Families are complicated.
Some of them get along; others do okay in small doses, and some, well…some seem to not really get along so well at all.
Point is, there are a whole lot of different types of families out there, but they all have one thing in common: we’re all stuck, like it or not, with the ones we’ve got.
This month, The Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus will bring their family to yours as they present Family Ties, a two-act musical collaboration with BalletMet.
Filling the first act will be a voraciously funny performance by BalletMet of Group Therapy, a comical ballet from choreographer Harrison McEldowney which portrays four couples as they set aside their differences in the name of love – or at least give it the best try they’ve got.
The second act of Family Ties, and the main event for the CGMC, will feature an approximately one-hour theatrical musical by Michael Shaieb called Alexander’s House, a show about the aftermath surrounding one man’s unexpected death and the grieving processes of those who loved him and left behind.
The show, a definite drama with just the right splash of comedy, tells a story which goes a little something like this:
Alexander, played by Jason Guthrie, was a man who fathered a child with a woman he married before coming out as gay. After coming out, his ex-wife forbids any contact between Alexander and his son. Forced to move on, Alexander finds a loving partner in Carson, played by Brent Rayburn, and a new family in the friends he’s made since his divorce, but he always carries the regret of never knowing his son.
“It’s kind of looking at the family you’re born into – or created in a biological sense – versus the family I think that a lot of people in the gay community have created for themselves when they might not necessarily have a great relationship with their own blood relatives,” Guthrie said.
After his death, Alexander leaves a vacation home he shared with Carson to the son neither ever really knew, allowing his son a glimpse into the life of the estranged father he was never able to meet.
“The show speaks to a story not often told in public: a story about a father who is unable to get in touch with his child because he’s gay,” Rayburn said. “He tries to contact his son, but letters aren’t returned, birthday presents are sent back, and the only way he is ultimately able to reach out to his son is in his death. It’s a more common story than I think many of us want to believe, gay men having a child who they are not able to see.”
The CGMC makes a point not only to entertain with their performances, but also to inform a diverse public about important messages relating to Columbus’ LGBT community. Past shows have touched on HIV and AIDS, and a collaborative performance with the Columbus Children’s Chorus was featured in the greatly popular It Gets Better campaign.
“Family Ties is important because we’re talking a lot about creating families right now, and gay marriage is such a big deal and a hot topic,” Guthrie said. “So I think part of what we’re doing with this show is trying to establish the fact that it’s not some subversive lifestyle that’s just wrong. Families with gay parents are families just like any other.”
While this performance by the CGMC will feature a more theatrical format than past shows – concerts typically are more revue oriented – Guthrie and Rayburn certainly won’t be lonely on stage. The whole chorus, as always, will be singing and dancing along on stage, an important requirement for all productions by the CGMC.
The CGMC, now 24 years old, performs three shows throughout each year – one show in the spring, one in the fall, and a holiday show in December. Members commit to the chorus on a show-to-show basis, allowing for a revolving group of passionate singers to dedicate however amount of time their schedules allow. Some members sign on for a single production, and others take every chance they get to perform in the chorus.
To join, there is no selective audition process, only an informal audition to determine vocal placement. All are welcome at the CGMC, whether they be gay, straight, male, or female. That’s right, you can be a straight woman and feel right at home in the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus. The only real membership requirement is a desire to be there.
“I guess it’s all whether or not you feel comfortable singing in a group that’s labeled a gay men’s chorus,” Guthrie said. “We’ve recently had a couple of heterosexual men sing with the group because they saw a show and saw it was a high-caliber production and liked to sing and wanted to be with a group that focuses on quality music. It’s nice to see that kind of thing happen because they weren’t afraid to come and be involved with a gay community group where they were going to be on stage and obviously be seen in public spaces.”
Family Ties will show March 14 – 16 at the Lincoln Theatre. Tickets are $35. For more information on joining the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, visitwww.cgmc.com.