My heart goes out to Sean Horenstein today, an old friend from my UCLA theater days. In our show “When Esther Saw the Light,” in which Sean played Grandpa, he was completely obscured by the pillowcase he wore on his head, and while he didn’t like it, he was graceful about it–even when I made him wear it during the curtain call. The show went on to win Best Play in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, and our trip to perform in DC was memorable for all. In the years since, Sean moved to Nashville and married his now-hubby, Stanley Joel Churchwell.
For the past many months, Sean has bravely been battling cancer, and given its continual advancement and resistance to chemo, in January Sean made the decision to no longer continue treatment. Now, it seems, his journey’s end is quickly approaching. Please join me in sending out positive thoughts to Sean and Stan. Here’s to you, Sean, and your beautiful face.
UPDATE: Sean passed away in his sleep at 1:45AM on Wednesday March 9, 2016. He will be deeply missed.
Behind the scenes: Michael Sargent, Wade Skeels, Jeremiah Enna, Brian Omeara, Steve Brown, Kim Gibilterra, Michael Korn, and David Thomsen. Cast: Pamela Silverman, Kathleen Hartigan, Pia Pia Romans, Steve Schaeffer, Rebecca Delfino, Debra Guarienti, Catherine Skillman, Sean Horenstein, Jack Black, and Jeff Maynard
Posted the evening of the Golden Globes:
I had one of those weird “a-ha” moments just now, when, while cleaning, a wonderful memory returned. One of the best nights of my life, EVER, happened in February 1993. I have been a fan of Stephen Sondheim as long as I can remember, so when I heard they were doing a one-night only, 20th anniversary original cast reunion performance of COMPANY at the Long Beach Terrace Theater, I immediately bought two tickets. My good friend at the time, Cheryl Dolins, was also a Sondheim fan, and we couldn’t wait to go.
Another friend, Gary Kalkin, called just after we’d bought the tickets, and invited me to the Golden Globes after-party; I was crushed at the conflict. He said to stop by afterward, if we could, and at least say hello.
Cheryl and I loved COMPANY, and I was amazed, watching Dean Jones perform “Being Alive”, at how pitch perfect and emotionally charged his performance was, 20 years later. The entire cast was phenomenal, and goes down in history as my favorite night ever in a theater, bar none.
Exhilarated, Cheryl and I rushed back to LA. Walking up the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton, there were a few photographers, trying to figure out if we were “someones” and, to us, we felt we were. When we got to the check in desk, the woman apologized, saying the party was just about over, but if we wanted to still go in for a quick drink, we could. Dejected to have gotten there so late, we still went it, looking for Gary. There were only about 12 people in the entire room. Aside from Gary, there was Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, and Rodney Dangerfield. Cheryl and I were completely beside ourselves, hovering with the others around the few platters of food left, but kept acting as if hanging out with this crowd was an everyday occurrence.
Cheryl and I have sadly lost touch, and Gary died of AIDS just a year or so later.
I hadn’t thought of this in years, but just did. That was exactly 20 years ago. Thank you, brain cells, for reminding me…
Just a few of the brilliant lyrics…
Up on the walls–
“With love” filling the days,
“With love” seventy ways,
“To Bobby with love”
From all those good and crazy people, my friends!
Those good and crazy people, my married friends!
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
That’s what it’s really about,
Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi has been captivating audiences and drawing detractors ever since its debut, 14 years ago. By resetting the familiar tale of the life of Jesus in the town of his youth, Corpus Christi, Texas, McNally created a work which meditates on the life, love, and passion of Christ, but in a modern and relatable way.
I first met actor James Brandon, who for six years has been playing the character of Jesus (renamed Joshua in the play), when he and Nic Arzen, the play’s director, met with my pastor and I about the possibility of bringing their show to Church of the Foothills, our progressive church in the middle of conservative Orange County, California.
In addition to touring, the play has been the inspiration for a documentary as well, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption, which is showing at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on Sunday April 29, with performances of the play itself occurring over that weekend.
James took time to speak with me about his life, love, faith, and his experience of playing a “Gay Jesus.”
Kergan Edwards-Stout: I’ll never forget, walking up to unlock the sanctuary on the day of your first performance at our church, and finding a can on the front steps, labeled “Spray Away the Gay”–which turns out to be remarkably like Glade air freshener. Who knew it was so easy, right?–Or that you’d even want to?!? But you and your entire team deal with things like that all the time.
James Brandon: I just recently found a picture of you holding that can! But, yes, we deal with that all the time. There is no choice except to embrace one’s inner happiness. Some people think, just like that spray, it’s as easy as just saying “I’m not gay anymore” and being gay simply disappears. I always say that it’s as easy as wiping the color of your skin off your face.
Edwards-Stout: We also had a bomb threat. How, as actors, do you calm yourselves and be fully present, with all that tumult? Because the play doesn’t work if you aren’t… (more…)
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.
Last night a friend sent out an email to a group of writers called “CONFESSIONS,” which listed 10 of his confessions, which were fun and random facts other might not know, and asked the rest of us to do the same. One of his confessions was that he knew who shot JR, as he watched Dallas during its first run. Here is what I wrote:
1. Not only do I remember watching that episode of Dallas, but I was such a Dynasty fanatic that I would lock myself in my dorm room and roll up a towel against the door to block out the light, so no one would interrupt.
2. In junior high, my “girlfriend” — who shall remain nameless — forced me to put my hands on her breasts. I never went there again.
3. Also that year, I starred in a musical version of “Little Women”, playing Laurie Lawrence. I had a great angry scene where Amy (I think) would ask, “But where are you going?” and each night, louder and louder, I would shout as I stormed offstage, “To the Devil!” My finest acting achievement.
4. My co-star in that was Anne Runolfsson, who went on to be a semi-Broadway star. I’m sure she’s left that off her resume.
5. I went to see an out of town run of “Victor/Victoria” while visiting Minneapolis, only to find that Anne was understudying Julie Andrews (about 30 years our senior.) I sent Anne a lovely note, and am still waiting to hear back.
6. I feel like I’m on number 10 already.
7. I am semi-famous, in certain circles, for a condom ad I did in the late 80’s. Yes, I was fully clothed (Thank god.)
8. I am not famous for a commercial I did for Honda. In it, I was the brown haired son. My dad was a blonde gay man, 10 years older than me. My sister had red curly hair. And the woman who played my mom had a root canal the day prior, was all swollen, so gay dad called a friend to come in and play the part, and she was Hispanic.
9. I have identity issues.
10. If you want any more confessions from me, I either get to see you naked, or give me five bucks. Or a piece of gum.
If you enjoyed these random fun facts, check out an older post, A Facebook Guide to the Essential Kergan.
I’ve always been creative, even as a little kid. In 2nd grade, I was the one spraying pine-scented Glade into the audience, trying to establish the proper “forest” mood for my production of Snow White. Perhaps, to some, it would’ve been wiser to have spent less time on such “non-essentials” and more time rehearsing the actors. But in my view, it was far more important that our dwarfs actually look the part, with dwarf-like shoes (i.e., slippers), than learn their dialogue. Who cares if little Billy knows his lines, if everyone looks on the stage and still sees little Billy?
For great art, you need the magic, the essence — the scent — more than anything else.
And so it goes with my writing. It may not always be grammatically correct, nor foofy high-brow lit, but if I’m communicating my thought and affecting you in the process, I’m happy.