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Batt, Bryan (b. 1963)  
 
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Still, his youth was shadowed by worries about his parents' health--his father suffered a heart attack and complications of alcoholism and his mother her first bout of cancer while he was in high school. Because of these concerns, he decided to remain in New Orleans for college.

He dutifully entered Tulane University, where he studied theater and dated wholesome blonde co-eds. Among his roles while in college was that of Billy Flynn in Kander and Ebb's Chicago in Tulane's Summer Lyric Theater in 1984.

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Although his mother encouraged his amateur theatrics, both parents hoped that he would not pursue a theatrical career, which they deemed too risky. His choice of a career as a professional actor was facilitated by the unsolicited help of someone he did not even know: the legendary "first lady of the stage" Helen Hayes.

When she was in New Orleans to headline a benefit for the French Quarter's famous community theater, Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, Hayes attended a production of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell in which Batt starred. Later, during the same trip, she met his parents. When they asked that she try to discourage their son from a career in show business, she not only refused, but also peremptorily invited them to brunch the next morning where she convinced the young man's father that he was sufficiently talented to support himself as an actor.

In September 1985, soon after graduating from Tulane, and soon after his father died at the age of 55, Batt moved to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a professional actor. He succeeded in securing jobs in small productions quite quickly, but his goal was to be in a Broadway show.

This milestone was reached on March 15, 1987, when he opened in the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, a "monstrously overproduced mega-musical retelling of 'The Little Engine That Could.'" Batt, dressed as a train with five-pound roller skates on each foot, sang and danced a grueling routine that eventually caused him to tear a cartilage in his knee.

On opening night, he received a telegram from Helen Hayes: "Welcome to Broadway. May you have a triumphant stay."

Although Starlight Express received some of the most scathing reviews in theatrical history, it ran in New York for more than a year. After the show closed, Batt supported himself briefly as a "fragrance model" at Bloomingdale's department store.

During this period, he also began surreptitiously exploring New York's gay scene, picking up other young men in gay bars but never revealing his real name. As he recalled many years later, "There are quite a few willing men who may fondly remember a midnight tryst with the elusive and tipsy Brad, Rick, or Craig."

These encounters, while they were thrilling, were also the source of guilt and shame. At the time, "Being outed seemed a fate worse than death; coming out was utterly unimaginable."

Just after Batt was fired from Bloomingdale's for making a questionable joke about Perry Ellis's perfume line soon after the designer's death, he received an offer to play Che in a production of Lloyd Webber's Evita at an Akron, Ohio dinner theater.

The job in Akron not only kept Batt in show business, but it introduced him to the man who would become his partner, Tom Cianfichi (pronounced Chee-on-FEE-kee), a handsome Pennsylvanian who was an ensemble actor in the company.

On April 1, 1989, the two men shared a kiss, and soon became lovers, though Batt remained closeted, fearful that coming out might harm his career or, more likely, disappoint his family and friends.

As Batt facetiously recalls, "From December of 1990 until December of 1992, I was the biggest pussy on Broadway." The dates are the two years he appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-running musical, Cats. It had already played on Broadway for nine years when he joined the troupe. He was grateful for the well-paid job, but he eventually tired of the role, in part because it was exhausting, but also because he yearned for an opportunity to act in a serious play.

That acting opportunity came when he was cast in Paul Rudnick's AIDS comedy Jeffrey (1993). Batt played Darius, a naive Liza-loving HIV-positive chorus boy. (The character was originally conceived as appearing in Grand Hotel, but after casting Batt, Rudnick rewrote the part to have Darius appearing in Cats).

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