So today’s #TBT comes with a story… When I started at UCLA, I wanted to be an actor. The truth was, though, that as I hadn’t yet explored my soul, I wasn’t very good; all artifice and posing. My favorite shows at the time were DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING, and when they were on, I’d hide in my dorm room with a towel blocking the bottom of the door, so no one would think I was there and disturb me. I was convinced it was my destiny to end up on DYNASTY. I thought–if only the casting director would see me–they’d write a role for me as the teen son of Alexis: a brooding, sexy, tormented young man. I was so thoroughly certain this would happen that I actually practiced my DYNASTY title sequence, walking and turning to look directly into camera, smoldering, as if caught unaware.
As luck would have it, I heard about a special day-long Cold Reading class on campus, taught by none other than the casting director of DYNASTY. I knew that once I made an impression on him, I would find myself on the show. I spent much time picking out just the right outfit and concentrated on this brooding character I’d conjured in my imagination.
There were about 100 actors in the class that day, which was held in a lecture hall, so very little chance of me even meeting the man; still, I felt certain. The whole morning he talked about the key points to cold reading, which requires you to not have any preconceived ideas about the scene, as you have no time to even read it. It is all about being “in the moment.” Finally, as we broke for lunch, they announced that when we returned, one guy and one girl would be selected at random to cold read for the class. MY CHANCE–AT LAST!
All through lunch I ran through imaginary scenes in my head, each one more emotive and darker than the last. I probably even practiced my squinty “sexy pout” a time or two. After lunch, he asked for volunteers who wanted to read, and every hand in the class shot up, including mine. And he picked me! (I knew it!!!)
As the woman and I stood up and walked to the front of the room, we were handed our sides. We began to read, and I tackled it with all the force and passion I’d been storing up since my early days of first watching DYNASTY. I was intense, in a bad way–but befitting an Aaron Spelling production. I was Hamlet, only to find out mid-scene that the piece I was reading was witty, light Noel Coward-quipy comedy. I was utterly mortified, having committed to this part, but had no choice but to see my folly through to the end. After we finished and I returned to my seat, I could feel the other actors shrink away from me, fearful of catching my bad-acting bug.
Which is why I’m a writer.
#DontCountYourChickens #EpicFail #WorstAuditionEver #IamJoanCollinsSon
Actor/playwright Steven Fales first came to my attention with his groundbreaking solo play, Confessions of a Mormon Boy, which was a hit off-Broadway and in cities around the world. The play chronicles Fales’ heartbreaking journey from being a devoted sixth-generation Mormon and father of two, to coming out as gay and being excommunicated from his church. Along the way, he also details his painful divorce, a long-fought battle with drugs and alcohol, a stint in prostitution, to finally coming out the other side as an out and proud gay dad.
Intrigued by his story, I asked him to perform his play at Church of the Foothills, the progressive church I attend in the middle of conservative Orange County, California. Getting to know Steven and his life story, it became clear that no one play could accurately communicate his entire life’s journey, so I wasn’t surprised to learn of his creation of two new solo plays, Missionary Position and Prodigal Dad, which complement his first.
Missionary Position was based on Fales’ journals and follows his Mormon mission to Portugal, while Prodigal Dad explores the link between parent and child, and how tenuous, yet intrinsic, that bond can be. My partner Russ and I had the pleasure of having Fales read us an early draft of Prodigal Dad in our living room, and I can’t wait to see it fully realized on stage.
For the first time ever, Fales will be performing these three plays in repertory at Los Angeles’ Hudson Guild Theatre, in preparation for an off-Broadway run. He graciously took time to share with me more about these plays, his life, and his continuing journey as a gay father.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: When you first wrote Confessions of a Mormon Boy, did you ever envision you’d eventually have a series of plays, all based on your life?
Steven Fales: Heck no! I thought Confessions of a Mormon Boy was going to be it. But then life continued to unfold. And as I got more courageous in telling more and more of my truth, I knew I had to write the others. Although Missionary Position has certainly become a big crowd pleaser, Prodigal Dad is where my heart and soul resides. Bottom-line, I’m a dad. And I was always meant to be a dad. My work honors all prodigal parents who have come home to who they really are.
Edwards-Stout: What led you to write Confessions of Mormon Boy in the first place?
Fales: Well, at the time, I was being excommunicated in a formal church court for the practice of homosexuality. After all of the reparative therapy I had undergone, and all the sacrifice and service to the church and my family, I found it all so fantastical and barbaric. It was clear that someone needed to write this.
Edwards-Stout: That person ended up being you–
Fales: I mean, Mormons excommunicate you with a smile! But I also realized that I was afraid, if I were to suddenly die, my children would not know who their father was. If I didn’t tell my own story, no one else would.
Edwards-Stout: But you have relationships, of varying degree, to very prominent Mormons who are also writers, correct? Your mother-in-law, Carol Lynn Pearson, wrote Good-bye, I Love You, and your ex-wife, Emily Pearson, wrote Dancing with Crazy. Both of them are memoirs about their personal experiences of marrying gay men, their faith, and other themes which connect with yours. Were you concerned about how they would tell your story?
Fales: No matter how great our divas are, they will never be able to tell our own stories with the honesty and passion that we can. I also didn’t want my story white-washed by women who seem to be pro-gay, but are actually pro-gay for pay. They have built an empire on gay Mormon memoir. And neither of them is gay…and barely even Mormon.
Having first cast Michael Vaccaro in a play 20 years ago, in which he was riveting, I’m pleased that our friendship has survived the many years since. Michael has gone on to build up indie cred by starring in such movies as Todd Verow’s Deleted Scenes and the upcoming The Endless Possibility of Sky. His roots, though, are in theater, and he has performed in countless shows, both in New York and Los Angeles. He won a MAC award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performer, and his first CD, Archangel, was a big success. Now he is back with a second CD, Wait for Him, which was inspired by his husband, Antonio Vaccaro, who passed away in 2009.
Q & A: Michael Vaccaro
Congratulations on your new CD, Wait for Him. What led you to make it?
As you know, my husband, Antonio, died in December 2009 at 38 years old. After about a year of grieving, it seemed that people were tired of me talking about him, but I wasn’t ready to stop. So, I had to find some creative way to funnel all those emotions into something tangible. A book, maybe? A screenplay?
Then I realized I could sing songs about him, for him, inspired by him, and as a memorial to him. Having this CD means that I have something to give to people, and then they get to experience him, too. I get to share him, and I don’t have to be the only person responsible for keeping his memory alive. He becomes bigger than just my memory of him.
The CD is a testament to how much we loved each other, and what a huge and important part of my life he was and continues to be. My hope is that maybe people can be inspired by the idea that a great love like the one we shared is still possible. And, hopefully, I’ve created something beautiful out of tragedy.
Tell me about the title of the album.
In 2004, I found a poem called “Wait for Him.” It was so beautiful that I printed it out and kept it in my wallet, but I never knew the name of the author. On my first date with Antonio, in 2009, he mentioned that he liked poetry, and I pulled the poem out of my wallet, gave it to him, and told him it was my favorite poem. He took the small, crumbled up bit of paper, read the poem, looked up at me and said, “I wrote this.” I was instantly in love. (more…)