Backstage with “Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter” Author & Performer Alison Wearing
“I have a confession… Alison Wearing’s Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is one of my all-time favourite solo theatre shows. It is one of the warmest, smartest, funniest true stories of familial love and acceptance that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I think that this show is particularly important for anyone who may have the misfortune of NOT knowing and loving a gay friend, brother, father, co-worker, etc. I implore you to come and be compassionately demystified from the safety of your seat and enjoy a few laughs in the process. But don’t take my word for it – see what the critics have to say below!” — Tammy Fox, Executive Director
In Wearing’s own words, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is “a multimedia one-woman show about growing up with a gay father in the 1980s — way back when the words ‘gay’ and “father’ hadn’t been put into the same sentence yet. In those days, it was almost impossible to be an openly gay parent.” In celebration of Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter coming to BPAC’s Community Studio Theatre on Friday, February 21st and Saturday, February 22nd, we interviewed Alison Wearing about her approach to storytelling, what she hopes audience members will take away from the show and how LGBTQ+ visibility has changed from the time her father came out in the 1980s to now.
For people who have read the book — what can they look forward to seeing in the show?
The show actually came before the book, so people can see the essential stories brought to life, often with music and dance, which don’t make it into the book!
You said that you became a storyteller when your father came out. What makes a good story and what is your approach to telling stories meaningfully and effectively?
It’s true that I had to become a good storyteller when my dad came out, only because there was no place in my world for the truth about who he was. Ironically, though, I believe the essential component of a good story is truth — not the assemblage of facts, but the rendering of some transcendent, universal truth. In the case of Confessions, that truth might be that accepting people as they are is the only way to truly love.
What are the main differences between writing a memoir — a story to be read — and creating a show — a story to be performed?
It’s a wildly different process, as you can imagine, but one of the essential differences is the economy of language necessary when writing a script. The Confessions script is about 30 pages, whereas the book is 300. But does that mean the show is only 10% of the book? Not at all. It means the text contains the marrow of the story, and all the other elements of theatre supply the rest.
Was writing your memoir also a way for you to process this moment from your childhood and the years that followed?
No. In order for a story to become a memoir, the work of processing the story — separating from the story — needs to have happened already, perhaps not entirely, but in large part. That is the private work a writer does on her/his own. By the time I wrote Confessions, having a gay father was so normal to me that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a straight one.
What is your favourite part about performing this story live?
I have a BALL performing this story. My dad is a very fun character to bring to life on stage, for one thing, but one of my favourite challenges of this show is threading the text through the accompanying music. Both of my parents are musicians, so music is present, in some way, in every scene.
What do you hope audiences will learn from Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter?
Rather than ‘learn’ something, I hope audiences walk away with a fresh take on what it means to come into the fullness of who we are, regardless of what everyone around us, and society at large, wishes.
Can you speak to how LGBTQ visibility has evolved from the time you found out your father was gay to now?
It is utterly different social reality now. When I was in high school, there were NO public LGBTQ figures: no actors, no musicians, no politicians, no sport stars. There were rumours of people being gay, but they were all condemnatory, and being ‘outed’ meant public humiliation, often losing your job, your family. There were no LGBTQ characters on television and only the odd one in films, and these were mostly thought of as ‘gay films,’ not for public consumption. I could never have imagined it possible that I would see so much evolution in my lifetime. When my son was in high school he would mention his gay grandfather to his friends without even giving it a second thought!
If that kind of change is possible in a single generation, I believe anything is possible, when we love and let love.