Steven Fales Discusses the Mormon Boy Trilogy
After premiering Confessions of a Mormon Boy off-Broadway in 2006, Steven Fales has toured his award-winning solo play to critical acclaim in every major city in America and internationally. Following his recent West End debut, the U.K.'s Gay Times dubbed him "the gayest Mormon in the world." And it would seem that he's just warming up, as he now brings his entire Mormon Boy Trilogy to Los Angeles for its out-of-town pre Off-Broadway run this spring.
Yes, the story continues with a prequel and a sequel to Confessions, which is now Part I in the Mormon Boy Trilogy.
"Each of the three solo plays in the trilogy has something personally dangerous for me to reveal," says Fales. "In Confessions I discuss reparative therapy in the ex-gay movement and my excommunication in Utah and then forays into sex work and crystal meth addiction in Manhattan, but in the other two we go much further. If you think Confessions was honest, just wait."
It's hard to believe that one man could reveal more than that, but Steven Fales is no ordinary man. And though we all have a story to tell, Fales has enough stories for three lifetimes. Maybe that's why he felt he needed to write three solo plays to forge a trilogy.
In Part II, Missionary Position, first premiered at the Celebration Theatre in 2009 (before The Book of Mormon on Broadway), Steven recounts his experiences as a Mormon missionary, going from his freshman year at the Boston Conservatory to his mission to Portugal and then realizing as a transfer student to BYU that all the work in the Lord's service did not make him straight.
"The dangerous thing I do at the end of Missionary Position is to reveal the secret/sacred temple rituals. I wear the green fig leaf aprons borrowed from free masonry in the whole 'Rocky Mormon Picture Show.' I've had family members disown me because of this, but it is in these rituals that the seeds of the entire Prop. 8 debacle started and persist."
Steven Fales puts his life on the line. He swore never to divulge these secrets. He does so, however, with an uncompromising generosity of spirit. "The play, ultimately, is about reclaiming spirituality in the face of spiritual abuse and religious violence. Many of us have post-traumatic spiritual disorder. At the end of Missionary Position I say that I don't have a problem with organized religion. It's distorted religion that is the problem."
Steven Fales was baptized and confirmed Episcopalian in 2008. Quite a turn around for someone who threw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps this is part of his recovery, reclaiming spirit.
"For me the things I've found in the Anglo-Catholic tradition are simply symbolic of grace. It's all about a story-a really good story. There are many affirming congregations that embrace us. One of the most political things I can do as a gay man today is to align with an affirming congregation and mean it even just a little-even if it is coffee hour. I love St. Bart's in New York and I go to St. Mark's in Salt Lake City. When I'm in Los Angeles, I attend M.C.C. L.A. I think what Reverend Neil Thomas is doing there is just extraordinary. It's also a relief to re-examine the teachings of Christ without all the filters of Joseph Smith. I have finally been about to let the Latter-day doctrine go so I can get on with my life. However, I may not be a Latter-day Saint anymore, but something about me will always be Mormon. It must be the smile, I think."
But according to Fales, Missionary Position was just a gateway to get to the good stuff. Part III is called Prodigal Dad. The story definitely continues.
"My ex-wife filed false allegations of child abuse and tried to eliminate me from my kids' lives in Utah. I moved back to Utah at the height of the recession to be part of my children's lives and she didn't want that. So I spent all of 2008 fighting for my rights as a dad in Utah. It took every dime I had. It almost destroyed me. But I fought and I prevailed. Prodigal Dad is a tribute to all fathers seeking to be part of their children's lives. Dads are an endangered species gay or straight.
Steven lives in Salt Lake City now, "writing plays and raising kids. I live a few streets from my kids' schools. Things are getting better, but it is still hard to get to be in their lives. They are busy teenagers and the poison they have heard about me for so long has certainly taken its toll. It's not easy having a dad be a notorious gay celebrity in and out of recovery. But what they have been taught from their mother's side is hard to overcome, I see the big picture, it will get better and the family therapy has helped, but time is what heals."
The irony is that Steven's former wife is one of the producers of the film 8: The Mormon Proposition. She has left the church and is violently vocal about her disdain for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her father was gay and her mother is one of the most celebrated Mormon writers of all time, Carol Lynn Pearson, who's work to "circle the wagons" around gay members has been hailed far and wide.
"They are very pro gay but they are not pro me-I wrote my story because I was sure they wouldn't tell my story if I didn't. They have an empire built on the backs of gay Mormonism and they are a reality celebrity family. Let's just say I understand why Levi would pose for Playgirl, he was afraid to be erased as a man and a father by Sarah Palin. The worst thing you can do to a diva is to step on their brand. I'm very leery of the diva-addiction we have in the gay community. There comes a time when Lady Gaga nor Lady Utah can do justice to our stories. We have to tell them ourselves."
That is exactly what Steven Fales has been doing. Most recently he sold out in Houston where audiences flocked to hear his universal story. But the most dangerous thing Steven will be revealing is how he became HIV positive. "I was negative at the end of Confessions. I couldn't leave the story at that when life took a new twist."
It's been almost five years since his diagnosis in August 2007. "I had a little relapse in Provincetown and that's when the virus got me. It was devastating. The stigma. The shame. But I can truly say I'm on the other side now-it wasn't easy-it destroyed my confidence in every way. I went through my entire custody battle keeping it to my self, not even my attorney's knew. I knew if that came out, I would lose my kids entirely. In spite of it all I found an inner strength I didn't know I had-it does get better-but sometimes it gets worse before it does."
"The Trilogy ends with a blessing. In a fantastical series of events, I conjure or resurrect my former father-in-law to the stage. I never met him because he died of AIDS in 1984. But he is the only person on earth that can give me the father's blessing I need and he does. It's a beautiful moment in which the last generation we lost passes a baton to us. It is the ultimate redemptive gesture. Being part Greek and having studied the Greek dramas in graduate school, my pen couldn't help but write something truly Greco-Mormon. I hope that with the honesty I have written with will help break the family dysfunction so my kids won't make some of the mistakes I have.
Fales bases in the Rocky Mountains where he continues to crank out new work and projects. He's working on Mormon Boy the memoir, documentary film, and cooking show. He even has a new line of Mormon Boy jeans in development. There's a new show called Conversations With Heavenly Mother: An Uncommon Diva, his album to his cabaret act called Mormon American Princess and a stand-up show, When All Else Fales.
"One of the things that has helped keep me going is writing and creating. It has seen me through my darkest moments. And I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love. I think the new American dream is to make money doing what you LOVE. "
The Mormon Boy Trilogy will play all three shows in repertory at the Hudson Theatre beginning Sunday, April 22 thru Saturday, May 26 before moving to New York in the fall to coincide with the election. It seems uncanny that it coincides with Mitt Romney's rise to fame and power. It is sure to be one of the most timely, intense solo performance events ever. No one has ever done three solo shows like this. What a marathon. We might call it "The Mormon Conquests." It's sure to set the bar for autobiographical solo confessionals for a long time to come. Mormons like it dangerous. They also like to win. And Steven Fales is the kind of winner that keeps us coming back for more and more-men.
For tickets and information call 323.856.4249 or go to hudsontheatre.com