"No one's the devil, here. We're all just trying to get along." This simple statement, signed "Anonymous," serves as an introduction in the script for Geoffrey Nauffts' latest work, Next Fall. While it may be something only those onstage and behind the scenes in this new play get to share, this powerful statement seems to be exactly what Nauffts is trying to convey with his work in the theatre and beyond.
Developed through the not-for-profit Naked Angels Theater Company (Nauffts currently serves as artistic director), Next Fall comes to Broadway this month after a critically successful Off-Broadway run during the summer of 2009. Under the direction of Sheryl Kaller, this provocative drama tells the story of a gay couple, Adam (Patrick Breen) and Luke (Patrick Heusinger), and their struggles with faith and acceptance. The opening of the play takes place in a hospital waiting room, immediately following a serious tragedy involving one of the men. The story continues using flashbacks to show how a group of very different people are all connected.
Currently moonlighting as one of the writers for ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," stage and screen multi-tasker Nauffts says it was his interest in faith and religion that inspired him to write Next Fall.
"Organized religion plays an important part in our world," he shares. "I never grew up around it and I've always been curious about it. In recent years, my world has collided with the world of organized religion to a certain degree and I've met people who have faith. It's been enlightening. So with this play, I took a scenario and went from there." While the story line of Next Fall is fictitious, Nauffts, who is making his Broadway debut as a playwright, says that he's giving a fair and balanced face and voice to what's currently happening in our country regarding the lack of equality for same-sex couples. "The actual plot of the play does sort of put a human face on California's Proposition 8 [the state constitutional amendment that prevents same-sex couples from marrying there]. If [Prop 8 supporters] can come and see this — if it causes them to humanize the situation a little bit, and there's more understanding there — that's a great thing."
He adds, "There are no easy answers. I don't want to portray the play in that light. I try to give a voice on all sides of the equation — even the choir that I'm preaching to can ask questions."
While Nauffts is providing a voice for both supporters and non-supporters of same-sex couples through the characters depicted in Next Fall, over the last couple of years, the Broadway community has made it very clear that it supports equal rights for all.
The not-for-profit group Broadway Impact, under the leadership of Hair's Gavin Creel, came into existence in late 2008 to help push lawmakers to support legislation that would protect the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and, primarily, same-sex marriage.
The multi-Tony-nominated Creel says he was inspired to create the organization after Barack Obama was elected president on the same day Proposition 8 was approved by voters. "Watching President Obama, for the first time in my life one of us was running for president. He seemed like one of us — and I got behind him and I got excited about his message and what he continues to say he's going to do. The day he was elected president, Prop 8 happened. It was this bizarre dichotomy — world history — good and bad. So, I thought, what can I do? We're in a really awesome community — the Broadway community is a real tight-knit group of people — and we took the lead on this issue."
Creel, along with Broadway's Cynthia Nixon, Audra McDonald, Sutton Foster, Christopher Sieber and Cheyenne Jackson, among others, have been extremely vocal in their stance on equal rights for the LGBT community.
Aside from holding and participating in rallies encouraging lawmakers to support equal rights for all, Creel says that the folks behind Broadway Impact will continue to fight until equality is won in all 50 states.
"Our mission for 2010 is 'Broadway Impact Goes Home.' The Broadway community knows who we are — now we are starting to call out to community and summer stock theatres. We're planning on starting chapters across the country. Think about Christian churches all over the country — our churches are theatres." Even though the current political climate displays a clear divide between supporters and non-supporters of LGBT rights, both Gavin Creel and Geoffrey Nauffts seem to be coming from the same place: Creel more vocal with his organization and Nauffts a little subtler with his play.
"On a bigger scale, you can compare Next Fall to humanity. Lift the 'gay' out of the sentence — it's about people," Nauffts says. "We're so divided in our world, and religion is really behind that division. I would hope that taking a small look at this world and six people in 24 hours — think on a larger scale — there's truth to learn."
Frank DiLella is the theatre producer for NY1 News in New York City.