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Tony award-winning writer Joe DiPietro tells QX how he set out to write a play with an un-producible title – ‘Fucking Men’.

An updated version for 2024 opens at Waterloo East Theatre in London and runs for six weeks only, from Thursday 13 April to 26 May – tickets are selling fast.

Tickets for Fucking Men at https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/f-men2024

Like many writers before me, I’ve always been fascinated by Schnitzler’s classic play “La Ronde.” Ten characters. Ten scenes. Ten dances in and out of bed (or in and out of broom closets, or saunas, or wherever.) Among my favorite adaptations – Michael John LaChiusa’s time-jumping musical (“Hello Again,”) and David Hare’s scaled-down duet (“The Blue Room,”) which was a Broadway hit in part due to star Nicole Kidman’s fleeting moment of nudity. But if an all-male “La Ronde” existed, I had never heard of it.

Then one summer while vacationing in the gay mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts, thoughts of “La Ronde” kept popping into my head. Day by sunny day, I observed the roundelay that we gay dudes do in pursuit of sex – on the beach or in the bars or simply strolling down the streets of a town preternaturally brimming with homosexuals. Many of us would hook-up – for better or for worse – with an abandon and frequency that would cause my straight friends’ jaws to drop when I’d tell them about it. Appropriately, I began writing the play in Provincetown. And I didn’t exactly have to go to the library to do research.

Truthfully, I didn’t think anyone would be interesting in producing the play (so I thought what the hell, I’ll give it an un-producible title.) After all, the gay-themed narratives of the day were usually driven by what I call the gay-play trifecta: shame and self-loathing and suffering. But a testosterone-fuelled new take on “La Ronde” seemed to offer a much more appealing – and at the time, radical – gay narrative: men who weren’t ashamed of the sex they were pursuing. In fact, they rather enjoyed it. And it became an important part of who they were.

“Fucking Men” debuted 15 years ago in a London theatre even tinier than this one and, to my happy astonishment, the play ran and ran and spurred myriad other productions. And I’m thrilled that Steve Kunis’ terrific production has returned for an encore to Waterloo East.

Gay play at Waterloo East Theatre

Of course over the years, much has changed which affects the sex lives of gay men, from the development of more highly effective HIV medications to the introduction of Prep, enabling a sexual freedom, not truly seen since the early 1980’s.

So when producer Adam Roebuck asked if I’d be interested in reviving “Fucking Men,” I jumped at the chance with one condition – I wanted to find a young director who could challenge me to refocus the play through a modern lens. He recommended the brilliant Steven Kunis, and Steven and I have since spent many hours dissecting every issue from generational self-identification (gay? queer?) to the pros and cons of hook-up apps (in my day, we had to actually put on clothes and go out to a bar to get laid, which apparently renders me a bit of a relic.)

A youthful friend recently asked how much has changed for gay men since I came of age in the 80’s. I told him a lot, of course, but also not much at all. Then as now, we still use sex as a means of connection and expression and love. So no matter how you identify, I hope you recognize some moments of common humanity in the play. And I highly recommend a trip to Provincetown.

‘Fucking Men’ runs from Saturday 13 April  to Sunday 26 May at Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London SE1 8TN, United Kingdom. 

Tickets for Fucking Men: https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/f-men2024

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QX interviews Gareth Watkins, writer and performer of The Gentleman Of Shalott at The Hope Theatre, 6 – 17 Feb.

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