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Left to right: Medium Alison (Sara Masterson), Alison (Allison Mickelson) and Small Alison (Aida Valentine) in Fun Home at The Armory.
Left to right: Medium Alison (Sara Masterson), Alison (Allison Mickelson) and Small Alison (Aida Valentine) in Fun Home at The Armory.

Chris Coleman on "Fun Home"

Why did Fun Home seem like the perfect show to kick off our 30th anniversary season?  

I had a chance to see the original incarnation at The Public Theater in New York and was just knocked out by how inventive the piece was. It manages to be charming and funny and heartbreaking and haunting within the same 90 minutes.

For those who have been living under a rock, tell us a little about Fun Home and why you’re drawn to the story.

The show is inspired by Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name, which is a memoir of sorts. Alison is the most famous lesbian cartoonist in the country, okay, probably the world. She found herself as an adult, stuck artistically, and suspected that her impasse might relate to her father’s passing when she was in college. The story is an emotional excavation of sorts. I think it’s one of the smartest, freshest pieces of writing we’ve seen in the musical theater genre.

What is your favorite song or moment in the show?

I will give too much away by sharing that.

Talk a little about what you and the creative team have planned visually for our production. What are some of the challenges for staging this story?

There are many locations and three different time periods that you have to navigate between instantaneously. And the action feels poetic and lyrical – so you want the whole thing to flow effortlessly. Bill Bloodgood (Oklahoma!, Sweeney Todd and many others at The Armory) has devised three different sections of the stage that will allow scenery to float on and off elegantly, and it’s all nestled in a series of panels (not unlike those in a graphic novel) that collectively form the Bechdel house, but also provide fragment’s of Alison’s memories.

What are some highlights from your trip to New York to cast the show? How are you feeling about the cast you’ve assembled?

The music is gorgeous but difficult. And the story wants actors who can just live inside it invisibly. It’s not a classic presentational musical. So finding performers who are terrific musicians but also nuanced, truthful actors was the challenge. I am beyond thrilled with the folks we found. Including the kids who are from here in Portland.

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