A Star Is Reborn

Hit the Wall, re-creating the first night of the Stonewall riots, opens in New York.

BY Trudy Ring

April 16 2013 3:00 AM ET

Some LGBT people of a certain age may think younger ones don’t know or care about the movement’s history, but this youthful playwright and theater director certainly do — and they’re re-creating a major part of that history on a stage not far from where the event happened. Writer Ike Holter, 27, and director Eric Hoff, 30, tell the tale of the first night of the Stonewall riots in Hit the Wall, now having its New York premiere at the Barrow Street Theatre, just a couple blocks from the Stonewall Inn, after having been staged twice in Chicago last year.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Stonewall and its late-’60s revolutionary zeal,” says Holter. “I just always really responded to that kind of grassroots civil rights movement.”

“I know there are a lot of younger people who have no idea what Stonewall is,” adds Hoff, but he expects Hit the Wall to change that, telling the world about the night in June 1969 when gay and trans patrons of the Greenwich Village bar fought a police raid, sparking the modern gay rights movement.

Hit the Wall opened at Barrow Street in March for an open-ended run. It was first produced early last year in Chicago by the Inconvenience, a storefront theater company, through Steppenwolf Theatre’s Garage Rep program, which spotlights small, innovative troupes. Another run followed at the Windy City’s Theater on the Lake. After good reviews in Chicago and discussions with New York theater types, the Barrow Street production fell into place.

The show has a 10-person cast, two of whom appeared in the Chicago premiere, and while it’s not a musical, it has original incidental music by Daniel Lipton. Producers include longtime Woody Allen associate Jean Doumanian, a “legend,” says Holter.

In addition to introducing the story of Stonewall to some audiences, the production is generating memories for some attendees who lived in New York during the riots, notes Hoff. With the New York production, “there’s this amazing contextualization,” Hoff says. Some theatergoers, he says, go over to the Stonewall Inn for a post-show drink.

President Obama’s mention of Stonewall with other civil rights milestones in his second inaugural address adds yet more context to the play, the collaborators say, noting that it’s not simply an LGBT story; it’s an American story. “It’s a very important thing,” Holter says, “not just for GLBTQ people, but for people who believe in human rights.”

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