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  • Writer's pictureArts Angle Vantage Journalist

‘Fun Home’ illuminates LGBTQ issues

Mandi Elkins Hutchins as adult Alison and Jordan Price as Bruce in Pandora Productions' "Fun Home." Photo courtesy Pandora Productions.

By On’Dria Gibson

Louisville Male High School, Class of 2021

In the final moments of the musical “Fun Home” — based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel about her unusual upbringing — her father, Bruce, faces his demise. Both the book and the musical, which Pandora Productions recently premiered in Louisville, depict an accident that is a suspected suicide of her father, who is gay but kept that part of him hidden.

In a song, he sings:

“But the edges of the world that held me up have gone away

And I’m falling into nothingness

Or flying into something so sublime”

These lyrics present the quest to find one’s own identity. The themes of “Fun Home” are rooted in a deep sense of finding who you are while, on the other hand, losing yourself in a world you’ve created.

This Tony Award-winning musical is partly a coming-of-age story about one’s sexual awakening concerning the main character, Alison, played by Mandi Elkins Hutchins in Pandora’s production. On the other hand, the story parallels the unraveling of Bruce, played by Jordan Price. The play showcases the generational gap between Alison and her father who’s been burying who he really is for years, whereas Alison leans on the idea of embracing who she is.

Alison discovers her sexuality while she’s away at college and encounters women’s and lesbian collectives. In the self-expressive musical number “I’m Changing My Major” she sings the same lines as her father:

“Am I falling into nothingness

Or flying into something so sublime”

Only this time, it has an entirely different meaning, a new beginning.

Hutchins said she has a lot of sympathy for Bruce’s character, whose story reveals he was a white male in the military when he was younger, and at no point in his life would he have been able to have a safe space. The societal pressures on that generation, she said, could do a lot of harm to a person’s mental health.

Helen, Bruce’s wife, was the only one who knew of his struggle all along. In her song “Days and Days” she sings, “He told me I understood how the world made him ache.”

Price said he saw Bruce as a man also suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder that causes him to unravel through the duration of the play. We see a man whittled down to his very essence. After years of suppressing his true self, he finally finds a false escape.

In the preceding years, he had a hobby of working to fix old things and make them new again. In a way, he was mending himself. He had an appreciation for the beauty of the world, but he couldn’t fully experience the beauty himself.

While Bruce, a member of an older generation, suffers in “Fun Home,” this musical has an important story because it illuminates mental health and suicide, which are issues for members of the LGBTQ community, particularly youth. According to a 2016 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth were five times more likely to attempt suicide than were heterosexual youth. In today’s society, while some push for the normativity of the LGBTQ community, the study showed that youth also are contemplating suicide three times the rate of heterosexual youth.



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