a serious and very busy young actor who not only rediscovered his love of theatre and independent film but also says he has found the greatest peace of his career as an openly gay man, comfortable in his own skin...doing the thing he loves most.

Last month, Allen was positively beaming at the Los Angeles premiere of Corpus Christi, a brilliant play which parallels the New Testament and tells the story of a homosexual Christ-like figure named Joshua, whose radical notions of love and tolerance ultimately lead to his demise. Despite the protestors who showed up on opening night and whose chants throughout the show threatened to disrupt the performance, Allenís face disclosed nothing more than unabashed pride in his association with the play.

I caught up with Allen a few days after opening night. Among other things, we discussed Christianity, Corpus Christi and life as an out gay actor. Hereís a little bit of what he had to say:

Duane Wells: So how did you come to be involved with Corpus Christi?

Chad Allen: I had heard of the show and knew of its reputation before I read it. So I took it home and read it and when I read it, I found it to be an incredible play. It single-handedly seemed to give me back a concept of Christ and a concept of human divinity that I had long since lost. I knew then that it was not at all the show that I read about in the tabloid articles...and I thought that people needed to see it for what it was.

DW: What do you think is the single most important message of the play?

CA: Itís one line in the play. Itís early on when God is talking to his son before Joshua comes to realize himself as the son of God and [God] whispers to him, ĎAll men are divine.í And he [Joshua] says, ĎWhat? I canít hear you?í And he [God] says, ĎAll men are divine. That is the secret that you will teach them.í [Then] Joshua says, ĎWhat if I donít want to teach them?í and God says, ĎYou wonít be able to keep the secret.í Thatís the message of the piece as I see it. That we are all capable of the same kind of divine relationship with God that Joshua comes to find.

DW: Corpus Christi is not a play without its share of detractors. What do you say to those who claim that the play is an attack on Christianity?

CA: Well first of all I say to just about everybody who comes to protest the show, ĎRead the playí or ĎSee the show.í I simply cannot have respect for individuals who choose to show up and protest something or make negative claims [about] something they know nothing about. I have yet to talk with any one of them [protesters] who knows anything about the play. As far as Iím concerned itís up to every individual to decide for themselves what their view of this play or any other work of art is, for that matter, or any subject at hand.

Beyond that I view [Corpus Christi] as a deeply Christian play. I constantly find myself reminding people that Jesus Christ is not a character in this play. This is not written as a historical account or meant to be a historical account of Jesus Christ. What it does is it asks us all, ĎCan we see ourselves as Christ? Are we all capable of that same kind of relationship with God?'

DW: Youíre one a handful of openly gay actors. How is life as on out actor versus life as a teen pop idol?

CA: Itís a different world and for a lot of reasons. Not just because of my openness about who I am, but also because Iím thankfully much more of a man now than I was then. Acting as a very young man was fun. Then it became really hard. Through the teen magazine years...I hated those years. There were times when I was just a confused teenager and the whole world wanted to believe that they knew who I was and they seemed to have a very good idea of who I was. Everybody [did] except for me. I  remember sitting back and reading thousands of letters from boys and girls all over the country telling me how wonderful they thought I was and thinking, ĎBut they have no idea. Iím just so lost and so confused and so scared. Why canít I talk about that? No one wants to hear about that.í

DW: Do you feel like youíve had diminished opportunity in Hollywood because of your openness about your sexuality?

CA: Itís so funny. Thatís everyoneís favorite question. The truth is I donít know. I canít tell you for certain that Iíve lost opportunities or that I havenít lost opportunities. Do I think that it means that I have to be a better actor? Yeah probably. It sounds ridiculous to say this but I heard Sally Field a long time ago in an interview talking about how they would tell her when she was young that she wasnít pretty enough to be a leading lady and how she knew then that she had to be better than most. Iíve reminded myself of that a lot of times through what has sometimes been a difficult experience. Now, Iím actually happier with my career than Iíve ever been. All I know is that right now, Iím the best actor that I can be. I do my work well. It seems like people respect that and Iím working on projects that I want to work on.

DW: One last question. I found out that your birth name is Lazzari. What does that make you?

CA: Itís Italian. Iím almost completely Italian. When I was young they had me drop my last name because they said I simply didnít look Italian enough to have such an Italian last name, so we kept it short and simple and used my middle name which is Allen. And there youíve got it.

And there youíve got it. From Chadís mouth to your ears. Corpus Christi runs through October 21 at the Lillian Theater, 1076 Lillian Way, in Hollywood, California. Tickets available through Tiffany Tickets, 310-289-2999. For more information see www.corpuschristila.com.

(C) 2001 Gay Wired; All Rights Reserved

 

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