Brightly costumed superheroes aren’t the only comic book characters to be brought to life on the big screen and even the Broadway stage.
Lesbian artist Alison Bechdel’s 2006 critically-acclaimed graphic novel “Fun Home” caught the attention of composer Jeanine Tesori and writer Lisa Kron, whose musical adaptation went on to snag the 2015 Tony Award for best new musical.
Now, Miami’s Zoetic Stage is presenting the regional premiere of the coming-of-age drama at the Arsht Center, April 12 – May 13.
Bechdel’s work may already be familiar to many SFGN readers. For many years, Express Gay News, the weekly paper founded by SFGN publisher Norm Kent in 2000, published her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.”
But, for Zoetic’s artistic director Stuart Meltzer, “Fun Home” offered a dramatic departure from the familiar—if still challenging—Stephen Sondheim musicals that have earned the company multiple Carbonell Awards.
“I grew up with Sondheim, I know it so well. Sondheim influenced and continues to influence me,” reflected Meltzer, who is also on the theater faculty at the New World School of the Arts. “With ‘Fun Home’, I find it’s an adventure…it’s fresh and different.”
A gay man who has also written award-winning plays about his own complicated family relationships, Meltzer was immediately drawn to the autobiographical story.
As Bechdel struggled with her own homosexuality, her journey was complicated by the fact that her father was a closeted gay man whose extra-marital infidelities included underage men. Four months after coming out to her parents, Bruce Bechdel was killed in a horrible traffic accident, an incident she concluded was suicide.
“The show exposes how the fear of being who you are can ultimately kill you,” Meltzer pointed out. “It’s shocking to me. I didn’t go through that. I told my father I was gay when I was 18 and didn’t experience that kind of backlash. I didn’t have to hide who I was.”
While Meltzer expects South Florida’s diverse audiences to quickly connect with the complex dynamics, he is also present a story that focuses on the experiences of a lesbian.
“There’s not a tremendous amount of lesbian material out there in the mainstream, let alone the theater,” he observed.
Even though “Fun Home” has been playing to sold out audiences on Broadway for years, this is the first time Meltzer is “seeing” the play.
He confessed, “I never saw the show in New York, but I read the play and listened to the music and I fell in love with it. Everyone who has seen the show has said that it would be a perfect fit for us and a story we’d be able to tell really well. That made me curious. I knew the musical was reaching lots of people across many different communities and I thought doing ‘Fun Home’ was a perfect opportunity to tackle something brand new and reach out to different aspects of our community.”
Every day brings a new nuance to a character or a subtle reminder that, gay or straight, love is universal. On April 12, Arsht Center audiences will join the director and his cast and crew on an emotional journey that began in a comic book.
Zoetic Stage presents “Fun Home” at the Arsht Center in Miami from April 12 through May 13. Tickets are $50 at ArshtCenter.org.