MUSKEGON — A lesbian cartoonist, having embraced her own sexuality, reminisces about the suicide of her closeted homosexual father.
“Fun Home,” then, is not what Muskegon Civic Theatre patrons traditionally expect from a stage musical.
But, says director Andrew Zahrt, everyone can relate.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to put on a show like this, where the lead characters are coming to terms with things like a father being a closeted gay man in the 1970s, mental health issues, suicide, and acceptance,” Zahrt said of the production that will run for six performances, Jan. 17-25 at the Frauenthal Theater.
“It’s important to produce plays and musicals that deal with topics like this for representation. Real people in our communities deal with these same things every day, and if there’s a way for them to see a character in a show going through the same things they personally are, it opens more doors for acceptance and communication.”
The experience of MCT’s “Fun Home” will not only be personal, but also up close.
MCT is presenting the Tony Award-winning show in the Black Box format, a setting in which the actors and audiences are both on stage.
The story concerns Bechdel’s discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life.
“Fun Home” is told in a series of non-linear vignettes connected by narration provided by the adult Alison character. Alison is presented at three ages: adult, medium and small. The title refers to the fact that Alison grew up living in funeral home her father ran.
“This production of ‘Fun Home’ will definitely push some audience members out of their comfort zone, both emotionally and physically,” Zahrt said. “Being in the Black Box space, the audience is literally inches away from the performers, at times. That can be exciting, embarrassing, and fun for both the performer and the audience member. Beyond the physical comfort zone, we bring up topics that some audience members haven’t ever had to deal with. They are thrust into the Bechdel Family, and with that comes all of their trauma.”
Appearing in MCT’s “Fun Home” will be Abigail Jimison as adult Alison Bechdel, Lauren Mixter as Helen Bechdel, Michael Ramsey as Bruce Bechdel, Lareyna Plescher as Medium Alison, Miah Lipps as Joan, Jake Trygstad at Roy/Pete/Mark/Bobby Jeremy, Rory Ponce as Small Alison, Darion Fearnley as Christian Bechdel and Lyric Ponce as John Bechdel.
All are involved in what Jason Bertoia, MCT’s managing director, considers to be an important event for the West Michigan community.
“As a community theatre organization it is our responsibility that we reflect the community that we are in,” he said. “This means on and off stage and in the productions we choose to perform.
“ … Alison and her story are real … Telling stories reflective of our community offers others a glimpse of what it is to live in someone else’s life and in a Black Box performance this makes it an even more intimate and personal experience. Telling the stories of our different yet shared human experience teaches empathy and understanding for those who are different and is something unique to live theatre.”
Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17, 18 and 23-25, and 3 p.m. Jan.19. Tickets are $26.50. They may be purchased through the Frauenthal Center box office. The box office is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and one hour before performances. To purchase by phone, call 1-800-585-3737.