I can proudly and say with confidence that ‘Fun Home’ made me cry. The five time Tony winning show is in Denver and is bring audiences to tears. The show, based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiography of the same name, focus on the life of Alison Bechdel including her childhood, coming out story, and dealing with life now. To say that this is a simple show would be an understatement. From the music, to the story, to the lyrics; Fun Home is a juggernaut of excellence that has perfected a way to throw feeling after feeling at the audience and make them enjoy it.
“She is trying to come to terms with the death of her father, which she never has. He died while she was in college. So, she spends a lot of the show watching her memories play themselves out. Reliving them both when she was a little kid, her relationship with her dad and also when she was in college during the coming out process and how that changed the relationship,” Kate Shindle, who plays adult Alison, said.
The show deals mostly with Alison’s coming out and how her family reacts to her coming out but is about more than simply the fact that she is a lesbian, but deals with relationships in general. “Whether or not you are dealing with your own sexuality there is that universal awkward feeling of meeting someone that you are like, oh God this person is making me feel all kinds of things and then tumbling into bed with them for the first time,” said Robert Petkoff.
This groundbreaking show is playing now at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House through Sunday, January 22nd.
Check out our previous interview with Tony nominee Beth Malone for her time as Alison Bechdel.
What is Fun Home?
Kate- It’s an incredibly complicated show to try and boil down to a single sentence, but it is about a woman who is looking back at her life and trying to write a book about it. Alison Bechdel is a real person she wrote a real graphic memoir called Fun Home. Which is short for funeral home because the family ran a funeral home in a small town in Pennsylvania. She is trying to come to terms with the death of her father, which she never has. He died while she was in college. So, she spends a lot of the show watching her memories play themselves out. Reliving them both when she was a little kid, her relationship with her dad and also when she was in college during the coming out process and how that changed the relationship.s
Robert- It’s notable in the play that Alison is played by three different actors. We see her at ten years old, we see her at eighteen when she has just gone to college and we see her here [present day]. As she is looking at these memories she is both in control and starts to come at her in a way she can’t control. It is very serious at times, but it is also very funny at times. Very amusing. Especially the college age Alison, she is away from home for the first time and she is discovering what she likes in the world. It makes for some really fun things.
What is her college age and journey like and how could that relate to some of our students?
Kate- I would imagine that on any college campus there are students that get there and say wait a minute, I might be gay. And medium Alison, as she’s called, spends some time literally praying, ‘Please God don’t let me be a homosexual’ because she doesn’t know how she would deal with that. And then she meets the women who would become her first girlfriend *spoiler*. But it is done in a very funny and tasteful way I think. I think that even audience who aren’t necessarily sure how they would respond to seeing a same sex love story play out on stage, appreciate it and enjoy it. College students tend to be, across the board, a lot more accepting of that, then college students used to be even 30, 40 years ago. I don’t think it is too racy for audiences.
Robert- Yeah, and you know what is great about that, especially that scene of the college stuff that she is going through. Whether or not you are dealing with your own sexuality there is that universal awkward feeling of meeting someone that you are like, oh God this person is making me feel all kinds of things and then tumbling into bed with them for the first time. She has a song called “I am Changing My Major to Joan” and once she sees Joan or is with Joan, she decides, forget college it is going to be all about you. I think a lot of college students can identify with that girlfriend/ boyfriend, that first experience that they feel I don’t care about anything else in the world all I care about is this. And it’s really wonderfully portrayed by Abby Corrigan.
Kate- Like the first time I meet Robert.
Robert- Yeah, we don’t just like each other we love each other.
Kate- Our cast actually gets along really well. We have five kids that travel with us and they each have a mom with them. We have cast members like Robert that have wives, husbands, partners at home and it can be very hard to be on the road and be away from your life. When you are traveling with a group of people for a year, the number one thing you want is no drama queens. I feel we hit the jackpot. We don’t have anyone who likes to make trouble. We don’t even have those people who don’t mean to cause trouble but just have storm around them. We have a nice steady group of people. Aside from the fact that we get to do a really good show every night, we enjoy the people we get to work with.
You both have some Denver connections.
Robert- I have been here three different times here at the DCPA. The last time was this summer playing Sweeney Todd and I love Denver. I always get excited when I get a job out here because just the city itself is so cool there are so many things to do. There are some cities in America, that I won’t name where you are like, ‘I think I will spend this one in my hotel room.’ And then cities like this where if I spend more time in my room than outside it is going to be a real waste of time.
Kate- The first time I came through Denver with a show was the tour of Cabaret, the last time it came through. And I remember them saying that the ballet had just been through and that they had oxygen in the wings. And I thought why would I need oxygen? I am 23 and in great shape. And then by the end of the second number, I thought I might die. Still I think Denver is great. I first came here when I was lobbying for HIV- Aids prevention. I got to perform a benefit for theatre Aspen and got to experience the ride up to Aspen when the airport closes down.
Why should audiences come see the show?
Kate- You should come see this show if you like theatre. If you like good theatre. Even if you don’t know you like musicals, it’s a great musical the music advances the story, but it also sounds more contemporary, most of it, then I imagine people think. With the exception of a couple of songs that are pastiche numbers that reflect what Alison would have been listening to her childhood. There is a number that sounds very much like the Jackson 5 song that the kid sing. It’s funny, it’s real, it matters, it’s telling an important story of how people should be free to own their identity and that bad things can happened when they aren’t. And I feel like we are ambassadors for that, especially right now in the country to treat each other with respect and care and love.
Robert- I think she said it. It’s a very human story. There’s a quote that I am very fond of repeating that someone said, ‘You won’t enjoy this show unless you are a mother, father, son, or a daughter. And if you are any of those four things you will enjoy this story.” You will find something that means something to you in watching it. And I have to say I was a little worried going out with this story. How are audience going to respond to this? To a person at the stage door, to wherever I have talked to people they’ve said, ‘I had no idea what I was going to see there and I was so emotionally moved by the end of the story.’ So it’s really a great journey to take. To empathy and love and humanity.
Kate- And it’s only one act so if you hate it, it will be over soon.