Sexuality and relationships are explored in alternating time periods – the 1950s and the present day – in “The Pride.”
The play, premiering July 27 at the McCadden Place Theatre in Hollywood, is the first production by My Big Fat Queer Theatre Company. The company, founded in June by director and UCLA theater alumnus Charles Platt, aims to bring the nuances of the LGBTQ community to the entertainment industry and help members of the LGBTQ community experience what it means to be queer through entertainment mediums, specifically theater. “The Pride” focuses on two concurrent storylines surrounding the same three characters – one set in the 1950s and the other in the present day. In the two decades, the three characters share different dynamics with each other and face different period-specific issues within their relationships. Platt said the play symbolizes how certain human emotions and experiences are present regardless of time period, and reach beyond the LGBTQ community.
“So often our stories are erased from history, and especially the emotional impact of those stories,” Platt said. “‘The Pride’ by Alexi Kaye Campbell really encapsulates what it means to have an emotional history attached to the trauma of being queer throughout many different periods of history.”
When reading the script, Platt said it was the first time he realized he can choose to feel pride for his sexuality rather than guilt and shame – he found the story fitting for the company’s debut. Despite the play’s name and its finale, which is set at a pride parade, Platt said the story is less about the history of the pride movement itself and more about exploring what it means to feel proud.
The story follows the relationships between characters Sylvia, Philip and Oliver. In the 1950s, Sylvia and Philip are married, but Philip is a closeted gay man, said Zoe Yale, a UCLA theater alumna who plays Sylvia. To help Philip feel less lonely, Sylvia introduces him to her coworker Oliver in hopes that her husband can find companionship. But she must deal with the repercussions as Philip and Oliver begin to develop a romantic relationship. In modern times, however, the audience initially sees Philip and Oliver ending their yearlong relationship as Sylvia, now Oliver’s closest friend, offers emotional support, Platt said. The narrative is constructed of scenes that are five to 10 minutes long and alternate between the two decades.
To establish the contrasting time periods, costume designer and rising third-year theater student Jared Davis said he added defining accessories to the characters’ costumes. With a limited amount of time for actors to change between scenes and time periods, Davis said he plays around with details such as colors and cuts that will refer the audience to the intended decade. Philip, for example, wears the same shirt throughout the entire show, but switches up his coats and shoes, Platt said.
The shifts in decade indicate changes in opinions toward the LGBTQ community and influence the complications the characters face in their relationships.
“(‘The Pride’) is supposed to represent the ever-changing nature of the queer experience throughout time, and yet also, that it is very similar,” Platt said. “The type of attraction that Philip and Oliver have for each other in (the 1950s) and the present is very similar.”
Although the characters retain their personalities when reincarnated, Yale said they are affected by the social conditioning of each time period and by their different situations. In the 1950s, the secrecy around Philip’s sexuality brings him fear and anxiety as he refuses to acknowledge his feelings toward Oliver, eventually leading to an assault toward Oliver, Platt said. In the present day, however, the stigmas surrounding sexuality have changed and Philip has already come out as a gay man. The modern times come with their own set of problems, though, as Oliver’s many previous sexual relationships cause him and Philip to separate and the characters engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as suppressing their emotions, Davis said.
“(Relationship problems are) very universal – going through bad breakups, severing ties with friends, being unable to help out your friends, not being honest with yourself and others,” Davis said. “Those are things that we’ve all gone through at some point in our lives in one way or another.”
Platt said My Big Fat Queer Theatre Company hopes to not only create a platform for LGBTQ people to share stories about themselves, but also to tell the stories in a way that anyone in the audience could empathize with them. Empathy toward and within the queer community is especially lacking, Platt said, and “The Pride” is a production that includes themes that could resonate with anybody.
“The feeling that ‘The Pride’ should give the audience is that these stories, while in this production are set in these two time periods, have happened for years, and are going to continue to happen for years, just as queer people have been around for years and will continue to be around for years,” Platt said.