Mark I Chester photo of the day
Mark I Chester studio  1229 Folsom St./SF  415-621-6294 

July 10, 2011


photo of the day 7/10/2011 - photo Mark I Chester
Alan Estes, founder of Theater Rhinoceros, taken 6/1983.

Steven Patterson posting the photo from KING OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE (3/1983) led me to my files and this photo. This is Alan Estes, the founder of Theater Rhinoceros, one of the oldest gay theaters in the world. I love this portrait of Alan with this broad range of black and white tonal values and the larger than life sized shadow over his shoulder. Alan looked wonderfully intense.

To be honest, Alan hated this photo. He wanted to be seen as a friendly sweet guy or the guy next door, hence the sailor top, like one a child would wear. But I knew behind the friendly exterior that there was an intensity. There had to be in order to create a gay theater where none existed before. It took stamina and guts and determination.  Rhino not only put plays on, but encouraged the creation of new plays and new and developing playwrights, like CD Arnold who wrote KING OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE.

Nearly 30 years later I think it's hard for younger gay guys to understand how unfriendly the world at large was towards anything gay back then.  If the word *gay* was attached to it, no one took you or your work seriously.  The mainstream media regularly panned Rhino's plays almost as much as they panned the gay audiences for enjoying them. Although, it's true that in many of the early gay plays, the hunky guy, cast in the role of Mr. Hunky, or whatever they called him in that particular play, took his shirt off, sometimes frequently even in just a one act play. <eg>