sexy songster

Jason Gotay on his ‘Wizard of Oz’ obsession, Eva Peron, and real-life Lost Boy romance

Jason Gotay
Jason Gotay. Photo courtesy of Audible.

Jason Gotay is about to celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary with his husband Michael Hartung. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room in his heart for the special women in his life. So enamored is Gotay of the female persuasion — both real and fictional — that he’s chosen to celebrate their influence in his new show, Where You’ll Find Me, premiering at New York City’s Minetta Lane Theatre.

Presented live as part of Audible Theater for a limited three-night engagement September 30 – October 2 and scheduled to be released in early 2023 as streaming content, Gotay was given free rein regarding the show’s theme and content. He made a list of all of the influential people in his life and realized that most of them were women. The 33-year-old was born and raised in Brooklyn by his single mother, Marla, which laid the groundwork for an appreciation of strong female role models.

Gotay recently chatted with Queerty about her impact and other strong female role models.

It always starts with our mothers, right?  

I was told that I could make a show about anything that I wanted, which is, of course, a dream come true but also really daunting. Because where do you start, right? When getting to the heart of what it is you have to say as an artist, you go back to the beginning, your influences, and for me, the people in my life who have helped shape me and helped me on my journey to become my most authentic self — and the Broadway leading ladies, a lot of the singers and artists that I’ve looked to, that have inspired me, have all been these amazing women that have paved the way for me both personally, and professionally.

The very first woman, without giving too much away, that I felt the most connected to before I even had kind of the language to understand why was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  I have this really passionate connection to that movie. I watched it repeatedly and started collecting things. There was Wizard of Oz memorabilia in my house all throughout my childhood. And it’s something that I kept coming back to.

In this piece, I’m exploring why I was so drawn to her and what she represented for me. When I was kind of figuring out all of the different things that made me “me” and what I would create a show about, I kept coming back to this idea, and more specifically, how these women have shaped my idea of manhood and masculinity as a queer man.  I thought that was something really interesting to explore. And that’s how the idea for the show was born.

Jason Gotay Audible Theater

What was your relationship like with your mother growing up, and how has it evolved?

My relationship with my mother has evolved greatly over time. Growing up, my mom was very much the provider. She was hard at work providing for three kids. She put her three kids through school, and we didn’t really have much of an emotional relationship in my early childhood and teenage years.

It wasn’t until later that my mom and I really started to understand one another as adults. And we formed this newfound friendship after I came out to her, and I started becoming my full self with her, introducing her to everyone in my life and really bringing her in, in a way that I don’t think I was when I was a kid. That’s when our relationship really changed. It became this best friendship, and now she is my everything. I mean, everything that I accomplish, every exciting thing that happens to me, I feel like I’m doing on behalf of both of us, you know, if there’s something special in my life, I need to share it with her. I want her to be there for it. She’s someone I speak to multiple times every day. And so it’s exciting to draw inspiration from that for the show.

Related: Julie Benko on her ‘Funny Girl’ star turn, sexy co-star, and fav queer composers

What was your coming out experience like?

My coming out story didn’t happen until much later in life, which a lot of people find hard to believe because I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I went to a performing arts high school in midtown Manhattan. So I was surrounded by a broad range of identities and people who, you know, were straight, gay, lesbians — and before nonbinary was a term, I was going to school and surrounding myself with kids who identified in a multitude of ways.


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And despite being surrounded by other kids like that, I really stuck to my guns. I was born and raised in a particularly conservative suburb of Brooklyn. And so I was holding on tightly to the person I thought I was supposed to be. And it wasn’t until I got out of Brooklyn — I did my freshman year at Emerson College in Boston — and I lived alone for a year. And that’s when I started to ask some real questions about who I was and met people who inspired me to live more authentically. And that’s when I realized that about myself.

The very first person I told — and I share the story in the show — was my best friend of 20 years was this fabulous woman who is now queer as well; she’s on her own queer journey. But she has been my best friend since I was 13. And when I was 18 years old, I called her in the middle of the night and opened up to her. She was exactly the warm hug that I needed. She was there for me in all the right ways and has continued to be. Starting with her wholehearted acceptance, I knew that I was going to be okay. And it was then that I was able to tell my sister, my brother, my mom, and my extended family, little by little. I was very lucky that everyone was completely accepting and loving. And I was given all of the support that I needed. I’m so grateful for the unconditional love and support that I’ve gotten from my friends and family from the second I came out. And I know that it’s not that way for many people, so I’m really grateful that I had that.

You recently married fellow actor Michael Hartung after meeting on the set of Peter Pan Live! as Lost Boys. I guess Wendy didn’t have a chance.

She never did — she never had a chance!

When I was cast in Peter Pan Live!, I found out that I was going to be working with a bunch of friends of mine in the business.  I was so excited to work with the other Lost Boys; there were 10 of us. And on the first day of rehearsal, I walked into our studio, jumped in the elevator, and said hi to some friends. And then, just as the elevator door started to close, one more boy jumped in. And I turned around and saw Michael for the first time, and there was this light about him — this joy that filled the space. His smile, his eyes, and this warmth just drew me to him immediately. Our connection happened pretty quickly. We started dating kind of quickly. And we’ve been together ever since. There was something about our connection that just felt really safe and wonderful and joyful.


