"I thought he retired," said my partner, Juan, after we ran into director Don Horn minutes before the curtain went up on his new show, Pageant!
"I guess not," I said to Juan as we both watched Horn, who resembles George Hamilton (at least in skin tone), work a small room of weekend theatergoers.
For 16 years Horn has been the founder, artistic/managing director and chief bottle washer of Triangle Productions. He hung that shingle up last year, though, telling everyone he was off to Greece so he could spend more time roasting his shoeless, shorts-wearing body to his desired hue of orange-brown. It was just the break Horn (and some local theatergoers) needed.
That's because in the past nearly two decades, Horn has made quite a name for himself as one of this town's most prolific purveyors of queer-tinged theater with swishy (and so-so) productions of everything from Naked Boys Singing! to Bent. Although his Triangle audiences were loyal, Horn's relationship with his critics—and he had many—was strained at best. In fact, in 2000, Horn accused Willamette Week critic Steffen Silvis of trying to shut him down after Silvis questioned whether funding organizations, like the Oregon Arts Commission, should award money to a group "so undeserving." But Steffen didn't stop Don. Horn continued to produce his jam-packed shows with media stars Margie BoulÉ and Daria O'Neill and out, queer actors like Wade McCollum. Until last year, when, after selling his theater building, he decided to call it quits.
But instead of going away, as planned, Horn and his beloved Triangle made a hasty return to the stage scene. Just this July, Horn revived one of his most successful productions to date—Hedwig and the Angry Inch—and currently has not one, but three shows—Plaid Tidings, Sister's Christmas Catechism and Pageant!—running, with three more waiting in the wings, including Bark! the musical.
So, what gives? According to Horn, he never planned on closing up shop, just "modifying" it. "I never wanted to go away completely," Horn told me. "I just wanted to slow down."
And he did, until a personal family crisis intervened. "February 14, 2006, changed my life," says Horn. "It was my 9/11." Horn's son, Nathan, was in a near-fatal car accident in Guam. Rather than "retire" to Greece, Horn returned with his son to Portland. That's the reason he mounted Hedwig this summer. "I needed a purpose," says Horn. "And I needed to make money."
But nothing really explains why Don, as tireless as he seems to be, would attempt to manage three shows, in three different venues, at the same time. Especially after I saw Pageant!, a tranny train wreck of epic proportions so bad it's (almost) good.
"Three shows are a lot, even for me," says Horn. "I guess retirement is more work than I ever imagined."