BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance

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As Houstonians gear up for Theater LaB's special event and Regional Première of MISSIONARY POSITION, the second part of Steven Fales' Mormon Boy Trilogy, Steven Fales is busy in Salt Lake City. He tells me he is thrilled to be returning to Houston, especially since CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY sold out before he arrived in town when he premièred the show in the region. He noted that Houston audiences loved it, and really hopes that Houston audiences will eat up MISSIONARY POSTION as well. He feels that the time in right with Romney running for president because audiences will get to see "Mormon Temple ceremonies from an insider and not someone making fun of the church from the outside."

What was the impetus of the Mormon Boy Trilogy?

Steven Fales (SF): It all started with CONFESSIONS, which I did off-Broadway, in London's West End, and just did it in Halifax, Nova Scotia. CONFESSIONS is the cornerstone. Part 2 [MISSIONARY POSITION] came about in Dublin. My friend was doing a show about his experiences as a Marine in Iraq. I felt being a missionary in Portugal was just as exotic as that, and there wasn't anything out there that showed what being a missionary was like. I wrote this show before BOOK OF MORMON. Unlike other shows, in MISSIONARY POSTION, I wear Mormon Free Mason clothes. Also, MISSIONARY POSITION is a 90-minute coming of age tale. It has three outrageous fantasy sequences that are equally high camp to go with all the realistic parts. Then, Part 3 [PRODIGAL DAD] is the most important thing I've ever written, and the hardest thing I've ever written. PRODIGAL DAD is sequel to the 2nd part and tells what happens when I come back home to Utah. It's a Brokeback Mormon story that tells about my experiences with the sex industry and my ex-wife. It is the most satiating of the trilogy and the most inspiring.

I am coming to Houston to ham it up. I have done the three shows in repertory in LA and Fort Lauderdale, but MISSIONARY POISITION is the bestseller of the three. Before coming to Houston I will be in New York looking at theatre spaces. I'll be doing all three of the shows off-Broadway, but the earliest it would open is Spring 2013. I am also working on a memoir book proposal.

What has writing the Mormon Boy Trilogy has been like?

SF: People always ask, "How can you relive your story on stage night after night?" It's not the acting; it's the writing that is the catharsis. You have to go to the depths of your soul to revisit things. It's not always healthy to relive your past, but as an actor, I can leave it all on the stage. As a writer, I become consumed with all the elements of the past. Revisiting the past can be very painful, causing procrastination. I put it off. So, I give myself 5 try-out runs with a new show because it so hard to create. When you go somewhere so specific, it translates across audiences. People tell me, "Oh my god, you told my story!" All we have to change the world really is not a contribution to this or that campaign, it is telling our own personal story of overcoming and transformation.

At what point did you realize that CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY was a hit?

SF: I knew it would succeed the moment I knew I had to tell it. I was living in New York, and I knew I wanted to tell the story of my excommunication. I stopped auditioning for everything else and just knew. I think we all know that we'll be successful, but will we be willing to put the pen to paper and commit to it. The grandiose dream is only grandiose if we don't commit to it. Also, the reason I am telling it is because I was afraid if I were to die that there would be no one to tell my story to my children. I was afraid that my mother-in-law, Carol Lynn Pearson, the most famous Mormon author, would tell my story-the person who ruined her daughter's life. Her daughter married me knowing I was gay. Mormon memoir-gay Mormon memoir-is the family business. I saw how she whitewashed her husband's story and how that bothered Emily [his ex-wife], and I thought even if I leave wreckage, I'm going to leave clues. I felt it was important to do it not only as a gay man in America, but as a dad. PRODIGAL DAD is about how my ex-wife filed false accusations of child abuse against me, which almost wrecked me in the middle of a recession. And guess who was there in court.

Carol Lynn Pearson, probably with a steno pad.

SF: My mother-in-law was there. But, PRODIGAL DAD isn't just about that. It is also about the deepening of my spiritual journey. In the climax, I conjure my father-in-law that I never met and we have it out. Two gay fathers have it out, and I ask him to give me the father's blessing, that my own dad can't give me. When you see PRODIGAL DAD people will see why. It's an awesome, beautiful moment.

