Confessions of a Mormon Boy – which just finished its run as part of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival – is heading to Melbourne for a string of shows this week.
After conversion therapy, excommunication, divorce, prostitution, and drugs, an exiled sixth-generation Latter Gay Saint reclaims his kids and Donny Osmond smile.
We spoke with outcast Oxy-Mormon and Outer Critics Circle Award Nominee, Steven Fales, about what audiences can expect.
How excited are you to be bringing Confessions of a Mormon Boy to Sydney and Melbourne?
I’m over the moon to finally be down under. It has always been my dream to tell this story in every corner of the English-speaking world. Playing London and Edinburgh, Dublin, and Halifax was very exciting. But to finally be this far from home on this ‘Mormon Boy Mission’ is the best yet. I am completely enchanted by Sydney… and I’m so looking forward to seeing if Melbourne audiences get the themes and humour as well as this Mardi Gras audience. I think they will.
How much of the story is based on your real life, and what has it been like to perform it?
I’m often asked if the story is true. It absolutely is. All of these things in the story happened except one minor moment that I believe is 100 per cent poetically honest. I was on a path to suicide. I never attempted it, but I was living a slow, steady suicide before my life got turned around. Telling my story has been a way to write my life. Finding the humour in everything was critical. We have to laugh at it all ultimately. That’s when we know we are on the path to healing. Don’t lose your humour. So that’s another thing that didn’t really happen. I didn’t think getting excommunicated and losing everything and descending into a world of “chem-sex” and sex work was very funny at the time. I was just trying to survive.
Religious acceptance (or lack thereof) of LGBTI people is a hot button topic in Australia at the moment. Why do you think it remains such an issue in the community?
Spiritual abuse and religious violence is rampant all over the world. I am thrilled to see the progress happening here in Australia. Withholding rights like marriage and communion/eucharist from LGBTI people is a form of terrible spiritual abuse. We have endured it too long. We have a right to sit at the table or in the pews just like anyone else. My formal excommunication from the church of my birth in the year 2000 was an overt form of abuse. It was so medieval and barbaric and cultish. It is my hope that these excommunications stop happening. It’s a form of spiritual lynching or being burned at the stake. My heart aches for our brothers in Islam who hang for loving who they love. We must take our message all over the world.
The play deals with heavy themes such as drug abuse, sex work, and HIV/AIDS… why was it important to include these subjects?
Oh, do they have crystal meth here in Oz? Do they have hookup apps? Are young kids still becoming HIV positive? I’m an uncle and I’m actually a real dad. I’ve got two kids. I think this community needs more than just daddies. We need father elder-statesmen who will step up and help our youth navigate all this pitfalls. My show is about how I got out of the cult of the sex industry. That may sound judgmental… but we didn’t come this far with marriage equality for the youth to get sucked in and spit out. The sexual revolution is over. It is time for a sensual revolution. Sure, have your adolescence. I sure did. But then what’s your real dream and let’s get to work on making that happen. “Children and art” as Sondheim says!
What are you hoping audiences will get out of the show?
Confessions of a Mormon Boy isn’t about Mormons or cults. It’s not about escorts, human trafficking, sex, or drugs. It’s not about excommunication and spiritual abuse or religious violence. It’s not about conversion therapy. It’s not about my famous feminist mother-in-law or my cowboy bishop dad or my kids and their beautiful mother. It’s not about gay dads at all… or even gays. Heck, it’s not even about the new Trump joke or any of the comedy or storytelling craft or even the story. Confessions of a Mormon Boy is an experience of personal transformation. You have to see it to believe it. What’s possible for you? There’s a moment in the show where you may end up seriously pondering that question. You will not leave the theatre the same human being. This is my ‘Mormon Boy’ guarantee. The script and the performance is finally what it needs to be to make that promise. If you don’t agree, I’ll give you your money back. I’ll bet my hat on it!
This show is part one in a trilogy… what are you hoping to explore in the following two shows?
Thanks for asking! I’ve been working on this trilogy for a while and did a workshop of all three solo plays last summer at Bay Street Theatre in New York with the help of director Scott Schwartz. The trilogy is three solo plays that include Confessions of a Mormon Boy (which is Part 1), then Missionary Position (Part 2 and the prequel to Confessions. It’s about my Mormon mission to Portugal), and then Prodigal Dad (Part 3). Prodigal Dad is an intense family dramedy that shows how I fought for my rights in the courts in Utah after Confessions became a success. It’s the darkest of the three, but it’s also the most redemptive.
Confessions of a Mormon Boy will play at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne on March 6, 7, and 8. For more information or to buy tickets, visit: chapeloffchapel.com.au