“There were new manufacturing jobs in Detroit, and with that came people moving out of apartment-like and project-like homes into two-story and one-story homes. With a home came a space called “a basement”, which for Black middle-class life (and for my life growing up) was a repository of dreams. It was a place where you went to imagine …”
When I first encountered Fun Home five years ago in its original production at the Public Theatre, I fell head-over-heels in love with this groundbreaking musical that places a lesbian protagonist at the center of the action. I was viscerally affected by the powerful story of cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel’s formative childhood years in 1970s Beech Creek, PA, her coming out as a lesbian at Oberlin College, and her complicated relationship with her charismatic but deeply repressed and closeted gay father, Bruce.
This beautiful, finely-calibrated musical asks us to think about the complex set of personal, familial, and social forces that make us who we are and the challenges that we all face to fully live our truth. For me, this story goes straight to my core as a queer artist that believes, like Alison, that we make art to meaningfully organize our experience of the chaos of life. But what really makes this musical so brilliant, is the way it speaks to us all and enables us all to see ourselves inside of it, regardless of how we identify. Fun Home stages an impossible conversation between Alison and her father Bruce, a haunting duet between two people so similar, yet so different. Using her pen to draw her past in perspective, Alison seeks to see her father’s truth, and in so doing, understand her own.
At the heart of it, this play is about a father and a daughter, about a family with a secret, the ecstasy of being who you are and the agony of hiding the same thing, and about how we all seek, at some point or other, to unlock the secrets of the past in order to more fully understand our present. It’s a story that asks us all to be vulnerable, to reckon with our ghosts, to shake loose our shame, to embrace our truths, and to open our arms and fly to greater heights made possible only by claiming who you really are.
It has been an extraordinary gift to return to Virginia Stage Company to direct Fun Home with this exceptional company. It’s my honor to share Alison’s story with you, and my great hope that you too will glimpse yourself inside this heartbreaking, fiercely funny, soul-stirring story of the remembrance of things past.