Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – Adam Bailey is on Fire
August 21, 2016
Odds are, coming out of the closet is a cross to bear, more so when your father is actually a man of the Cross. Which is exactly the predicament 2014 Best of Toronto fringe winner Adam Bailey finds himself in his new show Adam Bailey is On Fire. Showbill.ca’s Matt McLaren talks crosses with Adam.
Matt McLaren: Funny story, I bumped into your poster many, many times during Toronto fringe but didn’t get the chance to come and see. How was The Big Smoke?
Adam Bailey: The Toronto Fringe has always been good to me. This year was my third in a row winning a top prize there, the Patron’s Pick, and I was thrilled. It was also my first time doing Adam Bailey is on Fire in my home town. It played in Edmonton and Winnipeg the year, earning some really stellar reviews and introducing me to the world of touring, but it was really neat doing the show for people who already knew me, especially when they found out some of the stuff I’d never told them.
MM: You’ve promised that your show won’t pull punches or be sentimental. Maybe it would help if you could make it clear what your believe that would look like when telling this story.
AB: I’ve spent years as a cabaret performer, doing comedy and burlesque, I’ve even directed a puppet opera titled The Enchanted Crackhouse, so I’m not the type of artist who’s going to give you an after school special about the LGBT experience. Instead, I take you from bible studies to bathhouses and beyond. There’s a lot of honesty in this show and I certainly don’t try to make myself the good-guy. And it’s funny. One of the best things about the show is the laughs.
MM: Without spoiling the ahead of time for Victoria, let’s get more into the elements in your background that lead to this piece.
AB: My Dad is an Evangelical Minister in Ontario’s Rust Belt, and I was raised a conservative Christian on most issues, although I’m not very conservative today. Our family library was filled with scholarly books on the bible and our Sundays were spent praying in tongues. When my parents got divorced when I was a teenager and I started noticing boys instead of girls, things got complicated. But if you think the story ends in my teens you are mistaken, it covers decades, and even alternate timelines.
MM: As I understand it, there’s a lot of elements from factory theatre that helped put this work in the shape it’s in today. Can we name them, their contributions and anyone else on the creative team who deserves a shout out?
AB: Something very unique that they were able to offer me was a group of studio actors who read and acted out the script while I was developing it. Not only did this allow me to work strictly as a playwright for that portion of the development, it allowed the Adam in the play to exist as a strong theatrical character separate from myself. That’s rare when developing a solo show, but because of how personal the show is it really helped.
I was also working directly with the Artistic Director, Nina Lee Aquino and she was amazing. She saw my first play, which won Best of Fringe Toronto in 2014, and because of that I was taken under her wing to develop my next piece, Adam Bailey is on Fire. Now I’ve spent two summers touring this show and it’s been so successful I’ve already written a follow up piece which I’m just starting to perform as well. I have a lot to thank Factory for!
MM: It would seem that we don’t live in subtle times. There’s too many incidents to name, but I wonder if current events have invaded on elements of the show or how you’ve approached it?
AB: What got to me, when media was covering the rash of Religious Freedom Laws in the U.S., were the tag lines which always read Gays vs Christians. Trying to reconcile being both of those things when they’re so often seen as being opposite can be a Sisyphean task. And there’s real damage: the disproportionate numbers of LGBT youth who end up as street kids come almost entirely from fundamentalist backgrounds. We need to talk about the impact of religion on kids, especially gay kids.
I’m writing this show for all the people who deal with this struggle and for anyone who loves them. But I don’t pretend to have the answers; we hear enough from people who think that they have all the answers. I just try to make an experience understandable and entertaining and honest.
MM: May I ask I blunt question, if only because I believe you’ll be able to answer it. This is hardly the first story about a young man coming out to religious parents. You must have been aware of that during the creative process and I wonder how that influenced your approach to making this fresh?
AB: At this point in doing the show I’m confident in its ability to surprise and enlighten. But this sort of question keeps coming up and I was very aware that I would be contending with this when I wrote the show. So yes, it influenced my approach, but overtime I’ve begun to question the question. A lot of the coming out process is universal; coming to terms with religion and morality, sexual awakenings, coming of age, finding love, finding ourselves. These are experiences that infuse our best theatre. Why not tell queer versions of these conflicts?
We’re quickly passing the moment where every coming out story is going to be written like a how-to manual for the very reason that it is becoming more common, and that’s fantastic news. Now these stories can focus on all the weird and wild things that happen along the way and be as individual as the people who tell them. Mine certainly is.
MM: Why should audiences come and see Adam Bailey is on Fire?
AB: A top rated, funny show with universal themes by an award winning artist; what audience wouldn’t want to see Adam Bailey is on Fire.