FUN HOME • Regional Debut at Bay City Players

Bay City Players Explores the Fascinating & Perplexing Textures of Self-Discovery of a Modern Tony Award Winning Musical

    icon Jul 05, 2018
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FUN HOME is a daring and innovative musical excursion, adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from author Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The story concerns Bechdel's discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life. Significantly, it is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist; and is equally pioneering for its structure, which is told in a series of non-linear vignettes connected by narration provided by the adult Alison character.

After opening Off-Broadway in 2013 to positive reviews, FUN Home moved to Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning five, including ‘Best Musical’, with its cast album receiving a nomination for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater album; and the production finally closed in September, 2016.

Now theatre and music fans will have a rare opportunity to experience that fascinating musical journey of self-discovery as Bay City Players busily prepare for a series of performances of FUN HOME slated to run from July 26 - 29th, which will be a regional premier for the work.

For Director Jeff List, Fun Home is one of those rare plays that offers a unique storyline and occupies a unique place within the lexicon of contemporary American Theatre. Jeff previously directed On Golden Pond for Bay City Players and received his PhD from the University of Kansas in Theatre back in 2015. He moved to Pennsylvania to help a friend start up a theatre company and recently moved back to the Bay City area to be closer to family.

“There is much that is ‘new’ about it and I feel it’s an important musical,” he reflects. “It deals with a lesbian protagonist and issues of self-discovery, which are important topics - but even more important is that this play is openly struggling with issues of memory from a protagonist who is a cartoonist, literally drawing her life story, struggling with issues of what is real and what isn’t in terms of what she’s creating. She is trying to examine what really happened over different periods of her life versus what she thinks happened, which is really compelling.”

As she works on her memoir in the present day, successful middle-aged cartoonist Alison Bechdel (Alison) recalls two time periods in her life. The first is her childhood, around age 10 (Small Alison), when she struggles against her father Bruce's obsessive demands and begins to identify her inchoate sexuality. The second is her first year in college (Medium Alison), when she begins her first relationship and comes out of the closet as a lesbian.

Alison remembers herself, as a child, demanding that her father Bruce play "airplane" with her, while he sorts through a box of junk and valuables he has salvaged from a barn.  Bruce tells the family that a visitor from the local historical society is coming to see their ornate Victorian home that he has restored, and his wife Helen prepares the house to Bruce's demanding aesthetic standard. In a phone call with her father and a journal entry, Medium Alison expresses her anxiety about starting college; and the play follows similarly life-defining moments throughout the arc of her life.

“I think there are two separate stories being told both intimately intertwined,” expounds List. “One involves her own self-discovery and the other is her discovery of her father and the connection - if there is any - between the two.  She starts to ponder whether she’s partially responsible for the outcomes in her life; and to balance both stories - without providing an answer - is a challenge we’re all working towards.”                                                                                                    

The cast for Fun Home consists of Brianne Dolney as Alison, Jaeleen Davis as Medium Alison, Maddie Snawder as small Allison, True Rogers as Bruce Bechdel, Marci Rogers as Helen Bechdel and Daniel Barnes as Christian Bechdel. Marcellous Rogers plays the role of John Bechdel; and the cast is rounded out by Spencer Beyerlein and Alice Duffy.

“Brianne is a dynamic performer and the lead role was easy to cast,” comments List. “When she read we knew we had to find a place for her; and Maddie is beyond her years in terms of preparation and is always writing notes about her character. She’s a tremendous talent.  Plus, the Rogers are all part of the same family which is exciting.”

“Marci is a powerhouse singer and can hit the big notes really well, but with this production, people can see the softer more tender side of her vocals.  Daniel Barnes is a whiz and has a remarkable ability to memorize and understand what we’re doing, which is remarkable for someone so young. Alice is very grounded and knows the nuances of what she’s doing; and Jaeleen went to the Miss Michigan Pageant as Miss Bay County and is a dynamic performer and a wonderful personality. We’re lucky to have her.  I enjoy working with younger artists because I like to present new opportunities to them,” notes Jeff.

Are there any particular thematic threads woven into Fun Home that Jeff is attempting to focus upon as a Director?  “The pivotal theme I’m trying to emphasize is taken from a line in the play that goes: ‘Chaos never happens if it’s never seen’. I feel that line plays a key part in this play in the sense that if people pretend hard enough, you don’t see the chaos of their lives.  Allison is trying to come to terms with this life and fully seeing it, as she never under understood the chaos of her family life because she never saw it. And now she is.”

“There’s also a repeated theme of flying - that sense of freedom versus being trapped,” adds Jeff. “Bruce is trapped in his own mythology, as Allison calls it - of who he’s pretending to be as opposed to who he really is. People talk about being themselves or wanting to fly through the freedom to be themselves; but often are self-confined and don’t get the chance to look down while they soar. That’s another theme we’re going with - flying versus being trapped.”

With 16 musical numbers in this show I like the balance between script and musical numbers,” adds Jeff. “The more grounded in acting a production is the more bolder and bigger each scene can be; and this play gives an opportunity to do some really grounded acting, so the actor can be the character in script and also big and bold and beautiful when letting lose with the singing.”

“The arc of the action jumps around a lot and we see Allison at age 10, age 20 and adult Allison is around 43 years of age,” concludes Jeff. “Not only is the first musical I’ve directed at Players, but I’m especially excited that this is the area premier for this show because it’s an exciting opportunity to present something that hasn’t been seen in the region.”

Bay City Players production of FUN HOME runs from July 26 - 29th. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 students and available by visiting  Curtain is at 7:;30 pm except for Sunday 3:00 pm matinee performances.


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