By Adam Hetrick
09 Nov 2013
|Photo by Elena Seibert|
Bechdel, who laughed when characterizing herself as a "casual consumer of musical theatre," admitted, "I don't really know much about the medium. In a way, that's why I felt so comfortable turning it over to other people, because it was a very alien art form to me."
However, even before Tony nominees Jeanine Tesori (composer) and Lisa Kron (librettist) began adapting "Fun Home," Bechdel had unknowingly set the stage for the musical within the illustrated pages of her memoir.
Late in the book, Bechdel documents her experience seeing one of the Public Theater's most-famous hits, the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, with her father and brothers during a trip to New York City. Only pages later, Bechdel – imagining the life her father may have faced in New York City in the early 1980s – draws a poster for Larry Kramer's AIDS drama The Normal Heart playing at the Public.
Bechdel has seen the musical several times during its current, extended run at the Public, as well as at various stages of its development. She explained that the surreal experience transcends the act of an author handing over her book for adaptation; in this case, the lights go up on her own life. The "characters" presented in Fun Home are not only her family, they are her own interpretations of them as depicted in her drawings, brought to life.
Layering the experience is that Bechdel herself is portrayed at three various points in her life by actresses Sydney Lucas, Alexandra Socha and Beth Malone as Small Alison, Medium Alison and the adult Alison, respectively, a dramatic choice that Bechdel identifies with: "We do live simultaneously like that, with our childhood self intact and our young selves intact and our old selves holding it all."Continued...