Facing East

I heard about Facing East at a Gay Pride event in Hollywood, Summer of 2007. A friend was shooting a documentary about gay men who had left their Latter-day Saint contexts and established happy lives outside the enclave, and he’d asked me to shoot second unit covering our two subjects at Gay Pride.

There we were, my wife and I, walking the Gay Pride thoroughfare. She was mixing sound and I was shooting. We were insulated with production gear, giving us a purpose to be there, but after we were kicked out (who gets kicked out of Gay Pride?) and returned without gear, it was just us, walking in, hand-in-hand. I wondered if this might be what it feels like to be walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City as an affectionate gay couple. And in a moment I realized it wasn’t. We didn’t have the judgement. I think we were seen without orientation, without gender. We were the other side of that coin. It was in this context that one of our subjects spoke with me about Carol Lynn’s play Facing East.

It’s a brave play that examines difficult emotions and blame in a Mormon context as we watch a couple at the grave side of their son, post internment but before the casket is lowered into the vault. He had killed himself, unreconciled with his homosexuality. At the apex of the show, the grieving couple is met by their son’s companion.

I’ve been bothered for years with the indiscrimination of gays and lesbians in our community, our culture, but I’ve never done anything about it. My activism was usually constrained to the classroom. And then I got to know Steve Lee and Tom Clark, the two men we followed for the documentary, and the more they disclosed, sometimes painfully, the more I realized I couldn’t be passive about this issue any longer.

I still hadn’t read Facing East when I asked if I could be considered to direct it as a show in Dixie State College’s Theatre program which was originally accepted and then dropped. I knew Carol Lynn Pearson’s writing, her purely empathic approach to every meaning I’ve gleaned from her and trusted her literature on this issue, even though the institution for which I teach didn’t. The show was picked up by The Space Between Theater Company and we produced and performed a two-week run of full houses.

I shot this image for the playbill and poster, the two formidable actors, Andrea Davenport and Garry Morris. Not pictured is the role of Marcus adroitly played by Derek Stratford. They were a remarkable cast and wrought gut wrenching responses from polarized audiences.

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