Gay penguins defy the end of times in upcoming dark comedy presented by Palm Springs-based Desert Ensemble Theatre

Desert Ensemble Theatre (DET) continues its season at the Palm Springs Cultural Center in February with the California premiere of Salty, a play by AJ Clauss slated to begin on Feb. 18.

Salty was inspired by the true story of two male African penguins at a Dutch zoo who made international headlines in 2019 when they stole an egg from a heterosexual couple. In Clauss’s comedy, penguins Silver and Bowie decide to raise an egg together, challenge the gender binary, and potentially save their breed from extinction — and maybe even teach us a thing or two about humanity.

The play was a recent hit at Seattle’s ReAct Theatre.

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In Palm Springs, the production is directed by DET Artistic Director Jerome Elliott, with August Pearson, assistant director. The design team includes Thomas L. Valach, set; Jason Smith, lighting; Andrew MacLaine, costumes; and Gus Sanchez, sound. Sanchez is a graduate of DET’s Theatre Internship Program. The multi-award-winning cast includes Miguel Arballo, Heather Bates, Melanie Blue, John Corr, Phylicia Mason, Anthony Nannini, and Tessa Gregory Walker.

Clauss is a writer from Kentuckiana (Indiana + Kentucky) living in New York City. Their writing aims for a queer pastoral tenderness orbiting their own personal mythologies, stumbling head-first into accidental beauty. They are a current member of Youngblood, an Obie Award-winning writer’s group for young playwrights. Currently they are in development on the Superbloom, a screenplay with co-creator Jason Sherwood. Their plays include SaltyHenry Makes a Bible (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation/EST Commission), When You Were Small, and others.


More information: Performances of Salty are February 18–20 and 25–27: Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 and available at www.desertensembletheatre.org. The Palm Springs Cultural Center is located at 2300 East Baristo Rd (in the Camelot Theatres building).

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