On The Mountain: Sundance Theatre Lab Selects Two Projects With LGBT Themes

By: Christopher Donaldson

In 1984, the theatre world tilted toward terrain so elevated it seemed as if it might never touch the ground thanks to actor Robert Redford’s longstanding interest in story-telling.

From that same vantage point 28 years later, amid pine and aspen that stretch all the way across Utah’s 12,000-foot Mount Timpanogos, The Sundance Institute’s Theatre Lab continues to encourage and support new work from some of the most gifted and multi-faceted playwrights, directors, choreographers, composers, solo performers and ensembles known to planet Earth.

After all, this type of hard-core commitment to artistic disciplines and to the creative process over the past three decades has established and nurtured such formative stage productions as Spring Awakening, The Good Negro, Passing Strange, I Am My Own Wife and Circle Mirror Transformation, among many other Pulitzer, Tony and Obie award winners.

It’s also a commitment many theatre types—both established and new talents—follow obsessively, as evidenced by the fact that Sundance received nearly 900 submissions this year in relation to the 2012 Lab, which will run July 9-29 at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah. Unfortunately, as if an artist's life wasn't already hard enough, only eight of those projects were selected to participate.

“The eight projects we’ve selected for 2012 are diverse in every sense,” said Sundance Artistic Director Philip Himberg in a press release. “We have had the pleasure of discovering the work of writers not known to us prior to this submission process. Our slate includes an NYU undergraduate student, as well as seasoned Sundance Institute alumni that we are welcoming home. Artists hail from Hawaii, New York, Chicago, Nigeria and Tanzania. We look forward to working with these artists to realize their visions for the unique and indelible worlds they seek to create on stage.”

Nonetheless, if there are qualities that any of these projects have in common, Fun Home (Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron) and Hands (Ken Greller) might compel quite a bit of your attention for their authoritative LGBT themes, which you can read more about below (per the Sundance Institute’s press release).

Fun Home: “My father and I grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town and he was gay and I was gay and he killed himself and I became a lesbian cartoonist.” Fun Home is Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s musical adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The title refers to the family business, the Bechdel Funeral Home, and charts Alison’s quest to come to terms with her father’s life and death by painstakingly reconstructing their shared but unspoken bond.

Hands: Set in a suburban Baltimore diner, Hands charts the friendship between Alex and Ray over 22 years. As Alex begins the process of gender transition, Ray treads the dangerous waters of a potentially misguided spiritual revelation. The friends grow further apart until their only commonality is a shared disconnect over the town they’re from and can’t seem to escape.

For more information on the Sundance Theatre Program and Labs, visit: http://www.sundance.org/programs/theatre/. And, if you want to see what independent theatre in its earliest stages of development really looks like, watch the following video.