If you’re in California or Arizona, Ben Abbott’s Questions of the Heart is only halfway through it’s tour and you’re still in its future.
It’s been getting great reviews as it goes and, to the best of my knowledge, remains the only bit of theater performed to acclaim in both LDS churches and gay bars.
Don’t miss it!
8/23 ““ Berkeley, CA
The Osher Studio
2055 Center Street
9/2 ““ 9/3 ““ San Luis Obispo, CA
1531 Montery Street
9/9 ““ Ventura, CA
9/11 ““ Los Angeles, CA
9/15 ““ Mesa, AZ
For those who remember thinking Questions of the Heart sounded awesome and sometimes wonder how it would be different were it made today, now that so much has changed, Ben needs money to show you.
Check it out.
All I’ll say is that Ben’s writing and performance the first time around were powerful and I myself would love to know how he synthesizes what’s happened over the last two years.
Many of the characters in the play are friends of mine. In the last two years, one has come out of the closet and appeared on national television as a faithful, woman-married gay Mormon man. One gave up on his marriage. One is now fully active in his ward. One is getting married to his longtime boyfriend this summer.
And those are just the personal stories. The gay/Mormon relationship has changed in many ways since March 2011 on the macro level as well.
Ben’s work is honest and true, excellent in both art and craft, and exquisitely Mormon.
And that’s it. That’s all I’ll say.
Check it out and decide for yourself.
During his one-man show Questions of the Heart (tickets still available — tonight’s show includes a Q&Q with the creator), writer/actor Ben Abbott speaks, I believe, 100%ly in the actual words he recorded during his interviews. One character early in the play speaks of loving those fabulous Primary ladies as a child, then clarifies that this is back when Primary was held in the middle of the week. What the original interviewee did not say (and what Abbott does not insert) is what Primary is, who goes to it, why ladies seemed to be in charge — none of that! Later in the play his characters use distinct Mormon phrases like “taking the sacrament” or “temple recommend”! They use uniquely Mormon meanings of common words like “gospel” and “ward”! And yet never once does Abbott slow things down to give the Gentiles in the audience definitions or explanations or anything else of the kind! He just trusts his audience to keep up. And, based on audience reaction, so they did.
I overheard Kelly Ann speaking with the play’s designer and her assistant about the Mormon diction and phrasing, and they couldn’t think of anything at any point during the play that would have been inaccessible to someone not Mormon. In the end, the only people worried about Mormon sprachen were the Mormons. Everyone else ate it right up and simply enjoyed the show.
I knew it.
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.
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”
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”