Mormon Boy Reveals (Almost) All Newsletter/March 2, 2006
By Steven Fales

Being in charge of your own body, mind and soul is something Steven Fales explores eight-shows a week from the stage of New York's Soho Playhouse, where his Confessions of a Mormon Boy recently opened for a commercial off-Broadway run. But being in charge of the right to tell this story is, well, a whole other story. And now, in a exclusive, the playwright/performer is telling it to you. What follows is an account of how the Utah native got his autobiographical solo stage show to the legit level--from creating the material, to being teased by "promising" producers, to collaborating with Jack Hofsiss (the Tony Award-winning director of The Elephant Man), to raising money to help produce one's own work. He also asks that age-old question of art vs. commerce: to bare, or not to bare?

It took a village to develop my one-man play Confessions of a Mormon Boy, but ultimately I had to produce it myself.

When I moved to New York City from Utah, I started telling my story of excommunication to captivated audiences at cocktail parties. I was encouraged to write it. After getting sidetracked in a whirlwind of escorting, drugs and soap opera auditions--a period I call my "ferocious gay adolescence"--I started writing my solo play, in part to make some lemonade out of a lot of lemons. People seemed to come out of the woodwork to help me. It was as if something bigger than me needed the story to be told.

After premiering the play in Salt Lake City to sold-out crowds and tremendous press, I knew I was on to something. I thought if I could make it in Salt Lake, I could make it anywhere!

So I started writing, and with the financial backing (a loan!) from good straight friends in Salt Lake, I did a workshop production for a week at the old Jose Quintero Theatre on 42nd Street (in June 2002). Not only did I recoup the expenses, but I attracted the interest of some veteran Broadway producers that recognized the human story as a good one. I was star-struck by these producers. I would do almost anything to get my play off-Broadway. And that's just about the truth. Looking back I've done just about everything (short of sleeping with people) to sustain my dream…err…mission.

The producers optioned the play for nothing, and I took the show to San Francisco to refine the piece. After an extended engagement there, and a short run in Las Vegas (a performance for the National Affirmation Conference for GLBT Mormons), I decided to expand the play to tell my whole story. That's when I was paired with the director Jack Hofsiss. Jack helped me reshape the piece, and we went to the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami to get it ready for the off-Broadway run. Again, the show was a hit: 10 weeks, eight shows a week, and a lot of fun on South Beach.

The press release announcing the off-Broadway run for August 2003 at the Acorn Theatre on 42nd St. went out to the world. The day before I was to fly Jet Blue from Salt Lake City to JFK to make all my Mormon Boy dreams come true, my lead producer called to tell me not to come. Their principal "mystery" investor had fallen through. They needed to postpone the run. How could this be? I had already raised a fourth of the budget myself! Ouch!

I waited for my phone to ring. After a few months, the lead producer called and told me that if I would get full-frontal nude in the play (while adding sacred magic Mormon underwear), then, he said, he could get the investors they needed. Now as a recovering sex-worker, this was obviously not a healthy thing to do. It didn't make sense artistically, either. This play was about integrity--and taking something else off, NOT my underwear. (When you see the play, you'll understand what shockingly comes off!) After consulting with every seasoned theater professional I could, I determined that adding nudity to my play would ruin it. I spoke with the lead producer in the most diplomatic and respectful plea of my life, declining to get naked in my play. When I said I wouldn't reconsider, I was told that they would have to reconsider producing the play at all. Ouch(again)!The production was indeed canned and I had to wait to get the rights back to my own show about my own life. I felt like Margaret Cho!

Shaken but undaunted, I then took the show to the New York City International Fringe Festival, where it became a breakout hit and was awarded a Jury Prize. The play still worked! Still, further developmental runs followed: Salt Lake City, Chicago and San Diego. And again, people came out of the woodwork to help me accomplish my goal. After finding a crackerjack general manager (Seth Goldstein of the Splinter Group), I stepped into fundraising mode--the biggest challenge of all! And two-and-a-half years after I was supposed to have originally opened in New York, Confessions of a Mormon Boy had its official off-Broadway debut at the Soho Playhouse a few weeks ago. And the audiences keep coming!

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.