Lately we've been experiencing a lot of deceiving play titles on this campus, so here's another one. Sit & Spin's site-specific spring show Next Fall will actually be performed this weekend at the Winnetka Community House Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at both 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The show, produced and performed by Northwestern students, but purposefully moved to a different venue to add to the ambience, tells the story of a gay couple, Luke and Adam, who must convene with all of their eclectic loved ones after Luke barely survives a car crash and recovers in the hospital. We sat down with director Michael Fagan, a Weinberg senior who selected the play, to discuss the meaning of its plot and its relevance to the Northwestern student body (which is real, if we may say so ourselves).
NBN: What’s the storyline of Next Fall?
Michael Fagan: Next Fall centers around a gay couple, Adam and Luke. They’re 15 years apart, and that provides an interesting tension between them in itself. I like to describe Adam as a “hypochondriac atheist” to give you just a little idea of what he’s like, and I like to describe Luke as a confident, brash, but devout evangelical Christian. So the play really explores the intersectionality of religion and sexuality, and how these things like religion that are meant to unite us can oftentimes put divides between us. It’s a very realistic play. It’s both a very heart-wrenching and heart-warming production. It’s hilarious and tragic, which is why I love it, and the conversations onstage are things that you could imagine yourself hearing, or even if you don’t hear them on this campus, they’re conversations that you know exist and they’re conversations that you know are important because they divide us and a lot of times we don’t even recognize that.
NBN: Can you talk about some of the realistic problems or concepts that the play brings up, and how you hope that the play portrays them and explores them?
Fagan: So, I think the first thing to note is that every character onstage is flawed. No one is a trope; everybody says things that are cringe-worthy, in a way. It’s from the jokes (everyone makes bad jokes) to the fact that everyone says things that are not okay. So I think that’s the first way that everyone is portrayed realistically. As far as the themes and the conversations, the characters are a little heightened in the way that everyone in the room is a personality. Luke moved up north and wanted to distance himself from his father, but Butch (another character) stayed down south and grew up in southern culture, so you see a clashing of cultures, and that kind of thing happens in real life as well. It’s hard to look past the outer culture to just see the inner human. That’s what’s really important to me about this play and that’s why I love this play so much: how do we give each other enough grace to just accept each other for our humanity and take down these barriers? And then also, why do we cling onto these barriers so much, and why can’t we just take them down, especially in a hospital room?
NBN: What do you think inspired the play, and what inspired your use of it?
Fagan: The playwright is Geoffrey Nauffts. This play was on Broadway in the early 2000s, and a friend suggested it to me and said that I had to read it. A lot of the story resonates with me and my past, just as a member of the queer community, and then also coming from a devout Catholic background, so I get my version of it and can channel that into it. It’s a story that I can tackle and understand, and that was very resonant with me, and something I walked away from it thinking was, one, I’m in the site-specific show, which means it’s off-campus and it’s in a non-theatrical space, so the play takes place in an actual waiting room as opposed to on a stage, and the audience is sitting in the exact same chairs as the characters. First, I thought this play could really benefit from being site-specific, and second, I left it searching and thinking, and yet being at peace with that from the first time I read it, and that is not something I feel with every play. That’s kind of how I knew that this was an important story to tell to Northwestern students. We don’t talk about religion, but it's not even that. Just that finding that home and peace and acceptance in each other is something we all are constantly searching for on this campus and something that a lot of people on this campus really ever figure out. If we could just give a little bit more of ourselves to each other like in the few moments that people do give themselves on the stage in this play, then this campus would be a better place.
Tickets for Next Fall are available on the Norris Box Office website now, and free shuttles will provide transportation to the venue from campus a half hour before each show.