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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

In "Next Fall," Faith and Sexuality Collide In A Hospital Waiting Room

Courtesy Queer Theatre Kalamazoo

On November 13th, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo opens its production of Next Fall -- a play that represents a lot of firsts for the local group. It’s the theatre company’s first play that’s not a new work. And it’s QTK's first production that’s a full drama, covering the complex intersection of faith and sexuality. The play is also the first part of a new focus by Queer Theatre Kalamazoo to explore those themes and reach out to more than just the LGBT community.

To understand how Next Fall plays into those themes, you really need to look at one character, named Luke.

"And Luke is a young, gay, Christian, conservative," explains Nik Spayne, who plays the character in the Queer Theatre Kalamazoo production. "Yeah, there are a lot of labels there that don't regularly mix."

In the play, a major car accident brings together Luke’s family – including his devoutly Christian father Bruce – along with Luke’s atheist boyfriend, Adam.

The accident throws all of those labels – gay, Christian, conservative -- into direct conflict with each other, all inside a hospital waiting room.  You can hear it in a scene early in the play, in an interaction between Bruce and Adam.

“All I’m saying is, give me an argument that means something. Give me science!” yells Adam.

“Science isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, son," says Bruce. "I mean, for years, they told us the world was flat. Sometimes it’s just a tool used to disprove the word of God. It says so right there in the Bible."

Credit Courtesy Queer Theatre Kalamazoo
The cast of "Next Fall"

  Queer Theatre Kalamazoo founder Laura Henderson says that as the only LGBT theatre group in this region – especially at a time when things are changing so quickly for LGBT rights – it was important for her company to reach out and create a conversation about faith and sexuality.

"It was actually our theme for our third season is to bridge the gap between the religious and queer communities," Henderson says. "That's something we try to do, is use our theatre as a way to bring people together from different groups and give them a neutral environment where they can see people as people and kind of bridge those gaps."

Henderson continues: "So we're doing this show. And we're doing Bare in May, that touches on religion heavily as well. We just really wanted to bring up questions for the community to think about and see things from all different sides."

But Next Fall doesn’t preach one way or the other. Director Nick Thornton says what makes the play unique is that while it takes on these big themes, it’s still, ultimately, a love story. He says that allows the play to ask questions without judging any group, whether LGBT or faith-based. 

"And how, do we, as a community of people who are LGBT and people of faith come together to discuss these issues in a way that isn't aggressive?" Thornton says. "In a way that isn't directly hashing it out in some kind of town hall? Those seem to get a little ugly. How do we address it as artists with a story that is kind of outside of it?"

Credit Courtesy Queer Theatre Kalamazoo
Nik Spayne in "Next Fall"

By framing the conflict in a love story, the questions are asked gently. 

“So, let me see if I’ve got this right. I’m assuming that sin is sin, and if your sin is having sex with men, and my sin is say, killing men who have sex with men, that as long as I’ve accepted Christ as my savior, I will go to heaven with you?” asks the character Adam in one scene from Next Fall

As an example, Adam asks if the men who killed Matthew Shepard (a University of Wyoming student, who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998) could still go to heaven. 

“Well, technically, yes,” Luke replies.

Next Fall had a short run on Broadway in 2010, and QTK Founder Laura Henderson says she hopes the larger name will bring in different groups who her company maybe hasn’t targeted in the past.

Nik Spayne, who plays Luke, says that as society continues to change, he hopes that plays like Next Fall will keep pushing these issues into the spotlight.

"I think as it becomes easier to be who you are in this society, we're going to see a lot more of this," he says. "So I'm hoping that it will generate this conversation." 

Queer Theatre Kalamazoo's production of Next Fall runs November 13th, 14th, 20th and 21st at the FIRE Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative in Kalamazoo.

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