Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity

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benabbotshow

When we left off yesterday, we were segueing from the couple-creators portion of this interview to talking with Ben Abbott about the new one-man show he has written and is starring in this weekend (with, of course, some additional insights from his wife Barbara). If you will be in the Bay Area, click on the poster to buy tickets. Hurry — the show is expected to sell out.

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Th: The reason I’m finally getting around to making this interview happen now is Ben’s show this weekend. Tell us about it.

Ben: This is my senior thesis at UC Berkeley. It’s a one-man show about gay members of the church. When Proposition 8 happened I was the only active Mormon studying at PCPA (which is in California), where the majority of my friends were gay. I felt strangely caught between two worlds, with my family and faith on one side, and my friends and work on the other. I thought, you know, do I have to reject one or the other of these to some degree to truly embrace the other? Out of those ponderings came the question, well what about gay members of the church themselves? Talk about conflict. How do they reconcile the contradiction? Or do they? I spent a few months interviewing people, and from those transcripts I pulled segments and pieced them together into a one-man show. I think it offers a wider look at the issue than most of what I’ve seen that’s out there right now. This is not a monolithic group, and there is a huge variety of reactions to finding oneself at the crossroads of gay and Mormon, and I try to present enough of them to challenge just about anyone’s assumptions, no matter which “side” they’re on.

Th: Was this project an easy sell to Cal’s theater department? Continue reading “Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity”

Couple-Creators: Ben and Barbara Abbott

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When Ben and Barbara moved into our ward last year as newlyweds, I knew I wanted to interview them even though they are still at the beginning of their careers and less established than other artists I’ve interviewed for Couple-Creators. I thought a) it would be nice to get a sense of how my questions get answered at the beginning of a marriage rather than a decade (or decades) in and b) it would be nice just to get to know them better.

Th: Let’s start though with Your Story. Because your existence as Mormon Couple-Creators is not only newly coupled, but, in Barbara’s case, newly Mormoned as well. So tell us how Ben & Barbara came to be.

Babs: It’s kind of a long, complicated story that involves my conversion, so ready yourself!   We met during a costume fitting for White Christmas. We were both working at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA Theaterfest).  I was a Costume Design Intern, and Ben was a student in the acting conservatory.  It was my first show at PCPA, so I was taking full advantage of the fittings to scope out what the male actors were like.  When Ben came in I immediately noticed his height (I promise I’m not shallow, I’m just tall and notice a good tall guy…).  He seemed great: friendly, funny, intelligent, and he lived in Argentina for two years!  Cultured to boot!  Oh… he was on his mission … he’s Mormon… bummer.  Nevertheless, he left a strong impression on me.  We got to know one another more during A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He played Lysander and I designed makeup for the show — well, mostly, I designed makeup for the fairies because they were colored from head-to-toe like Hindu gods.  Ben’s makeup was standard highlights and shadows, but he needed a lot of help.

Ben: I would just like to say that you would need a lot of help with your makeup too if the help was so lovely.  Did I just call you “the help?”  You know what I mean. Continue reading “Couple-Creators: Ben and Barbara Abbott”