LAB Theater Project Opens SYD This Week

SYD runs for three weekends, February 22 – March 10, 2024. 

By: Feb. 21, 2024
LAB Theater Project Opens SYD This Week
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LAB Theater Project will present the first play of the 2024 season, SYD, by Craig Houk, opening on February 22.  This brand-new drama brings us two families unexpectedly caught in the whirlwind of change sweeping across American culture and mores in the early 1970’s, trying to live up to their community’s norms while their children insist on creating their own lives.

DC-based playwright Craig Houk has won playwriting awards at festivals and theaters such as Dominion Stage in Virginia and the Loom New Works Festival in Nashville.  He also has professional credits for acting, producing, and directing, and is a long-time fan of LAB Theater Project.  SYD is directed by LAB’s founding producer, Owen Robertson, who also designed the lights and the set, working with Beth Tepe-Robertson as set dresser and Cas Hardy as scenic artist. Rick Anthony designed the sound and Corinne Todd designed the costumes.

About the play:

Years before the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, thirty-two men died in an arson attack at a gay bar in New Orleans on June 24, 1973.  On the same night, Sydney Trahan, a young nursing student, is arrested for dancing at a lesbian bar in the French Quarter nearby.  After this transgression, her parents struggle to gain some control over their lives and restore a sense of normalcy.  Their neighbors, the Larsons, question their friends’ decisions, while hiding their own secrets that intertwine with both the fire and Syd’s arrest.  While Syd demands the chance to be the person she wants to be, the Trahans and Larsons must face their truths and decide what is most important to them.

Playwright Houk calls SYD a cautionary tale about coming out as a lesbian in America, where women are criminals by virtue of their very existence.  “Many of my plays feature multifaceted American women who are shrewd, resourceful, determined, humorous, resilient, empathetic, fearless, and unconventional.  These are characters who are required to adhere to certain behaviors, norms, roles, and values, but they challenge those expectations – sometimes in understated ways and sometimes more overtly.”  Even so, he says, “SYD is not a political statement, but a very personal story with fully drawn characters who are bending – and sometimes breaking – while trying to hold on tightly to their faith in an ever-evolving world.  

The director, Owen Robertson, says when he first read the play he was compelled to direct it:  “Why SYD? Aside from the beautiful story of a family learning to accept their gay daughter in 1973, set against an historic awful massacre of gay men that is rarely spoken of outside of queer history, there is a deeply personal connection for me. My father was a closeted gay man. It wasn't until ten years before his death that we had an open conversation about it. I had known since high school, but never brought it up. But as I grew older and worked in theater and had many gay friends, I became increasingly aware of the pain my father must have felt, the heartache I felt for him not ever being able to feel he could be himself. Even when we did have that conversation, through his reserved South African demeanor he wept and made me swear to never reveal his "truth." He passed in 2009 and it took me years to realize that while it was his truth, it was also mine and one that I am deeply proud of. I was raised by a gay man. Nothing happened to me. I was raised by a loving father who did everything he could to keep me safe and prepared for life. He made me a thinker and a compassionate man. Through his example, I learned to live my truthful self, never adjusting to how others feel I should be. It’s true this may be good and bad in my life, but I live without regrets. My father lived an excellent life, he accomplished significant things in his life, he was kind and compassionate, loving, witty, brilliant, and at the same time, he ached in his heart for not being able to be true to himself. For Dad, I wanted to direct SYD, to honor him, to tell a story from the LGBTQ+ community – and that I could relate to Bud, so very much, and his questions of religion and the views of being gay. For these reasons I chose to direct this play; I hope you see the passion for the story through our telling of it.”

SYD runs for three weekends, February 22 – March 10, 2024.  Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm, in LAB’s theater at 812 E. Henderson Avenue, on the western edge of Ybor City.  Taped performances will also be available on demand, starting March 7 through the 17.  Audience members who purchase on-demand tickets will be emailed a link to the video site.  LAB Theater Project reserves the right to adjust the number of seats available in response to CDC guidance, to protect the health and wellbeing of our audiences, cast and crew.