by Barrett White
Before the Broadway smash-hit Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon, there was Steven Fales and his one-man show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy. Unlike the musical, however, Confessions and its two predecessors that make up the Mormon Boy Trilogy are the real-life authentic stories of ex-Mormon Fales. His multi-dimensional storyline hooks theatergoers expecting a Trey Parker/Matt Stone/Robert Lopez comedy, and brings them into a world that is of the same realm, and yet an entirely different ballpark. After The Book of Mormon’s 2011 advertisements went up around town (which looked strikingly similar to Fales’s ads for Confessions from 2006!), drama-lovers approached Fales at subsequent Mormon Boy Trilogy performances in London, curious if he had been a part of The Book of Mormon on Broadway.
“I think that maybe with The Book of Mormon being out, my work has become more timely,” Fales quipped.
Mormonism, gayness, family, AIDS, strength, struggle, and, of course, comedy make up the “Mormon Boy Trilogy” in Fales’s honest and often pull-at-the-heartstrings series of one-man shows.
Steven Fales (“That’s F-A-L-E-S, not F-A-I-L-S!”) comes back to Houston to perform the final installment of the Mormon Boy Trilogy, Prodigal Dad, in a co-production between Theatre LaB Houston and Obsidian Art Space for three performances between April 11 and 12. Fales also performed the first two installments, Confessions of a Mormon Boy and Missionary Position, part one and then the prequel, respectively, also through Theatre LaB Houston.
Prodigal Dad is the “intense” and “powerful” sequel to Confessions of a Mormon Boy, the hit one-man show that took New York by storm and went on to be well-received at other venues across the country and internationally as well. Fales brings Prodigal Dad to Houston to give the audience a look at the final chapter in the trilogy before taking it to New York’s off-Broadway to polish.
Fales has been working on Prodigal Dad since 2010, and though his work tends to be fairly intense and dark, he has a knack for lightening it with comedy.
“Prodigal Dad is the longest of the plays . . . and it’s also the most powerful,” he says. “We deal with crystal meth in the gay community . . . we deal with sex addiction, we deal with HIV . . . we deal with me going back to Utah and trying to be in my kids’ lives,” Fales says, shedding light on the battle he fought to claim his rights as a gay father in Utah.
Like any piece of good theater, the subject matter of the show grows more intense as the show progresses—as it did in Fales’s actual life—escalating from his attempt to reunite with his family, to false allegations of child abuse from his ex-wife. The notion that this is his real story wells your emotions up as you watch Fales perform his work—you cannot forget that this piece, this trilogy, though entertaining, is more than a work of drama, it is in fact a story. Beyond that, it is a story that can resonate with all parents.
Aside from acting, Fales is also in the middle of penning a book chronicling his experiences, though the release date is not yet set. To hold you over until the release, however, is Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Live from London. Newly rated “five stars” by BroadwayWorld.com, this live recording of Confessions in London is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. To go one further, busy-man Fales also hosts a cabaret titled Mormon American Princess.
One of the main forces of the show is Fales’s own mother-in-law. Steamrolling through Fales’s efforts to reunite with his children is his ex-mother-in-law, well-known Mormon author Carol Lynn Pearson, who had brought her gay husband back home to die of AIDS years before. Battling her stone-solid opinions of him, Fales compared it to Sarah Palin being his mother-in-law, and he the father of Palin’s grandchild, banished from the family, never to be heard from again.
When asked to finish the statement, “I am a closet…,” Fales laughs. “Well, I usually go dark, so I’m going to try to keep it light. Well, the dark answer is that I’m a closet binge smoker. But I’m trying to quit. And the light answer is that I’m a closet photographer. I love to do photography.”
Through his work, Fales has given insight into the gay community. “We can get creative in destructive ways like constantly going online and hooking up, or we can take some of that energy and funnel it into our artistic creativity and change the world . . . my work isn’t so much concerned about the forces out to keep us from having our rights, because I believe gay marriage and gay rights, they’re coming. What I’m concerned about today is the quality of our lives as gay men. Not the quantity of our rights, but the quality of our lives.”
What: Prodigal Dad, the third installment of the Mormon Boy Trilogy, a co-production of Theater LaB Houston and Obsidian Art Space.
When: April 11–12, 2014
Where: Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak Blvd.