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Back to the women! Let’s talk about some of the fictional women in your life. I first saw you perform Off-Broadway in Transport Group’s production of Renascence about the life and work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. What did you learn about her life and presence as a feminist and artist?

What was so fun about that show was really learning about this woman who was an enigma but also this kind of supernova. She was the youngest person to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. And she was the first woman, right, so to carry those two titles is, of course, remarkable, but she was so cutting edge in her view of the world. And she kind of lived in this androgyny. Her sexuality was so unbounded, and that was so contemporary at the time.

Working on that show was just exquisite on every level, the music, investigating Vincent’s story, It was such a gift to work with Transport Group, the company that produced it, do work like that all the time, where artistry and process really are at the forefront.  The co-director of that piece, Jack Cummings III, is directing my show.

Perhaps a more well-known historical figure that you’re creatively connected to is Eva Peron, having co-starred in the New York City Center Encores! concert revival of Evita. I think I need to just mic drop this one. What can we say about her?

She was also quite an incredible figure. Again, one of the highlights of my career, hands down, but it was three weeks [of rehearsal], like the fastest experience ever. Even still, I feel like I had a really rich process with Solea Pfeiffer, who played Eva Peron.

Jason Gotay Evita
Jason Gotay and Solea Pfeiffer in the New York City Center Encores! production of ‘Evita.’ Photo by Joan Marcus

Eva Peron was a really complicated individual, Eva Peron, on many levels, and what she represents for the people of Argentina and the people in the Latinx community at large is really fascinating because she means something so different to so many people. She is very loved and revered. And she’s hated by a lot of people, who perceived her to be very greedy and to get ahead by any means possible. But at the end of the day, she did do a lot of amazing things for the country and the descamisados, the people who really looked to her for leadership.

Our challenge in that production — the way we treated her and my portrayal of Che, who was kind of this everyman rebel character, who’s in conversation with her for much of the piece, was to humanize Eva and get to the heart of who she was. She came from a really scrappy background and had to build herself up. She had to sometimes manipulate and scheme her way to get there, but I think we villainize women who climb their way to the top by any means necessary. So what does it mean to tell that story? This was 2019, and put that contemporary lens on it and honor her story and the human being that she was — flawed, certainly. But she was also this remarkable figure and what she accomplished was absolutely incredible. She wasn’t a formal politician; she was not formally educated. And so what she did, the life that she created for herself, is actually pretty astounding.

Back to the theater… you were in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. I hesitate to call it a flop because it did run for four years. But it didn’t recoup its investment and was famously plagued with a lot of creative challenges. Regarding your upcoming show and its themes, what are your thoughts looking back at playing the character of Peter Parker opposite Mary Jane Watson and tropes of binary superheroes and damsels in distress?

That’s a really interesting question. Gosh, I hope that we are moving towards a world where we don’t have these tropes of, you know, damsels in distress and the man who puts on a costume and saves the day. But to be honest, when I was working on this show, which was in 2013, was when I got cast, so we’re almost 10 years ago now. I wasn’t really looking at it through [that] lens. My job was to step into the shoes of Peter Parker, who was this kid, this outcast, this teenage kid who was bullied, who was perceived as weak, who was a nerd who was into science, who didn’t fit in. And, of course, that story is so universal; that’s something that we can all relate to. For me, he was the anti-superhero in some ways. I was quite young when I did it and felt very much connected to the idea of this teenager who was a little bit lost and nerdy and on the outside of the social sphere at school. 

TV audiences are familiar with your role in the Gossip Girl reboot, which takes place on New York City’s Upper East Side, not far from where you finished your undergraduate degree at Marymount College. How did it feel to be dropped back into that world?


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It felt incredible, I’m not gonna lie, I felt very lucky to be a part of this world that was such a kind of zeitgeist thing when it happened originally. I wouldn’t say I recognized any of my own life in that world — the extreme wealth that’s being portrayed in that world and in those stories, that was never a part of my life. I was never really friends with people who had that kind of money, who treated each other that way. Part of the fun of that world is all of the devilish shenanigans that people do to one another to preserve their own image and their own relationships. For me, the fun was just getting to shoot my first TV show in New York City and to film in all of these iconic locations.

There’s no place like New York City for live theater. Is there anything else about your upcoming show you’d like to share?

Audible asked me very early on, you know, who was the show for? Who’s the audience? And that was a difficult question. Because it’s for me, it’s for everybody. But I do think there’s something about this piece that will really resonate with gay men specifically. I’m this queer musical theater tenor leading man singing, with one exception, songs that were written for or originally sung by women. So, I’m reinterpreting all of these songs through my own lens. And then there’s the Dorothy-Wizard of Oz connection. And because it celebrates women. For gay men, women play such a driving force in all of our lives.

Audible Theater presents Where You’ll Find Me: An Evening with Jason Gotay live at New York City’s Minetta Lane Theatre September 30 – October 2. The concert will be recorded and released on Audible Theater in early 2023.

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