Interview with Lindsey Bowen and Gabe Guevara, directors of “Pray the Gay Away – a serious musical comedy” performing November 2019 at the Historic Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, WA.
Q: Pray the Gay Away, tell me what this story is about.
Lindsey: It’s following a journey of one boy’s experience being encouraged into gay conversion therapy. We’re following the experience of a church, a gay support group and his parents. There are attitudes of sympathy and protection from all sides. Even though the story is fiction, there is so much research that has gone into this work. It’s a new story set in Minnetonka, Minnesota with amazing characters that everyone can identify with.
Q: This is a new story and the premiere of this show?
Q: I think most people would expect a show like this to premiere in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York… You’re in Mount Vernon, WA which is a farming community known for its tulips. Explain that to me. Why is this show premiering in Mount Vernon?
Lindsey: One of the beauties of it premiering in Mount Vernon is that these issues of human sexuality and gender identity and all of the issues that this show addresses are equally felt in small communities as they are in large cities.
By us putting this show on stage here, we’re also showing that we are concerned about these issues and focused on a progressive movement, even in Mount Vernon, WA.
Q: Not being in a large urban area, are you concerned about finding the talent needed to put on a show like this?
Lindsey: Not at all. Our area, our community is known very well for high-quality musical theater and performance art theater. We have a very large theater community that’s been active and successful for over 30 years.
Q: Is this the first time that the Lincoln Theatre has put on the premiere of a show?
Lindsey: No. The composer of the show, Conrad Askland, this will be his fourth full-length musical and his fourth premiere at the Lincoln Theatre. Many other original productions have been done in the valley before, just not always on this kind of scale.
Q: How large will the cast be?
Lindsey: We have an open concept. We hope that between our leads and ensemble we’ll have about 30 people. At a minimum 24 and at a maximum for this show, about 40.
Q: What type of people are you looking for to audition for this show?
Lindsey: Everyone! Our focus, because of the content of the lead characters, we absolutely need youth. The social activist group in the show needs many members under age thirty.
Q: This show seems like it could be very controversial and a risky show to do in a more rural area.
Gabe: First of all, I want to start taking down those filters by saying that this little rural area is a progressive area and will be accepting for this play. This is what I know and this is what I will be showing to the rest of the community.
Lindsey: I agree wholeheartedly. I also think the greatest controversy probably lies in the area of addressing the church, because there’s a lot of people who identify as Christians but are also socially accepting different sexual lifestyles. They do accept gays and lesbians. People all over the world are growing in their understanding of sexual identity and gender preferences. The title alone is probably the bigger controversy in this. I think once people see the story, they’re going to find it less offensive to religious aspects. But the title alone does probably excite people and even make people wonder if this is a story about actually encouraging people to come and help us “Pray the Gay Away”, or are we trying to send a different message. I think the title is good in that way because it excites a lot of different feelings in people and I think a good title should.
Q: Is this a show that attacks and makes fun of the church?
Lindsey: Absolutely not. The research that the writer and composer has done has been to keep the integrity of all views and present it in a way that is both truthful and light-hearted. There are no horribly wrong people in this story. There are no bad people in this story. There are people that are learning and growing.
Q: Does this show attack God?
Lindsey: Not at all.
Gabe: Absolutely Not. We’re not trying to attack anyone at all. We’re not isolating anyone as the sole evil that treats people differently. We are just enlightening and taking the research the writer has done to portray this rightfully on stage.
Q: You call it a “serious comedy”. Which one is it? Is it serious or is it a comedy.
Lindsey: Both. There’s nothing in life that happens that isn’t kind of funny and also serious. Life is not a box of one thing. A real portrayal of the human experience is both.
I want to say something about approaching the subject of art. You can really change people’s hearts and minds through performance art in a way that you can’t through simple conversation. You can stand out on the streets and preach what you want but it’s really difficult to get through to people’s hearts and their minds; art is a beautiful bridge to that. It allows us to speak to people over a period of time with real human experiences and I believe that throughout time this is one way that people have changed and grown, and become more tolerable and more open and more loving. That’s what this show aims to do.
Q: Why do this show and not do a Disney musical, a regular show?
Lindsey: For exactly the same reasons I just said. I feel this is a timely show. Almost seven years ago Washington State legalized gay marriage. This is an ongoing social campaign and social awareness and this is the perfect time to talk about something that is difficult for many people to address.
Gabe: If we have the means to do it, we have a responsibility to put this on.
Q: This show takes place in 1982. Why is the story still relevant today?
Lindsey: Our history is always important with the human experience. To be able to show where we were at over 30 years ago is an important timeline to see the changes that have happened in our own minds and our own hearts in that period of time. This show would not have been possible here thirty years ago. It would have been so controversial that it would not have been accepted. And we probably wouldn’t have the content and the ability to talk about it as openly and beautiful as we do today. But we’re not done with this story. This is so many people’s story. We’re not finished talking about this and this beautiful venue and this bridge allows us to reach into people’s hearts and minds and create social change.
Q: I understand you’ve been involved in theater in Skagit County, WA for quite a long time.
Lindsey: Together, Gabe and I appeared in a show together nine years ago, “Back to the 80’s” at McIntyre Hall and I enjoyed his acting back then. I’ve been in over forty productions myself. I’ve directed three shows and we’ve directed one show together. My favorite roles have been Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Babe in Crimes of the Heart, Stella in Streetcar Named Desire, Cathryn in Proof and I was also the Nurse in Conrad Askland’s musical “Romeo and Juliet.”
Q: If you had one message to potential auditioners, what would it be?
Lindsey: Come. Because our intention and our working style is to direct from the very beginning and gain the most potential out of every auditioner we possibly can. We believe that everyone has potential for this show. It’s not what you necessarily come with, it’s what you walk away with, from this audition experience alone. Our audition process is going to be an incredible experience for everyone who auditions.
Q: What would you want future local audiences to know?
Lindsey: I do have a lot of belief in my local audience that their curiosity will bring them there, and that the reputation of Conrad Askland, the production team and the reputation of Theater Arts Guild will bring them there. If we have audiences at the theater, I believe we will win them over. I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of from this show, only something to gain and learn from coming. Of course it’s going to tug at the heart strings. We can’t promise not to offend anybody, but we are doing our best to be respectful of everyone’s individual feelings about all of the subjects that we’re touching upon.
I would say that this is an opportunity to really be a part of something that is brand new and beautiful, and it’s happening right here in our valley.
“Pray the Gay Away – a serious musical comedy” will perform live at the Historic Lincoln Theatre from November 8-24, 2019 in Mount Vernon, WA.