Identifying Moments: Fun Home
With the Tony Awards under everyone’s belt for the year, I can’t help but feel empowered to be living in an era where the best musical and best play are told through the eyes of characters whose stories aren’t always shared. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time shares the story of Christopher, a 15-year-old boy who is on the autism spectrum. Fun Home shares the story of Alison Bechdel, a lesbian cartoonist.
In addition to those spectacular achievements, there were multiple really inspiring moments shared, such as Alex Sharp stating, when accepting his award for playing Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, that “This play is about a young person who is different and who is misunderstood and I just want to dedicate this to any young person out there who feels misunderstood or who feels different and answer that question at the end of the play for you: does that mean I can do anything? Yes, it does.”
The one particular moment that stuck with me that launched me to write this was from Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s acceptance speech. Tesori referenced “Ring of Keys” sung by the unbelievable talent Sydney Lucas. She explains, “It is not a song of love; it’s a song of identification because for girls you have to see it to be it.” Then she continued sharing her own “Ring of Keys” moment: “I didn’t realize that a career in music was available to women until 1981. I saw the magnificent Linda Twine conduct The Lady and Her Music Lena Horne, and that was my ‘Ring of Keys’ moment.” Identifying moments make up who we are as people: the moment we decide who we want to be, the moment we discover love for the first time, the moment we experience pain. Those specific moments shape our identity and identify what is important to us.
I had something like an identifying moment myself when I saw Fun Home in April. I saw the show during previews after hearing such wonderful things about it at the Public and went into it blindly. As I stood amongst hundreds in the round, I could feel our energy as an audience. Everyone collectively put aside their lives and their worries to experience the story, without interruption, without late seating. That level of stillness and awareness was something I’d never experienced in a theater before. It was a shared journey. I loved the uncertainty; the show will take you on a ride. I didn’t feel like I was being manipulated or that I was “supposed to feel” a certain way. Once the show was over, I felt euphoric, like I had just experienced something that would change musical theatre. I wanted to live in the last moment of the show forever, appreciating its beauty and boldness. As I turned to the left to exit out the aisle after the standing ovation, I completely broke. I passed a couple embracing and sobbing into each other. Seeing how the show affected them and their personal experience made me instantly cry. That moment helped me again identify why I love theatre. It was a moment that made perfect sense.
Seeing right before my eyes how theatre affects our lives directly is one of the most amazing experiences. That is why I love the theatre, that is why I do theatre, and that is why the theatre is such an important art. It’s a universal experience that can create change.
That was my “Ring of Keys” moment and it will always be one of my most cherished experiences at the theatre. I couldn’t be happier that it won the Tonys it deserves. And I’m happy, too, that the show was able to remind me of the power of theatre, and allowed me to identify myself with an art form that has the ability to give life-changing performances to hundreds daily.