Posts tagged “playwright

Robert Michael Morris

Today marks one year since the lovely Robert Michael Morris was taken from us. Russ and I were fortunate enough to meet Michael through our good friend, writer/director Glenn Gaylord. Glenn knew of our love for The Comeback, especially the character Mickey, whom Michael played, and had directed Michael in a TV pilot, Lez Be Friends. One night, he brought Michael to dinner at our place. We quickly became fast friends, meeting him for lunch regularly at Shenandoah at the Arbor, as we loved the food and patio–and it was central to where we lived and where Michael lived, as he hated to drive, especially at night.

Michael was smart, sassy, and funny–but not entirely like the beloved “Mickey” he played on The Comeback. At times he could be like an old auntie, scolding when he didn’t approve of something. He’d been a teacher for years, teaching both high school and college, which perhaps explains his tendency to “mother” people.

His generosity knew no bounds. When I was gathering items for a silent auction to help those battling HIV/AIDS, he handed over boxes of random trinkets and jewelry he’d collected through the years, as well as several original paintings. I doubt that he knew the value of any of them–they’d just struck his fancy–and it is likely that he felt that if they were worth something to him, they’d mean something to someone else as well.

Michael was also a prolific writer, with enough plays to fill four anthology volumes, and was the author of An American Scrapbook. Rumor also has it that, prior to his death, he was at work or had completed a memoir. How I’d love to read that!

In the months before his death, Michael sent us a beautiful Lladró porcelain, depicting Othello and Desdemona. He’s intended it to honor both our artistic endeavors and that both of our children are black, as Michael had mentioned more than once that he found our adoption of them somewhat noble. While to us there was nothing “noble” about these adoptions–we simply wanted healthy children–we thoroughly appreciated Michael’s unwavering support. Still, when we unpacked the gift, I looked at Russ and said, “Do you think he’s preparing for the end?”

We’d known about Michael’s cancer some time, and when he found out that they were indeed going to film a second season of The Comeback, he shared that his cancer would be part of the storyline. If you haven’t seen The Comeback, I urge you to and won’t spoil anything, other than to say that his performance in season 2 should have won an Emmy. There are moments throughout the season between him and Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) which are simply magical-breathtaking-emotional-riveting. Their relationship proved the show’s most strongest, allowing each a shoulder on which to rely. Season 2 marked some of the best television anywhere, and was Michael’s finest performance on film. He also gave memorable appearances on Running Wilde, Arrested Development, Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother, The Class, and Brothers and Sisters.

In the end, it isn’t only his performances I’ll best remember, but the simple kindnesses he repeatedly showed… The way, when sharing something particularly delicious, he’d place his hand on yours, giving it a squeeze, showing he trusted your confidence… His hearty laugh, which inevitably made an appearance in every meeting…

Robert Michael Morris was a class act and deserved even more attention than he’d already received. Kind, caring, and witty, Michael lives on in the heart of anyone whom ever heard him utter, “Oh, Red…”

 


Steven Fales: A Gay Mormon Boy Grows Up

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.

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