Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected politician in the nation, but he wasn't the first openly gay person to run for office. In 1961, more than a decade before Milk's election, Jose Sarria ran for supervisor in San Francisco. Although he didn't win, he was influential in queer politics and helped start the city and the nation on the path toward recognizing what are now considered basic human rights. Sarria was also an entertainer, breaking ground in that realm too. In the 1950s he was a drag performer at the city's Black Cat Cafe, at a time when drag queens were known as “female impersonators.” Like Joshua Norton before him, Sarria declared himself empress – Jose I, the Widow Norton – and began the cross-dressing Imperial Court System that still exists today. Playwright and director John Fisher of Theatre Rhinoceros takes on this figure in SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience. Fisher is known for taking on complex themes in modern history (including queers serving in the military), and he applies a nonlinear approach to the multifaceted Sarria. It's part opera-parody, part sketch comedy – and probably all camp. Fisher also includes something called “queer confrontation,” and if we trust anyone to show the light and shadow sides simultaneously, it's Fisher.
Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Nov. 10. Continues through Dec. 4, 2011