Bringing a graphic memoir to life, Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts will be putting on a production of the groundbreaking musical “Fun Home.” Playing in the Newhart Family Theatre Feb. 6-16, the show moves between past and present as the main character, Alison Bechdel, relives her childhood memories in the Bechdel Funeral Home.
The story begins with 43-year-old Alison Bechdel, played by Loyola student Lexi James, as she looks back at her family and early childhood. The musical highlights Alison at 10 years old struggling to fit her father’s expectations and at 19 years old discovering her sexuality.
Based on the autobiographical novel by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the storyline centers around understanding her father’s death and accepting herself.
Mark Lococo, director of theatre at Loyola and the musical’s director, said in an interview with The Phoenix “Fun Home” felt like the perfect production to put on right now. He said the musical’s innovative take on social issues is a big reason why the theatre department chose it.
“Several members of our faculty saw the original production on Broadway and thought it is a perfect vehicle for us as a social-justice-centered university with a Jesuit mission,” Lococo said. “It’s perfect for our students.”
With Loyola’s mission to promote justice, the university is the right place to perform a show as emotionally driven as this one, according to Lococo. The musical discusses social issues that have affected the LGBTQ community and provides a platform for these problems to be heard.
Leading actor James, who plays the oldest version Alison, said this emotionally charged musical’s main themes are sexual awakening and mental illness. Underlying themes involve forgiveness, self-acceptance and the journey that it has in store, according to James.
Lococo and James both said one of the things that makes this production unique is the cast’s focus on the impact that parents have on the youth. James noted that playing 43-year-old Alison gave her a new perspective on her parents.
“It’s really interesting to be playing old Alison at a point in my life where I am the age of [19-year-old] Alison and I found myself struggling with the same things as middle Alison,” James said.“The play is about looking at your parents through adult eyes and it’s helped me process some of my parents’ humanity.”
The show, adapted by actress Lisa Kron and musical composer Jeanine Tesori, is the first Broadway musical to have a lesbian protagonist. Since its off-Broadway debut in 2013, “Fun Home” has garnered five Tony awards and had multiple revivals in other countries.
The musical’s impact has clearly left several audiences in awe and wonder, but James said she doesn’t want the audience clinging to one particular theme.
“I hope that the audience walks away with their minds a little bit more opened, that they’re a little bit more accepting and can understand something that they might not necessarily relate to,” James said.
“Fun Home” will be playing in the Newhart Family Theatre in Mundelein Feb. 6-16. Ticket prices range from $6 to $20 and can be purchased at www.artsevents.luc.edu.