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Batt, Bryan (b. 1963)  
 
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Batt knew that if he took the role, he would have to come out to his family. Having accepted himself as gay, he had overcome much of the guilt he had previously felt, but he had become acutely conscious of an element of hypocrisy, or at least inauthenticity, in his life, one that would be exacerbated by playing a gay character while pretending to be straight.

By this point, most of his friends and colleagues knew that he and Cianfichi were lovers, but his family was led to believe that they were merely roommates. When his mother and other family members came to New York to see Jeffrey after the play had opened to rave reviews, Batt, over a bottle of wine, told her that he was gay and that he and Tom were a couple.

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Although there were tears, Batt's mother reassured him that she loved him and that she loved Tom as well.

The person Batt feared telling most was his "good ole boy" brother, Jay. But Jay's response was both funny and accepting: "You're gay? Thank God, I thought you just weren't getting any!"

In the 1990s, Batt was very busy. He appeared in several Broadway musicals, including the 1993 revival of Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the same composer's Sunset Boulevard (1994), where he understudied the role of Joe Gillis and was a member of the ensemble, as well as in Frank Wildhorn's The Scarlet Pimpernel (1999), where he understudied the lead role and appeared more than 30 times. He also scored as Monty the DJ in Nan Knighton's musical Saturday Night Fever (1999-2000).

During this period he was also busy in several off-Broadway and regional productions of everything from Forbidden Broadway to Romeo and Juliet.

Batt also made several appearances in films, reprising his role as Darius in the film version of Jeffrey (directed by Christopher Ashley, 1995) and playing small parts in the gay comedies Kiss Me Guido (directed by Tony Vitale, 1995) and Hit and Runway (directed by Christopher Livingston, 1999).

Batt had earned a reputation as a journeyman character actor who could also sing and dance. He was also known as a fast study who could on short notice "cover" other actors, yet create his own interpretation of the characters, as when he took over roles in Stephen Flaherty's Seussical: The Musical (replacing Rosie O'Donnell) and Alan Menken's Beauty and the Beast (replacing Gary Beach).

He had not, however, achieved the kind of breakthrough that would make him a star. When his career hit a lull in the early years of the new century, caused largely by the collapse of several projects to which he had committed, he and Cianfichi began thinking of redirecting their lives.

After much thought, they decided to open a gift and home accessories store on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Although Batt knew little about the business end of such an enterprise, he welcomed the opportunity to use his design and fashion talents. In 2003, with the understanding that Cianfichi, who had worked in retail in New York, would manage the business, they opened Hazelnut, named for Batt's beloved maternal grandmother whose name was Hazel Nuss.

The new business meant that Batt and Cianfichi made New Orleans their principal residence, though they kept a small apartment in New York.

Batt continued to accept acting assignments, as when he understudied Gary Beach as Albin in the 2004 revival of Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles.

Although he felt that he was miscast in the role, believing that he was too tall for the part, he loved being able to belt out "I Am What I Am," which he described as "this great soaring, affirmative anthem."

In addition, Batt made his directorial debut in the summer of 2005, when he was asked to direct the season finale of New York's Town Hall series Broadway by the Year. The year specified in his program was 1962, which gave him an opportunity to feature songs from shows that have been largely forgotten as well as songs from shows that were great hits.

In August 2005, soon after La Cage closed, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Batt and Cianfichi were on vacation in Sonoma, California when the disaster struck. Their store and house suffered only minor damage, and his mother's home was unscathed. However, the lakefront home of his brother--then a New Orleans City Councilman--was ruined by eight feet of toxic water.

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