Arcadia University Theater’s final dramatic show of the season started with a reading assignment in Professor of Theater Arts Kathryn Petersen’s course on children’s theater over a year ago. Though Sarah Gubbins’ play, fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life, was written to bring a teenage audience to Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, Arcadia students connected with it so much that they wanted to see it on Arcadia University’s MainStage.
“It was as simple as Kathryn taking the idea to our department head [Mark Wade], and he said ‘Sure, let’s do it,’” explained Ray Reinhardt ’14, who plays the protagonist’s best friend, Mickey, and is one of many people involved in the play who were in Petersen’s class.
Fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life, which runs April 3-13, shows Jo, a talented high school junior, grappling with her identity in an unwelcoming society. As she endures bashing over her rumored sexuality, she relates to the central character in Carson McCullers’ graphic novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, and a journey to find her true self begins.
“She can be easily distracted with finding ways to fit in and be normal,” explained Jessica Jacob ’14, who plays Jo. Yet the play reveals that “she is strong and talented and passionate and just has this huge love for the world she lives in even though it doesn’t always show love to her.”
Though the struggles of Jo and Mickey involve their sexuality, the overall theme of the play isn’t a coming out story. It is about self-acceptance.
“These characters are in an environment in which they’re outcasts, looked down on, not treated fairly,” said Jacob. “It’s about learning to be OK with who you are and how you were meant to live. It’s about living out loud.”
With the play set in the style of a graphic novel, Jacob added, audiences can expect a production that uses technology seamlessly with well-written characters and dialogue to tell a moving story.
Both Jacob and Reinhardt believe that as more states recognize marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQA community continue to be challenged and even denied worldwide, fml comes to Arcadia at a pivotal point.
“It’s really exciting for me, very serendipitous,” said Reinhardt. “I’m hoping this show makes an impression and can change some minds and attitudes toward LGBTQA. I’m hoping it will make a difference.”
General admission – $15
Arcadia students – Free with ID
Non-Arcadia students, senior citizens, and Arcadia alumni – $12