By Donalevan Maines
Life is a cabaret, old chum. But in a new, groundbreaking musical coming to Houston this month, children play in caskets and sing “Come to the Fun Home,” not the cabaret.
Fun Home is set in Bechdel Funeral Home, a restored Victorian manse where out cartoonist Alison Bechdel looks back on her formative years as the daughter of a closeted gay pedophile who was adept at creating the illusion of normalcy.
“But would an ideal husband and father have sex with teenage boys?” asks Bechdel, whose stage character unravels the mysteries of her childhood at three different ages.
In the show’s national tour, former Miss America Kate Shindle portrays Bechdel as an adult.
“Yeah, it’s pretty funny about Kate,” Bechdel told the New York Times last year. “She’s a former Miss America, I’m a former Miss America—what are the chances?!” (The newspaper felt obliged to explain that Bechdel was joking.)
The Broadway show closed last year, on the day before Erin O’Flaherty, Miss America’s first openly gay contestant, competed in the 2016 finals as Miss Missouri.
In 40-year-old Shindle’s own memoir, Being Miss America (2014, University of Texas Press), the singer/actress/longtime AIDS activist and LGBT ally (who is currently president of Actors’ Equity) admits that her outspokenness about progressive causes often puts her at odds with the suits in Atlantic City who run the granddaddy of all beauty pageants.
“I never planned to be a black-sheep Miss America,” laments Shindle.
However, as soon as Shindle saw Fun Home on Broadway, she set out to nab the role for the production’s national tour.
“By the time I left the theater,” she told the New York Times, “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s mine. I’m going to go get that.’”