Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tom Judson's "Canned Ham" Returns to Dixon Place

By Byrne Harrison
Cross-posted from Gay Theatre NYC Review

Tom Judson brings his one-man show, Canned Ham, back to Dixon Place through March 26th. Canned Ham is Tom's theatrical memoir detailing his life in all areas of show business: acting in Broadway musicals (Cabaret, 42nd Street), composing music for film and television (Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, Sesame Street) and the work for which he is probably most widely known, appearing in gay adult films as Gus Mattox. Stories and songs are interwoven with visuals and musical numbers to celebrate a life that is extraordinary yet--because the story is bookended by the tale of his partner's death from AIDS--all too familiar to many. Tom accompanies himself on the piano, the accordion, the trumpet and nine other instruments--sometimes simultaneously.

I had a chance to talk to Tom about the latest incarnation his show.

Tell me a little bit about Canned Ham and how it came to be.

In a nutshell: I went broke when the real estate market collapsed (I was flipping houses--very small scale--in upstate New York) and when I spotted this little, broken-down camper in a barnyard, I hatched the crazy scheme of hitching it up to my Jeep and driving around the country, doing odd jobs here and there to support myself. Then I thought, oh, I have all these great stories from working in porn and the theater and movies, I could string them together and play a couple of tunes on the accordion and find the local gay bar and do the show for drink tickets. When I sat down and wrote the script it ended up being so much more substantial than I had imagined that I realized it was destined for a theater, not for an open mic night on the road  somewhere. So in a way, I wrote myself out of what might have been a terrific road trip, but I gained a wonderful new project.

How does it feel bringing Canned Ham back to Dixon Place, the space where it saw some of its earliest performances and your recent birthday show?

Dixon Place has one of the best spaces/tech facilities downtown. The acoustics alone make it a pleasure to perform there. Besides, I've been performing at the various incarnations of DP since the early eighties, when it was in Ellie Covan's living room on East First Street. I've got a real history with the place

How has the play evolved since its earliest Dixon Place performances?

Oh, God, where to start? More of everything, mostly: more music (LOTS more music), more visuals, more choreography, more musical instruments (12, at last count) and the script has been completely take apart and put back together, based on what I've learned doing it for the past year and a half.

I saw Canned Ham in Provincetown and New York, and saw a big difference in the audiences. You've  performed Canned Ham in several different cities. Have you noticed much difference, and do you have a favorite?

It's remarkable how audiences differ from town to town. I experienced that with the big Broadway tours I've been on. A favorite? You don't really expect me to answer that, do you? [Editor's note - I'm pretty sure he wanted to say New York.]

As I mentioned, you had a special performance of Canned Ham at Dixon Place on your 50th birthday. What was your birthday wish this year?

Oh, I don't really indulge in wishes and resolutions. Life has been so good to me, throwing things at me willy-nilly, that I don't see any reason to start interfering with it now.

What's coming up next for you?

I'm continuing to play for Varla Jean Merman as much as possible. Canned Ham will be booked around the country wherever we can get a foothold, and I'm planning on doing a new show in Provincetown this summer. I only have a vague idea so far what that will be. Mostly music, I'm thinking. A classy (but sexy) cabaret of some sort.

Dixon Place presents

Tom Judson's

Directed by Kevin Malony
Press Representative: Tim Ranney

"Leaves you yelling for more," - Alan Cumming

"Fast, funny and surprisingly moving." - The Huffington Post

Thursdays - Saturdays, March 3-5, 17-19, 24-26 at 7:30pm

Tickets: $15 (advance); $20 (door)

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