There’s no way to quit Andrew Munz’s witty and poignant observations. A purveyor of truth, Munz returns to the Jackson stage to take audiences on a journey of something new, queer and comical.
“Homecoming Queen” takes its roots from Munz’s own life experiences growing up in Jackson, but the heart of this ambitious production is grounded in the greater exploration of queer mythology and its history in the Cowboy State.
But it’s hard to preview the plot of this upcoming performance because Munz doesn’t want to give anything up prematurely. He wants audiences to come in raw and ready for something entirely new. He has even asked on social media that audiences not share a whisper of what they witness, no Easter eggs revealed before the last curtain drops — which will now be on Sunday evening, added to the original Friday-Saturday run after tickets started selling fast.
“Comedy has not been a regular part of our Center Presents offerings,” Center for the Arts Executive Director Marty Camino said. “We’ve had some limited trials with it, with some success, and we’re pleased to see the community showing their support for this program.”
Munz has massive street cred in Jackson, so the ticket sales are not surprising. He has proven his talent with his “I Can Ski Forever” productions and book. The Western Design Conference handed its microphone to @YourGirlCatherine, Wilson’s favorite cougar and one of Munz’s many characters, at this year’s auction. “Homecoming Queen” marks a new chapter in Munz’s life, though. He’s the first funded local to be billed as a Center Presents act.
“Artistic expression is always unique,” Camino said, “and with Andrew’s artistry and local following we are honored to provide a platform to thrive.”
The Center has an active history of supporting local artists, from art installations to musical performances to choreography, and Camino is pleased to “include local legend Andrew Munz” as part of its fall programming.
“Everything Andrew creates is different than his last project,” he said, “and this show is no exception. We are thrilled to share in the excitement of our community to see what he has been up to.”
“I have never been this confident two weeks away from an opening night,” Munz said. “Every other show has been a scramble with a limited budget. The support from the Center, to be able to plan with the Center, to be able to do something like this — the audience has no idea what they are in for.”
Munz was willing to give up some details about the infrastructure of the performance, that, yes, there will be surprise guests, your eyes will pop, and there’s an origin story that weaves its way through the evening, Owen Wister’s “The Virginian.” He didn’t say whether audiences would all need to get the same tattoo following the performance.
Wister’s work, many argue, gave birth to the cowboy archetype, the Marlboro man and John Wayne. This caricature of a cowpuncher is an exploration of strength and competency, but also tender masculinity, a tenderness that some literary scholars have explored under the pretext of queer theory.
Wister’s time in Wyoming and in Jackson led him to write many of his books including his bestseller, “The Virginian.”
It’s not surprising to hear Munz say that “Homecoming Queen” has been five years in the making, as he has dug into rhetorical devices like Wister’s novel, the chrysalis of a coming out story, the pillars of truth in comedy, with Wyoming as a backdrop. It’s a confluence of elements, and one can only guess what our girl Catherine has to say about a strong jawline and a well-worn saddle.
“Throughout history, intimacy doesn’t get much definition until the 19th and 20th centuries,” Munz said. “You look at Greek and Egyptian male relationships, and intimacy does exist. It wasn’t flamboyant, but it was there.
“We need to break down these barriers for love and intimacy,” he said. “We don’t need to be cared for by only women, or only men — why does it have to be this opposite-sex dynamic?”
According to Munz, there are many more things that connect us than divide us. We tend to focus on the divisions, and this is how we fail each other. Munz said he hopes “Homecoming Queen,” with its ambitious scope and theme, will bring forward that truth.
“And sometimes that’s dark, too,” he said, “but it’s going to bring us together. It’s accessible.”
And, he said, “of course, I am going to talk about Jackson Hole, @YourGirlCatherine, and special guests will be there and so will Wyoming and its queer history and where we have failed that history.”
“In the other stories, they end in death,” he said, referring to Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” and the murder of Matthew Shepard.
When speaking with Munz, it’s clear he chooses cake (and probably ice sculpture, fur and a flute of Veuve Clicquot) not death, and we can all choose the cake and celebrate queer history and have happy endings, too. For all the trauma associated with the truth, there is a bond that comes from a shared experience, and a theater performance is a dynamic and demonstrative microcosm of what can prevail from sharing the truth, especially in the form of comedy and after a worldwide halt in person-to-person interactions.
“We haven’t been together for a long time,” Munz said, “and we have all forms of tension that need to be relieved. Don’t worry, no one is going to leave this theater in neutral.”
Camino said that the Center does welcome theater companies, and other presenters often use the Center Theater for multiple-night runs, but three consecutive performances is something new for Center Presents.
The sparkle, wit and divergence of “Homecoming Queen” might just be the double entendre Jackson needs as it settles into a not-so-off season. Munz will lead audiences down a rabbit hole to a celebration of survival, one that has been a long time coming for this writer, director, collaborator and independent queer artist. Get a good grip on the reins, because when the lights come up Munz will buck and pull audiences as they ride into his kaleidoscope, rainbow-filled sunset.
“It’s my coronation, baby,” he said.
This will be the first performance in The Center Theater requiring vaccine verification. ￼