We’re currently six weeks from opening the community theater full premiere run of Pray the Gay Away®, a new musical theater production running November 8-24, 2019 at the Historic Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, WA.
If you’ve never worked on bringing an original full-length musical to the stage, it’s both a lot more organized and a lot more messy than you might think. The Pray the Gay Away® musical project was started back in 2015 when script writer Conrad Askland started researching on the project. “I was working as musical director and keyboardist for Rock of Ages with Norwegian Cruise Line and a cast member mentioned they had gone through gay conversion therapy many years ago. I ordered books on the subject the next day. Part way through reading the first book on the subject I knew that I had to put this topic on stage.”
The PTGA project started with small reading groups and eventually had almost weekly readings and workshops starting back in 2018 and through the middle of 2019. Conrad Askland says, “Like most writers, I need to hear the script out loud with different actors. I am very meticulous in my music writing to make sure I always have a vision in my mind’s eye of exactly what is happening on stage at every moment. It’s very rare that I write a song for the stage where a singer just stands and sings their song. There is always a movement that is physical or forward movement of the story that is present with each song. All that being said, when you give your material to other people to interpret, that’s where you often get the unexpected surprises and interpretations that take pieces into new directions. That’s the exciting part of the process; listening carefully as others interpret and discover what you’ve created.”
The music of Pray the Gay Away includes many full company production numbers, ensemble and solo choreography, musical theater tap dancing, female vocal duets, musical theater vocal solos, quartets and so many combinations of musical theater choreography and music that make up the great texture and tapestry that so many of us love about American musical theater. Script writer and show composer Conrad Askland says, “In Act One the focus is more on entertainment and exploring the lighter side of the “pray away the gay” movement. Act Two goes more inward and shows a more contemplative and serious side of the topic. The music of both acts is reflected in that approach as well. Several of the Act Two pieces are more introspective and lyrically flowing, more like art pieces or conservatory type art songs. I do like that contrast of pieces that forward plot and motion with the occasional stopping of time for inner dialogue and reflection. Musically the contrast is very interesting for me to write to.”
Already the full production premiere is becoming a grass-roots local event with tremendous and unexpected support from the local community of Mount Vernon, WA to Canada, the Pacific Northwest and international interest and support as well. It’s been a long wait and development process and we are so looking forward to seeing what audience reactions are when the community theater full production opens November 2019. Pray the Gay Away book, music and lyrics by Conrad Askland.