Gay-Mormon play faces hostility from a different source

The Salt Lake Tribune/September 21, 2010

Steven Fales has unexpectedly cancelled the second part of his trilogy about his struggles as a gay Mormon before its Thursday opening in Salt Lake City.

"Missionary Position" was expected to get an uncharacteristically cool reception from Utah's gay community because of some statements Fales has made on the suicides of gay Mormons this summer.

Devout Mormons would likely have avoided "Missionary Position," as Fales performs an over-the-top re-enactment - in ritual garments - of the sacred, and ostensibly secret, Mormon temple rites.

But many gays were threatening to stay away because of Fales harsh blog comments. Utah's gay community, like the culture nationwide, has been rocked by suicides and local gay rights supporters and their families held a candlelight vigil in memory of the latest gay man to kill himself.

Fales, whose performances have been praised for spotlighting the struggles of gays within the LDS faith, shocked many when he lashed out against the vigil and the men it was commemorating.

"Ours has become a community of drunks - drunk on self pity," Fales wrote on his blog in July. "And those who inadvertently enable it and covertly endorse it.

"Vigils should be held for real heroes when they are murdered or assassinated, not for the whimpers of those who sell out."

Many in the gay community, including filmmaker Reed Cowan, were outraged by Fales' diatribe. Cowan defended the vigil saying it brought "more attention to the troubling trend of suicide among young gay LDS men and women."

"To tread on the intentions of this gathering, or any gathering like it, is cruel," Cowan, the director of "8: The Mormon Proposition," responded to Fales in a blog post. "You are a bitter queer whose star is fading amidst a backdrop of people who are seeing you for what you are."

It's hardly the controversy that Fales expected for the hometown opening of "Missionary Position," which he has already performed at the New York Fringe Festival and in Las Vegas.

"Missionary Position" is based on a young Fales' experience as a missionary in Portugal. The play follows the well-received (in theater circles) "Confessions of a Mormon Boy." It ultimately is to be followed by the third part, "Who's Your Daddy?"

Troy Williams is one of several in the gay community who have grown tired of Fales' jokey gay-Mormon memoirs and self promotion. The gay rights activist, journalist and performer, says "Missionary Position" will probably do well outside of Utah, where Mormonism is still seen as an exotic cult.

"But here it's old and tired," he said.

Williams thinks it's time Fales moved on to material that is relevant to a younger generation faced with a more subtle, but still insidious, form of homophobia.

"The climate is changing rapidly," he said. "Young [gay] kids are facing very different things than what Steven faced."

And Fale's searing attack on the young man who committed suicide and those grieving for him, crossed the line, says Williams.

To be fair, Fales, who could not be reached for this article, appears to have been trying to shock the gay community out of what he sees as a spiral of self pity.

"Taking your life drunk on self pity is the ultimate narcissistic ‘Look at me, I'm gay!' I'm sorry, but there actually are a lot of [mental-health] resources here in Utah . . ." he wrote on his blog.

Whether Fales' work is still relevant as one of those resources remains to be seen.

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