Straight: A Conversion Comedy examines the world of conversion therapy, a treatment intended to “cure” men and women of their homosexuality. The play will have its San Antonio premiere December 2 with the AtticRep Theatre Company at Trinity University.
Photo by Tim Summers, courtesy of The Stranger
Written and performed by David Schmader, columnist for Seattle’s The Stranger and a native Texan, the show blends journalism with elements of stand-up, resulting in a performance that balances smart comedy with serious cultural criticism.
Schmader derived the characters and stories in Straight from research he conducted in Seattle and in Texas. For this research Schmader went undercover, booking sessions with a conversion therapist and attending support groups for ex-gays. He also read many publications by Exodus International, “the largest information and referral ministry in the world addressing homosexual issues.”
Because he was unsure which tone would dominate the play, Schmader did not subtitle Straight “a conversion comedy” until he had already been performing it for several years. He recognized in time, however, that the play was a comedy, partly because communicating the play’s cultural criticism depended on humor to keep his audience entertained.
“The best way to get cultural criticism onstage without boring everyone is to make it funny,” writes Schmader in a recent email.
According to Schmader, comedy also seems to arise naturally in a project covering such a fraught subject, which involves many characters, gay and straight, making assumptions about each other, “and watching people learn their assumptions are poop,” he explains, “is inherently funny.”
Schmader and Straight’s San Antonio director, Andy Thornton, have spent the past few weeks fine-tuning the script and blocking for Thursday’s show at the AtticRep space. Working together has been a joy, because besides seeing eye to eye artistically, the two have been friends for over 20 years.
“We’ve literally exchanged mixtapes since I was 18,” says Schmader, “so he understands what I’m aiming for as well as anyone on earth who’s not me.”
Straight: A Conversion Comedy runs from December 2 through 19. Tickets are available online at the AtticRep website.
Contributed by: Michael Swellander, public relations intern for Texas Public Radio.