MTSU Theatre students are once again bringing Broadway to Middle Tennessee audiences by showcasing family relationships and self-awareness with their April 7-10 production of the multi-Tony-winning musical “Fun Home.”
Led by Department of Theatre and Dance assistant professor Lauren Shouse, the nine-member cast is bringing writer-artist Alison Bechdel’s New York Times bestselling graphic memoir to the Tucker Theatre stage for four performances.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 7-9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at the theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium at 615 Champion Way.
Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for K-12 students. MTSU students, faculty and staff can attend free by presenting a current university ID at the Tucker Theater box office.
Information on tickets, a digital program listing the cast and crew, and more show details are available at https://mtsu.edu/theatreanddance/funhome.php.
Guests are encouraged to wear masks and follow social distancing measures inside Tucker Theatre. The venue is fully accessible for people with disabilities, including hearing, vision and mobility needs.
“Fun Home” began as Bechdel’s 2006 New York Times bestselling graphic memoir, in which she used her award-winning illustration and storytelling skills, honed by years of work on her acclaimed syndicated comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” to delve into her childhood and family.
She uses a nonlinear style with literary and pop-culture allusions to study herself and her developing sexuality as a lesbian as well as her family and her relationship with her father, a closeted gay man whose deep unhappiness led to abusive behavior and ultimately to what Bechdel believes was his suicide.
The title “Fun Home” plays on both the family’s nickname for its business, a mortuary, and the conditions created in it by Bruce Bechdel’s misery at being untrue to himself and his loved ones.
In 2009, playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori turned “Fun Home” into a musical that debuted off-Broadway in 2013 and earned a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize for drama. It moved to Broadway in 2015, where it won five Tony Awards.
“All of us, no matter what our stories are with our families, we look back at the things that make us who we are, through our memory of ‘Was that thing true that happened?’ And Alison sings over and over again, ‘I want to know what’s true, dig deep into who and what and why and where’ to figure out where she is now,” Shouse says of the production.
She notes that while “Fun Home” is about LGBTQIA+ experiences, every audience can relate to the common denominators of family, love and growing up confused about your place in the world.
“I think people see themselves (in ‘Fun Home’) with their parents and their family; it’s not limiting in that way. It really is an expansive story that is about that (Bechdel’s experience) but then is also about how our relationships with our parents made us who we are.”
Shouse, who teaches theatre directing in MTSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Liberal Arts, also is a working freelance director with extensive credits and the former associate artistic director at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre as well as an artistic associate at Nashville Repertory Theatre.
She and MTSU colleague Kate Goodwin used grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission and MTSU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs last summer to launch a new annual “workshopping” opportunity for new plays, dubbed “Playspace,” to give students more professional training and playwrights more exposure.
Shouse also directed MTSU’s recent productions of “Ride the Cyclone” and “Everybody.”
Her cast for “Fun Home,” which is part of the 10th season of the College of Liberal Arts’ “MTSU Arts” brand for the university’s fine arts programs, includes:
• Graduate student Julia Degnan of Murfreesboro, who’s working toward her master’s degree in theatre education and is portraying Alison.
• Sophomore theatre major Llewyn Beaver of Bells, Tennessee, as Medium Alison, the college-student version of Bechdel.
• Sophomore theatre major Emma Bastin of Lebanon, Tennessee, as Small Alison, the 10-year-old Bechdel.
• Junior theatre major Carmen Dennison of Arlington, Tennessee, as Helen.
• Senior advertising major Stokeley Ellison of Friendship, Tennessee, as Joan.
• Senior theatre major Payton McCarthy of Murfreesboro as Bruce.
• Sophomore Christopher Cooper of Fairview, Tennessee, a theatre education major, as John.
• Junior theatre major Isaac Sisunik of Ooltewah, Tennessee, as Christian.
• Freshman theatre major Gabriel Purcell of Gallatin, Tennessee, in the multiple roles of Roy, Pete, Mark and Bobby Jeremy.
Caitlin McMahan, a senior theatre major from Livingston, Tennessee; Sarah Cornelison, a sophomore theatre education major from Bartlett, Tennessee; and Jackson Roy, a sophomore business administration major from Bells, Tennessee, are the show’s understudies.
MTSU School of Music instructor and chorales director Angela Tipps is the musical director for “Fun Home.” Senior theatre education major Aubrey Zurhellen of Covington, Tennessee, is the production’s assistant director and choreographer, and Noah Huseman of Hixson, Tennessee, a junior music industry major, is the assistant musical director.
A complete cast and crew listing is available in this digital program.
The MTSU Department of Theatre and Dance notes that “Fun Home” explores subjects that may be triggering to some audience members, including mentions of suicide, negative responses to the LGBTQIA+ community, grooming of minors and psychological abuse.
The MTSU Center for Counseling and Psychological Services can provide in-person and distance counseling services by calling 615-898-2670. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 800-273-8255.
MTSU also suggests the following resources:
• MTSU LGBTQIA+ resources: www.mtsu.edu/lgbt/resources.php.
• PFLAG: www.pflag.org.
• The Trevor Project: 24-hour hotline 866-488-7386 and www.thetrevorproject.com.
• The National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN: 800-656-HOPE (4673).
For more information about MTSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Liberal Arts, visit www.mtsu.edu/theatreanddance. For details on MTSU Arts events and supporting its student programs in the Patrons Society, visit www.mtsu.edu/mtsuarts.
— Gina E. Fann (email@example.com)