Alison Bechdel on ‘Fun Home”s Tony-Award Triumph
When Fun Home won Best Musical at last week’s Tony Awards ceremony, four Alison Bechdels took the stage to accept it. There was the original article, the 54-year-old cartoonist who chronicled her troubled relationship with her closeted gay father in the bestselling 2006 graphic memoir of the same name — and then there were the three Tony-nominated actresses who played her in the theatrical adaptation. Any way you look at it, Alison Bechdel is the star of the show.
The writer-artist’s multilayered memoir centered on two pivotal, parallel events — her coming-out as a lesbian during her freshman year of college, and her father’s suicide a short time later. Combining deceptively simple cartooning with a dazzling, self-taught command of literary history, the book took her true story of a family in a perpetual cold war to the top of multiple Best of the Year lists.
For Fun Home the musical to repeat the feat and win the Tony — despite the fact that it’s a far cry from the Great White Way’s usual fare — is nothing short of shocking. Eschewing the original’s tightly woven tapestry of literary references for soaringly emotional songs, the show’s Broadway incarnation — staged in the round at the intimate Circle in the Square Theatre — cleaned up at last week’s awards ceremony. In addition to the Best Musical win, it brought home statuettes for writer-lyricist Lisa Kron, composer Jeanine Tesori, director Sam Gold, and actor Michael Ceveris (The Who’s Tommy), whose turn as Alison’s conflicted father Bruce is one for the ages.
It’s an experience that has left Bechdel, who mostly watched from the sidelines as the project took off, equal parts delighted and dazed. “I kind of can’t figure out why the musical is so powerful,” she laughs, “but I have a lot of different theories.” She shared a few of the more persuasive ones below.
How has post-Tony life been treating you?
It’s crazy. I’m getting tons of emails from people, and it takes a long time to go through and answer all of it, but I feel really happy. It’s. . .unnerving. I’m not used to such good things happening.