Campus & Culture

Award-Winning 'Fun Home' Comes to SJU Stage

by Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)

A father stand with his daughter as the two look out a window

Lauren Sass as Small Alison and Paul McElwee as Bruce Bechdel

The Department of Music, Theatre and Film, in association with SJU Theatre Company, will open a limited engagement of Fun Home, the Tony-winning musical based on the graphic memoir of the same name by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, on Friday, Dec. 6.

The musical is told through flashback vignettes to Bechdel's childhood and young adulthood as her present-day self writes the memoir, reflecting on her strained relationship with her father, who she learns is gay, and her thriving in college, where she comes out as a lesbian. After premiering Off-Broadway in late 2013, the show opened on Broadway in the spring of 2015. The Broadway run yielded 12 Tony Awards nominations, of which it won five, including Best Musical.

A father lifts his daughter with his legs as she does an airplane pose. Her older self stands at the stairs, writing about the memory
Raegan Davies ’21, as present-day Alison Bechdel, recalls a memory of playing airplane with her father.

Renee Dobson, M.F.A., associate professor of theatre and the show’s director, says that department’s partnership with the theatre company, which includes funding from the department to keep ticket costs low, will allow more people to see a relevant and relatable show.

“Alison Bechdel grew up in central Pennsylvania in the 1970s, so it was really difficult for her to live as the person she was for fear of judgement,” Dobson says. “It was even harder for her father, and there are places where that kind of fear still exists. If people can see this show and it starts a conversation about accepting people for who they are, we will have been very successful.”

The production features four Saint Joseph’s students, three young actors playing “Small Alison” and her brothers, and two professional guest artists. Dobson says that the student actors are learning from their seasoned castmates.

“This is a special opportunity for our students,” Dobson said. “To be able to tell this powerful story and work alongside professionals to learn how they approach the craft is something they can’t get in their daily studies.”

Fun Home will run for four performances: Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2 and 7 p.m. A special panel discussion with Dobson, members of the cast, students from the SJU Pride LGBTQ+ community, and Dan Ruff, S.J., campus minister for Ignatian spirituality, will follow the Dec. 7 performance.

The show will be held at Bluett Theatre in Post Hall, on Overbrook Avenue between 54th Street and Wynnefield Avenue. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students from Saint Joseph’s or any other school.