Wilkes University Theatre to Stage Fun Home from Feb. 22-25

by Kelly Clisham
Picture of a young woman with dark hair in a striped turtleneck shirt sitting with arms wrapped around her knees

Wilkes University Theatre will stage Fun Home, the Pulitzer-Prize nominated musical based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic novel of the same name, at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, 23 & 24, and 2 p.m. on Feb. 24 & 25, at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.

Based on Bechdel’s life, Fun Home moves between past and present to tell her queer coming-of-age story. The musical explores how Bechdel’s understanding of her identity connects to her volatile, intelligent and obsessive father, his death and the secrets he held.

Director Alison Morooney explained that she finds Fun Home to be an especially important and timely musical to stage. “It is so vital to be telling queer stories especially right now while, in some parts of this country, novels that contain such narratives are being removed from our schools and libraries,” said Morooney. “In the medium of musical theatre, there are so few stories that focus on the queer female experience, so this story feels especially important to share as a way for the theatre arts to participate in the promotion of diverse representation in our stories.”

The musical provides students with the opportunity to portray complex characters and challenges design students with the intricate technical demands of the show.

In addition, the cast and crew will have the unique opportunity to meet Bechdel during her visit to campus. The cast will perform a scene from the show following the author’s public reading at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27, in the Darte Center. Bechdel will visit the English senior seminar course in Queer Theory and Literature and present a craft talk in the Sordoni Art Gallery. She will also have dinner with the cast and crew, as well as some faculty and students from English and theatre.

The cast features Rachel Kern (Alison), Kasey Karoll (Medium Alison), Sarah Pugliese (Small Alison), Jack Flynn (Bruce), Jay’na Johnson (Helen), Maddie Meier (Joan), Jahel Duran-Diaz (Roy), Mary Jane Michaels (Christian) and Leo Seamans (John).

In addition to Morooney as director, production staff includes Isabella Ruiz (stage manager), Cally Williams and Caleb Flannery (assistant stage managers), Joshua Harper (music director), Joel Graham (pit director), Lisa Liebetrau (costume designer), Lee Michaels (sound designer and technical director), Vandy Scoates (scenic, lighting and projection designer) and Caleb Gething (assistant scenic designer). Wilkes theatre students will serve as stage crew.

“This was a bucket list musical for me so I am grateful every day we get to work on it,” said Morooney. “The students are highly passionate about this material, and it is so expertly written that we discover new complexities every rehearsal.”

Morooney acknowledges that while Fun Home may be challenging, with content warnings for verbal abuse, suicide, adult language and sexual content, she believes that audience members will find a personal connection to the musical.

“I think everyone will take away something a little different depending on where they are in life, whether that be a reminder to reach out to a distant loved one, to appreciate the quiet labor of a caretaker or to celebrate a discovery in your life,” says Morooney. “Personally, what this musical has to offer about self-healing and loving younger versions of yourself is what grips my heart.”

Tickets are available online at wilkes.edu/theatre. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students/senior citizens and free with ID for Wilkes students, faculty and staff. The box office will open one hour before curtain for purchases in person. Questions? Call 570-408-4540.

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