EXTENDED THRU MARCH 8
By Steve Nardoni
It’s heartening to know that for 30 years FRIGID NYC has existed to provide support and venues for both emerging and established indie artists. It has specifically been the catalyst for a large number of downtown theater productions which may never have made it to the stage without them. And for the past 14 years the FRIGID Festival has uniquely provided venues where the artists get to keep all their earnings.
One of the shows featured for the FRIGID Festival was A Southern Fairytale, which I had the privilege of seeing on February 19 at The Kraine Theater in the East Village. With only 99 seats, the Kraine is one of the two small theaters used for this event— the other being the 45-seat UNDER St. Marks.
Written and starring Ty Autry, Fairytale is a chilling and revealing one-hour monologue chronicling six chapters in the life of a gay Christian boy named Alex Belmont growing up in Georgia— first “straightening” up, and finally “gaying” up.
The dynamic one-man show was delivered with humor, pathos, and camp by Autry. The small, bare stage was illuminated during the performance with nods to the protagonist’s obsession with fairy tales and his sexual ambivalence. For each chapter an image of a fairytale-esque book cover is projected onto a flat on the stage. And at one point we get a glimpse of the soles of his sneaks which have been bedecked with the colors of the rainbow flag! (You can’t tell he is gay by his constant head-tosses, moves, and sexual references: We need a hint by looking at his sneakers!)
But this is not all fun and games. This is serious shit. Take it from Alex: “Because in this fairytale we are interested in how I grew to live, survive, and thrive in a part of the world we call The Deep South.” It’s a place, Alex says, where “sayings like ‘Bless y’er heart’ flow freely” and “faggot is used synonymously with stupid and dumb.” He goes on to drive the point home: “I come from a region where some people of a different orientation never make it out. They are stuck. They are bullied. They are killed. They kill themselves.”
Along the way we learn of his dealing with the irrational reactions to his “affliction” from his family, his school and schoolmates, his church, and even his therapists. Autry delvers an evocative, wry and charming performance throughout, as he bounces us through the chapters of Alex being slammed back into the closet— followed by multiple comings out. And all along this rollercoaster ride the two main institutions that were supposed to have his back— his family and church— both fail him miserably. He dodges the bullet of conversion therapy camp (“Nothing productive happens when a bunch of gay men go camping…”) and eventually has to deal with not dealing with his father.
Despite his history, Alex’s simple redemption is merely achieved by him— and him alone— finally accepting his sexuality and embracing the God of his choice.
Photos: Mike Glatzer Photography
A Southern Fairytale
Presented by the FRIGID Festival
Directed by David L. Carson
Performances Feb 19, 22, and 29; Mar 4 and 6
The Kraine Theater – 85 East 4th Street, NYC