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Tragicomic musical ‘Fun Home’ bidding for festival nod

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Seventeen-year-old Chloe Brescia is quick with answers on why she loves her character in Theatre Sarnia’s production of Fun Home.

Brescia plays Alison Bechdel at age 19, when she goes off to college and her first same-sex relationship.

“Alison was the first lesbian protagonist on Broadway,” says Brescia.  “It’s a true story and I think the real Alison Bechdel was very brave to put out a book about her life and her dysfunctional family.

“We’ve all become so passionate about this story and so attached to the characters.”

Bechdel wrote Fun Home as an autobiographical “tragicomic” that examines her painful relationship with a volatile and brilliant father, the secrets within her family while she grew up, and her own coming out.

Time Magazine named Fun Home one of the 10 best books of the year in 2006. It was later adapted as a Broadway show by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori and lauded for its courage and vulnerability.

Alison is represented at different ages. In Theatre Sarnia’s production, Mya Perkins plays 10-year-old Alison. Brescia is Alison at 19, and Henri Davis-Canino plays adult Alison, a successful American cartoonist in her 40s.

Brescia answers questions about the show in rapid succession until asked why a memoir dealing with such serious themes as the death of Bechdel’s father and her struggle with identity, was made into a musical.

She pauses for a bit, then thoughtfully explains.

“It’s not a musical. It’s a play with music,” she said.

“I think they put music in because music touches people in a lot of different ways and can be a more effective storytelling method.”

Notably, the Broadway production of Fun Home was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won five including Best Musical in 2015.

“There are songs in it that make me so misty, like ‘Telephone Wire’ and ‘Days and Days,’” said Brescia.  “They aren’t just wonderful songs, they move the plot forward.”

Brescia is one of nine cast members working with director Holly Wenning, producer Charmaine Jacklin, and music director Cy Giacomin on what hopes to be Theatre Sarnia’s entry at this year’s Western Ontario Drama League Festival.

“I think this is a play that opens a lot of eyes,” said Brescia.  “You never really know what happens behind closed doors.”

Theatre Sarnia’s run of Fun Home is four nights only. It plays nightly at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday this week.

An adjudicator from the Western Ontario Drama League will be in Sarnia judging the show to determine if it will compete against other community theatre productions at the WODL festival in March.

Theatre Sarnia has a long history of making the cut and has gone on to compete at the provincial level numerous times.

Wenning and Canino are familiar faces at festival competitions, and last year Brescia was in the ‘Girls Like That’ entry that won best overall production at the WODL festival and numerous other awards.

Theatre Sarnia tends to stage its competition shows in January so they’re fresh for the festival, says Fun Home producer Charmaine Jacklin.  But, because it’s winter and a lot of theatregoers are away, the run is limited to four nights.

“We know January is our smallest house,” said Jacklin.  “We do it for the art and we’re happy if we break even.”

Others appearing in Fun Home include Shane Davis as Bruce Bechdel, Rachel Giacomin as Helen Bechdel, Cameron Wight as Christian Bechdel, Telsie Jackson as John Bechdel, Jack Vrolyk as Roy/Mark/Pete/Bobby Jeremy and Never Stewart as Joan.

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Theatre Sarnia’s Fun Home

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 29 – Saturday, Feb. 1.; 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

TICKETS: Visit www.imperialtheatre.net, call 519-337-7775 or go to the box office.

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