Fun Home, a musical based on the 2006 graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, is coming to South Puget Sound Community Theater (SPSCC).
The musical tells the story of Bechdel’s tumultuous relationship with her parents and her process of coming out, to herself and others, in college. It opened off-Broadway in 2013, then in 2015 at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre. It went on to win five Tony awards including best musical, best book of a musical (Lisa Kron) and best score (Jeanine Tesori).
New York Times critic Ben Brantley praised the show, saying, “Fun Home isn’t just a coming out story or a coming-of-age story. Its universality comes from its awareness of how we never fully know even those closest to us, and of the undercurrent of grown-up secrets, intuited by children, that exists to some degree in every family. Fun Home finds a shining clarity that lights up the night.”
SPSCC’s production was directed by drama professor Lauren Love (Angels in America) and stars Olympia actor and vocalist (Black Satin) Heather Matthews as Bechdel’s adult self. Other, younger incarnations of Bechdel are played by Olympia actor Lola May Havens and Seattle-based Josie DeRosier.
“This is the first nonprofessional production of this show in this area, that I am aware of,” notes Love. “This is a show that I think is gonna mean a lot to our students and a lot of people in the community. I’ve been an Alison Bechdel fan forever, and I think there’s a lot of people who have been. This is one of the most innovative new kinds of Broadway shows that we’ve seen in the past couple of years. Hamilton tends to overshadow that, but this is really a breakthrough show. It was doing unusual things to have this intimate story told this way, and a memory story told this way.”
“I was really interested in doing a show about a complicated woman,” says Matthews, adding, “This is the first Broadway musical or opera or any musical sort of theater featuring a lesbian as the main character.”
As Matthews researched the story, she found numerous connections between her life and Bechdel’s. “I also came out to my parents as a lesbian in college,” Matthews says. “Later — the Kinsey scale is a fluid thing — I eventually married my husband, Ben, but I had a very similar experience as she did, where she told her parents and got the cold shoulder. … The news was not greeted warmly, and we basically just never spoke about it again.”
As it happens, Ben is in this production as well, playing Bechdel’s secretive father, Bruce. Ms. Matthews describes a song, “Telephone Wire,” in which father and daughter attempt to find common ground. “All of that emotion,” she acknowledges, “is pretty easy to access for the show. … I am feeling it fresh every night.”
“It’s just such a human story,” adds Love. “I think it brings us back to that basic, fundamental function of the theater, and that is to share our stories in all of their diversity and to recognize our human connection.”
7 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, May 16-25
Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts, SPSCC,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia
Free – $17