It's amazing that you are using your experiences to help end spiritual abuse and violence in churches, mosques, and synagogues. Regarding this journey, what moment has been your favorite so far?

SF: There's one moment that I thought of recently. I was in Boston, and I was doing the show at Boston Theatre Works. I was there for 4 weeks and got amazing reviews. After the show, I was greeting the audience like I always do and this guy came up to me last. He fell into my hands weeping and said, "Thank you for helping me understand my son." His son had run away to LA, living a crazy life, and he was able to identify with my story. This man worked in Missionary Presidency of the Boston Massachusetts Mission and his wife was the Relief Society president-the organization that many Mormon women work in. The show blew them away, and hopefully they'll have a breakthrough with their son. These are the moments that you keep doing this for. These are the moments that keep you going when the money is not enough. These are the moments that motivate and inspire. That's why we do what we do.

Your works help people reclaim their spirituality. How do you feel they achieve this?

SF: I don't know that we ever finish or arrive at achieving spirituality. I just want people to leave considering or to consider reconciling their space or working at where an addiction has gotten in the way of their life. Or if it gets them to call their dad and reconnect with their family, whatever the next spiritual step they need to take is, they do it. If they get a goose bump or something else in the theatre that tells them that they're ok and they're not alone, that's as good as it gets, and that's enough for one little solo show.

What was the motivation for founding the Solo Performance Alliance?

SF: The cast parties as a solo performer are so lonely. The stage manger shows up and you know in his mind he's thinking, "Oh no, I'm it and he's going to unload on me." Solo performers need other solo performers for advice, help with booking, developing their show. We just need support. We're a unique niche in theatre. On the Facebook page we say "Have you played here? I played here. I think you should play here. Here's their booking information." It's a great resource to have for one another.

You are definitely an inspiration to many, but what inspires you?

SF: I think I kind of alluded to it before. It's when I meet people after the show and they share their stories. During my curtain speech, I always say, "Thank you for coming to share my story. We all have a story." You'll hear "Aw, yes" from the audience. It's that moment when all of their stories come collectively to me. People always ask if I'm exhausted after a show. And my answer is "not really. I'm in good shape. Yes, it's tiring, but it's exhilarating." Their stories feed me. I welcome their stories back.

As a performer of autobiographical solo plays, what advice do you offer to others who wish to tell their stories in this fashion?

SF: [Laughs] There's a few things, but I'm wondering what's the... [Pauses] You need support. If you go out on a limb and expose yourself, you're going to need a team to help you. You have to wait carefully, telling that I was an escort on stage-volunteering that-has cost me something. Not everyone can date someone who tells the whole world they were an escort. Sometimes I told things prematurely. So, wait a little bit. Also, remember that things that you felt like you never could share when told without ego makes you irresistible. I don't want to be seen as a narcissist. I mean, when you're vulnerable like that, then you're irresistible. You have to be very careful not to do the show with ego. When I have, I've seen the reviews that nailed me. When I do it with a sense of service, I get the reviews I have gotten in Boston. When told with ego, my story doesn't land. When I tell my story in a more humble and spiritual way, it lands. Lastly, don't get a director until you're far along in the process. A director can direct you right out.

For those who missed CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY the first time around, Steven Fales will reprise the show in Houston at Theater LaB on October 12 & 13, 2012. On Sunday, October 14, 2012 he will perform the Regional Première of MISSIONARY POSTION. MISSIONARY POSITION will run at Theatre LaB through October 21, 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit http://theaterlabhouston.com/ or call (713) 868 – 7156.

Photos courtesy of Theater LaB.

BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance

BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance
Steven Fales

BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance
Storyteller, Steven Fales

BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance
Steven Fales in Temple Ceremony Garments

BWW Interviews: Steven Fales Talks MISSIONARY POSITION, Mormon Boy Triology and Solo Perfromance

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