Nestled in the heart of Downtown Fargo is Theatre B, a cozy space dedicated to producing plays that are fresh, new and thought-provoking. In conjunction with National Coming Out Week Oct. 9-15, the non-profit theater is presenting “Next Fall,” a contemporary comedy examining faith, homosexuality and the family dynamic.
“This show really typifies how a play serves a need in the community,” Carrie Wintersteen, the executive director of Theatre B, said.
“Next Fall,” written by Geoffrey Nauffts, will be playing Thursdays-Sundays now through Oct. 15. It follows the relationship of Luke and Adam as they struggle through issues with faith, family and friends, while evoking laughter, tears and even uncomfortable glances from the audience.
Luke, a devout Christian, and Adam, an atheist, have built a relationship for five years despite their strong faith differences. When Luke is injured in a traffic accident, Adam is forced to meet Luke’s family, who are unaware that Luke is gay and that Adam is Luke’s partner. The play follows Luke’s family and friends at the hospital while flashing back to show how Adam and Luke’s relationship formed.
“I think it’s a very eye opening play for people who don’t know or don’t know that they know gay people,” director Pam Strait said. “If you know that they’re just regular people, it’s easier to understand.”
Last year during National Coming Out Week, Theatre B presented a staged reading of “Next Fall,” directed by Strait, during which cast members read their parts rather than memorizing them. Afterward, they hosted a discussion about the play’s theological issues that included the audience in addition to community leaders.
“The experience was terrific, and the response was great,” Strait said. “We knew we wanted to include it in our season this year.”
This year, they will be hosting a discussion again after the matinee performance on Saturday, Oct. 15.
“I think our purpose is to welcome in people who are more inclined to be open so they can be affirmed and be together,” Winersteen said. “We want to challenge assumptions. It’s an intimate space, and we think it encourages people to think differently and not just dismiss the experiences of other people.”
Strait said that four of the six cast members are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, which has made producing the play even more memorable.
“All of the actors have come with such open hearts and open spirits and a willingness to look at all sides of an issue,” Strait said. “It’s been incredibly rewarding.”
Plays like “Next Fall” are not unfamiliar to Theatre B, as they have sought to challenge adults through theatre since their opening nine years ago.
“We want to create cutting-edge works that address issues of concern to our community,” Strait said.
Concordia’s Straight and Gay Alliance is also taking part in National Coming Out Week with a variety of on-campus events including selling “Love is Love” t-shirts, posting positive messages in dorms and hosting discussions in their weekly meetings, similar to what they have done in previous years.
“It’s not often that we are able to have these conversations about sexuality,” SAGA president Andrew Eilola said. “Sexuality is rarely brought up in the classroom, and it’s imperative that we give students the opportunity.”
Both Strait and Eilola believe the community will be receptive of the awareness week.
“I feel like we go to school in a bubble,” Eilola said. “It’s kind of like living in a utopia. Everyone is happy and accepting and value differences and willing to engage in dialogue.”
Strait thinks that because Fargo is the biggest city in the state, it has a more open-minded and urban population. Additionally, because the subject matter talks about faith and love in addition to homosexuality, she thinks it will engage more people.
“People of faith who may not agree with the gay lifestyle are still willing to come and see the show for the faith content,” Strait said.
Both Theatre B and Concordia SAGA are striving to create a space of expression and dialogue, both in the community and on campus, through their National Coming Out Week events.
“I’m excited to see how people come out to events this year,” Eilola said. “No pun intended.”