My Parents

So Jedadiah’s back.

A couple weeks ago, Jeff approached me about doing a show at Manbites next fall. Last weekend, we had a read-through at Manbites so Jeff and Ed could hear it aloud and decide whether or not they wanted to include it in the upcoming season. And yesterday, Jeff offered me the role of Kenny in the play  “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them.” It’s not 100% certain yet–still waiting on other actors to agree to it and for the rights and so forth–but it looks like it’ll be a go. Which is really really really really great.

Thing is, though, Kenny is gay.


So Jedadiah’s back, full-throttle: a young straight college student who has recently undergone a change of heart about matters of this nature and will need to explain to his Protestant parents that he will be in a play with gay people in it, and that he will be in a play about gay issues, and that he will be playing a person who is gay.

The parallels are staggering. I almost feel that it’s worth trying to get in touch with Jedadiah himself just to let him know that I’ve been over here on the East Coast living his life.

When my parents came to see Laramie, I was nervous. I’m at a point now where I don’t really get nervous on stage, but with them in the audience–and dammit, Jeff, I could see them–I was scared to be Jedadiah. I dreaded putting that oversized flannel shirt on every time that evening. And after the performance, I made sure we kept around other people, talked about other aspects of the show, tried to keep the subject ever from turning to the fact that I may or may not have slightly disowned them on stage, even if it wasn’t really me and even if it wasn’t really them.

But now I can’t ignore it. I’m gonna have to have this conversation with them–terrifying as it still seems–if I want to do this show. I certainly won’t ask their permission; I’ll say, Look, I’m in a professional show, deal with it–but that kind of bravado only works so much. In the end, they’ll know I’m playing gay (which includes lots of kissing, pants-rubbing, and talking about fellatio, anal sex, &c.), and they’ll have to deal with it. And I’ll have to deal with them dealing with it.

But I’m ready. In one corner of my being, I’m still scared as shit, but I’m ready. And I could not have been ready without Laramie.

So yeah.

And if they decide they won’t come see their son do probably one of the most important things he’d done in his life, I’ll deal with that too.

3 thoughts on “My Parents

  1. Andy–

    It is so gratifying that you feel Laramie was an experience that might give you the tools to have a difficult conversation and to navigate its aftermath. I’d like to think that the two people who have had a hand in making you the person and the artist that you are will listen with open minds and hearts and will be in the audience of that show with as much pride and support as they were in the audience for Laramie. (I’m sure there are many other influences that make you you, but as a parent I’m gonna say that the immersive quality of parental influence is, for most folks, undeniably primary in its impact on children. Sometimes surprisingly so!)

    I think the paradox of theater that I mentioned in response to Kimi’s post is apt here. In one corner, you’ve got Jedadiah’s argument to *his* parents that acting is just that … acting and if you’re going to be praised for your skill in performing in The Pillowman (for example, a play about horrific acts of violence) without fear that you’re going to *become* a murderer then the same should apply to performing in Angels or Edith. However, we also argue that theater is transformative, that it changes people (in the audience and as actors) and, depending on what people believe about sexuality as biological or not, then there’s an implied “risk” that “playing gay” (convincingly) requires “being” gay (or might reveal to someone that this is an identity that fits, feels comfortable even desirable).

    It seems hard that both things could be equally true. That a character is that, just a character, but that the commitment to making a character “true” requires an openness of being (if only for x many weeks of a production) about identities that might produce a believable performance which could be assumed to be “real in the world” (nod to my daughter in that quote there). And, in some sense, so what? The actor has the final say on who he/she IS beyond/before the character he or she plays, so while the perception of the audience is central it is also not absolute. But, if, as with Jedadiah’s parents, there’s a taboo being crossed that could never be seen as “just” a performance (or, for that matter, a performance that should never be seen in public), then it’s more difficult to argue, “it’s just a play.” There are essays which examine this conundrum from a theoretical point of view if you’d be interested in them. For now, I’d just encourage you to be steeled by the understanding about sexuality and identity that you’ve gained from how you’ve dealt with “making” Jedadiah, your personal sense of self-definition, and your love and respect for your family and they for you.

    Ultimately, I hope it is a good, open conversation that is positive and results in deepening respect among you all. And that the work you do in Edith (if all goes forward) is strengthened because you had the conversation.


    P.S. If you’re around on Thursday/Friday to talk with Jackrabbit, you might ask her about Jedadiah (I believe she went to high school with him) and the negotiations with his parents that he describes in the play.

  2. That’s…kinda crazy, Andy. I’m not one to get all “it’s-a-sign,” but it really feels like this role belongs to you, and you’ve really run away with it.

    And you know, I think your parents will learn to live with it, because you’ve got the same artillery against them that Jedadiah had against his. And it may be difficult for them to deal with at first, and not just because of any prejudices they might or might not have. I had a friend in high school whose parents refused to come see her in a play because her role required a much older man to kiss her on the lips. Parents have a difficult time separating the actor from their child. But it’s like any other profession – they’ll learn to be proud of you for giving it your all. And I’m sure you will give it your all.

  3. Andy,

    What a year you’ve had. You have made so many incredible contributions to theater on campus. We are very lucky to have someone with your talent, passion and focus on your own individual growth.

    I thought long and hard about casting Kenny, or whether it was the right play for Manbites to do. But I was convinced by your our journey of growth and encouraged to cast you based on Jedidiah’s articulate sense of how ones fundamental ideas about life can be challenged and evolve.

    I was also encouraged by the working relationship you already have with Jacob. That will be something we can build on.

    As an actor, I want you to concentrate on your voice. It is imperative that you take Ellen’s class in voice and speech. You need to be pushed vocally as an actor and Ellen is the right person for you to soak up so much knowledge from.

    You did a tremendous job in Laramie and were a pleasure to work with. Thanks for all your hard work. And here is to a future on more hard work and growth.

    xo Jeffrey

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