Interview: Salomania's Mark Jackson on Maud Allan, Media Sensationalism, and Lesbian Scapegoats

When playwright and director Mark Jackson was directing Oscar Wilde's play Salome at the Aurora Theatre, he discovered the story of dancer Maud Allan, a San Francisco native who took Europe by storm in the early 1900s with her version of the “Dance of the Seven Veils.” British M.P. Noel Pemberton-Billing, wanting a platform to promote his decidedly odd conspiracy theory that Germany was making the British into homosexuals to undermine the country's strength of will, wrote that Allan was a lesbian and a German sympathizer. When Allan sued Pemberton-Billing for libel, as he had hoped she would, the trial gave him a public forum for his theories. Jackson saw social issues raised during Allan's trial that are relevant today, such as media sensationalism, gay rights, freedom of expression, hysteria, and fear of change. He wrote and directed Salomania, which opened last week and continues through July 22, for the Aurora. He talked with us about looking for scapegoats, the appeal of messy stories and characters, and our need for distractions in times of stress.

What was it about Maud Allan's story that made you want to make it a theatrical piece?

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