After the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on live theater across the country, the Gainesville Community Playhouse is making a comeback with its first in-person musical of the season.
GCP’s production of “Fun Home” opened Friday evening and ran for three shows this past weekend. The musical, which is the first Broadway musical to star a lesbian protagonist, will play another eight shows over the next two weeks — with 8 p.m. performances every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. performances every Sunday until closing night on April 25.
The show will also be practicing COVID-19 safety guidelines, with limited capacity socially distanced seating and required masks for all attendees. There will be no intermission.
“Fun Home,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015, is based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The show deals with LGBTQ themes and coming-of-age, following Bechdel’s journey of growing up while coming to terms with her sexuality and relationship with her gay father.
GCP faced several pandemic-related challenges in putting on their latest production — spanning from the audition process to the performance itself.
Daniel Cristophy, the technical director of “Fun Home,” has worked with GCP on- and off-stage since 2000. In casting “Fun Home,” GCP held virtual auditions via video submissions, a change Cristophy, 45, said was an interesting experience.
These difficulties extended into rehearsals. For the first two weeks, Cristophy said the cast and team were unable to use the physical theater space, instead coordinating music practices from afar. Once all together in the theater for in-person rehearsals, Cristophy said masks made it difficult to gauge an actor’s emotions and character interactions.
The choice to do “Fun Home,” a traditionally smaller show, was also a significant factor, Cristophy said. Only 15 people are allowed in the backstage area of GCP at one time. With a cast of nine, a three-person band and one stage manager, these numbers can add up quickly.
Despite these challenges, Cristophy said he takes joy in being able to create a product people can appreciate.
“I myself like the directing part — putting the parts together and allowing people to flourish in their own creativity and their own excellence,” he said. “I really enjoy that.”
For “Fun Home” particularly, Cristophy said he’s excited to be bringing Bechdel’s story to the stage and hopes the cast does her lyrics justice. The show, he said, highlights different family dynamics and illustrates how the various decisions a parent makes can influence a child throughout their life — themes he said he would like to impact audiences.
“I hope they’re able to see a little piece of their own upbringing and maybe bring a little more empathy to the world right now, which is something we need,” Cristophy said.
Georgina Vitola, a 21-year-old UF psychology junior, is making her GCP debut playing Bechdel as an adult. While she said it’s been rewarding to play such a headstrong character, accurately portraying Bechdel, who is 43, has been a challenge. In addition to embodying the maturity level of someone 22 years her senior, Vitola said the very nature of Bechel’s upbringing makes her a complex role.
“The show is about her traumatic life experiences — it’s a bit heavy,” she said. “Going through that kind of journey every night is a little difficult, but it’s also super rewarding by the end of it.”
Vitola said she considers honesty and authenticity to be the heart of “Fun Home,” messages she hopes audiences will take away from the show. Especially considering the relationship between Bechdel and her father, she said the show encourages viewers to prioritize their own happiness.
“Even if you’re not gay, you can relate to that a little bit — being true to yourself,” Vitola said.
Stacia Walden, a 47-year-old Gainesville resident of 18 years, said she is planning on attending “Fun Home” during the upcoming two weeks — her first show at GCP. As a queer woman, she said it’s extremely powerful for LGBTQ youth and adults alike to see themselves represented in mainstream media in a more normalized way.
Walden also said she doesn’t just want it to be members of the LGBTQ community who attend shows like “Fun Home.”
“I want it to be everyone — anyone who knows anybody, maybe who’s curious or who doesn’t even know what the theme is — to just go and watch it and appreciate it, just like we’ve always watched heterosexual films or plays our whole lives,” she said.
“Fun Home” is taking place at the Vam York Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online.
Contact Veronica Nocera at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.
Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine.