Let the ‘Fun Home’ begin

“Fun Home” is a lot of things — a musical, an adaptation of an award-winning book, a depiction of familial tensions and queerness tinged by the inescapable fact of death. But it’s also a comedy.

“I love dark humor, and I would love everyone to know that the play is very, very funny,” said Hannah Wolf, who is directing Perseverance Theatre’s production of “Fun Home,” in a recent interview.

“Fun Home,” which is based on Alison Bechdel’s award-winning graphic novel memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” depicts formative moments from Bechdel’s life, including moments from Bechdel’s childhood with her demanding father, Bechdel coming to terms with her homosexuality in college, and realizations about her father’s sexuality and death. Its title comes from an inside joke name for the family’s business, a funeral home.

The story is told through vignettes focused on three versions of Bechdel — child-era Small Alison (Fiona McFarlin), college-era Medium Alison (Brita Fagerstrom) and middle-aged Big Alison (Allison Mickelson) — with the oldest Alison typically observing the exploits of her family and younger selves.

Mickelson, who has played Big Alison in three previous productions of “Fun Home” and is making her Perseverance Theatre debut, said in an interview there is value in frank depictions of subjects that don’t show up in many plays.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Big Alison (Allison Mickelson) clutches a sketchbook while reflecting on her younger years during rehearsal for Perseverance Theatre’s production of “Fun Home”

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Big Alison (Allison Mickelson) clutches a sketchbook while reflecting on her younger years during rehearsal for Perseverance Theatre’s production of “Fun Home”

“What a gift to normalize a gay protagonist, to talk about suicide to talk about mental health,” Mickelson said.

Wolf said she hopes prospective audience members aren’t scared away by some of the show’s more morbid motifs since “Fun Home” ultimately tells a story about moving forward from trauma.

[“Fun Home” director shares uncommon circumstances behind an “unlikely musical”]

“While the show deals with very heavy material, the show also ends with hope,” Wolf said.

Also, while the show is an adaptation of a singular, real-life story, both Mickelson and Wolf said it mines a unique life for universal feelings.

The show goes on

Both Wolf and Mickelson also said there is much joy in returning to live theater after the pandemic necessitated plays shift to virtual presentations. They said that feeling is intensified in the case of this particular production of “Fun Home.”

Originally, the play was set to open in the spring of 2020. However, that was dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years later, most of the cast for the paused past production has returned. Wolf noted that’s relatively rare for a delayed project.

“I have to catch myself quite often,” said Mickelson, who spent extended time in Juneau after the planned shows were postponed to work for Trail Mix Inc. “It’s emotional, it’s so exciting, but it’s also surreal.”

Wolf, who typically works as a new play director, said working with a more-known piece and the two-year delay gave the process an ensemble-built feel with actors who have an especially deep understanding of their characters.

Ben Hohenstatt / Capital City Weekly Bruce Bechdel (Enrique Bravo) makes a tense face while clutching an antique during rehearsal for “Fun Home” while observed by Big Alison (Allison Mickelson).

Ben Hohenstatt / Capital City Weekly
Bruce Bechdel (Enrique Bravo) makes a tense face while clutching an antique during rehearsal for “Fun Home” while observed by Big Alison (Allison Mickelson).

In addition to Mickelson, the cast — who Wolf praised effusively — includes many actors who may be familiar to Perseverance Theatre audiences, including Fagerstrom, Margeaux Ljungberg, Enrique Bravo, Cate Ross and Chris Talley. It also includes a few actors making their debut for a mainstage production for Perseverance, such as Mickelson and young actors McFarlin, Kyra Wood and Axel Boily.

Music will be provided by Rob Cohen, Paul Cotton, Franz Felkl, Liz Hanley, Dale McFarlin and Ty Wolverton.

“I can’t wait for people to see the force of talent that is on stage,” Wolf said.

Wolf won’t have to wait long. “Fun Home” opens Friday and runs through May 8.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

Know & Go

What: “Fun Home”

When: 7:30 p.m. April 22, April 23, April 27, April 28, April 29, May 5, May 6 and May 7. 4 p.m. April 24, May 1 and May 8.

Where: Perseverance Theatre, 914 3rd St., Douglas

Admission: Tickets cost $40. The performance scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, is a pay-as-you-wish show. Attendees must provide proof of vaccination and wear masks indoors, according to Perseverance Theatre’s website. Tickets can be purchased online through https://www.ptalaska.org/ticketing/.

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