In the News: Martha’s Vineyard hosts first theater production in nightclub’s history, ‘Sordid Lives’

February 16, 2023

See original article by Greta Cross of the Springfield News Leader

Missouri’s oldest LGBTQIA+ nightclub is hosting its first theater production in its 40-plus-year-old history next month.

Martha’s Vineyard opens “Sordid Lives” on Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m. The play will show through Sunday, March 5, with evening shows at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Martha’s is located at 219 W. Olive St.

Robert Hazlette, Martha’s talent event coordinator and the play’s director, said he wanted to bridge the gap between the nightclub’s drag performances and the local theater community.

“We’ve always done theatrical drag productions, with our Halloween events and Pride,” Hazlette said. “I think what we sometimes forget is that there are many members of the theater community in the LGBTQ community. Something that’s very important to me is that we have the space to do more of these heavier-themed shows.”

From left to right, Micha Pelkey, who plays Latrelle, and Marty Chaney, who plays Sissy, practice their lines during rehearsal of "Sordid Lives" on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 at Martha's Vineyard. The production runs Thursday, March 2 to Sunday, March 5 with evening shows starting at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. This is the first theater production hosted at Martha's Vineyard.

“Sordid Lives” tells the story of a family coming together, despite different moral opinions, following the death of a loved one.

Latrelle Williamson, a mother, sister and daughter, returns to her rural Texas hometown for her mother’s funeral. Williamson is described as uptight and unwilling to accept her brother Earl for his homosexuality and cross-dressing or the possibility that her son, Ty, is gay, too.

Earl, also referred to as “Brother Boy,” has been institutionalized for 23 years because he is gay. Earl is enrolled in conversion therapy managed by psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bolinger, who only wishes to convert Earl for her own fame.

Throughout the play, Latrelle must see her son for who he really is with encouragement from her free-spirited sister LaVonda DuPree and aunt Sissy Hickey.

Film director and producer Del Shores produced the play in 1996 and later adapted a screenplay, which was released as a comedy film in 2000. The film stars Olivia Newton-John, Leslie Jordan, Bonnie Bedelia and Beau Bridges.

Hazlette was introduced to the film when he was 15 years old and it still resonates with him.

“I fell in love with the characters, and I think it was because I recognized these people; we can all relate these characters to people we see in our everyday lives,” Hazlette said. “I think if you’re from a small town, you’re going to relate to the type of mentalities this show covers. I think this kind of gives people … a voice to realize that we see these stories and they are not just stories that get unheard.”

This is the first theater production Hazlette has directed in Missouri, but it’s not his first time directing. Prior to moving to Springfield, Hazlette directed shows in eastern Kentucky, including “Legally Blond,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Willy Wonka” and “Hello Dolly.”

The cast for Martha’s “Sordid Lives” includes experienced actors and actresses with previous performances in Springfield Little Theatre and Springfield Contemporary Theatre productions.

Looking toward the future, Hazlette plans to host two more theater productions this year at Martha’s, including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in November.

Martha’s opened its doors in March 1994, but the venue has provided a safe space for Springfield’s LGBTQIA+ community since the 1980s, with The Downbeat, Mister Jones and The Patio among the previous iterations.

Today, Martha’s includes three separate rooms with three bars: the main entryway, stage room and lighthouse room. When the space first opened for the LGBTQIA+ community in the ’80s, the nightclub featured a single room and bar with a back patio.

How to buy tickets for ‘Sordid Lives’

Tickets for “Sordid Lives” can be purchased online for $10 at or for $15 at the door. The show is for adults 18 and up. The total runtime for the show is one hour and 45 minutes, which includes a 15 minute intermission. For each show, the nightclub’s standard tables will be removed and general seating will be added.

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