Wichita Community Theatre offers intimate portrayal of ‘Fun Home’


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The Wichita Community Theatre (WCT) is nestled in the College Hill neighborhood. Upon walking in, it’s clear that the staging and seating are arranged to make this already relatively small theatre into an intimate space — a home.

“WCT is different than many of our traditional theatres in that performances can move to the floor, because we can move our audience seating,” Director Vonda Newby-Schuster said. “I think this made WCT uniquely qualified to do [“Fun Home”].”

Newby-Schuster said performing “Fun Home” in a cozy, homey theatre to an audience seated close to the stage, brought the focus back to the actors and the relationships.

The journey through family relationships is at the heart of the musical. It’s the story of a family, centered on the relationship between daughter Alison Bechdel and father Bruce Bechdel as they each trudge through the difficulties of their own identities.

The show watches Alison grow up through childhood, her college years, and ultimately adulthood. Over the course of the play, she grapples with her sexuality, her tangled family dynamics, and the death of a loved one.

“Fun Home” is a unique musical in many ways. It has a small cast, deals with heavy subject matter, and is based on a graphic memoir. WCT’s rendition of the play is impressive and incredibly moving.

Newby-Schuster handled the heavy subject matter honestly and poignantly by fostering conversations with the cast.

“I would pose questions that would spur conversation,” Newby-Schuster said.

“We pulled from our own experience in our conversations to better understand the subject matter. Because these characters are/were real people, we wanted this musical to have a very natural/realistic style. The conversations and deeper questions, I believe, helped to make the portrayals true.”

Although the intricacies of the “Fun Home” story are uniquely Alison Bechdel’s, universal themes ultimately spring forth.

One of the star moments of the show was captured in young Alison’s song, “Ring of Keys,” performed beautifully by Ava Graves. The song deals with Alison seeing a woman presenting in a masculine way. Young Alison is overcome, and she sings, “Do you feel my heart saying ‘hi’?” This moment of seeing representation of who she thought she could be is profound and necessary in the coming-of-age process.

“Fun Home” is a profound and heavy musical, yet it offers many moments of comic relief. One moment that filled WCT with laughter was the song “Come to the Fun Home,” performed by the children — Ava Graves, McKynlee Stecklein, and Nathan Stecklein. Despite its title, the song is a jingle advertising the family’s funeral home.

Another moment of reprieve was the song “Changing my Major” after a romantic night with College Alison (Ashleigh Taylor)’s love interest, Joan (Erin Gray).

There were heart-wrenching performances from Helen Bechdel (Sheena Monroe), Bruce Bechdel (Kenneth Mitchel), and Adult Alison (Claire Wehry) in the songs “Days and Days,” “Telephone Wire,” and “Edges of the World,” respectively. These songs offer insight into how each character deals with this pivotal moment in the Bechdel family.

WCT’s performance of “Fun Home” is an intimate and moving portrayal of a thought-provoking musical. It’s no surprise that most leave this show changed.

Newby-Schuster said she would like potential future audiences to keep an open heart and mind about the show.

“It is more than the subject matter,” Newby-Schuster said. “It has substance and feeling and heart. I think audiences will walk away with so much to think about. It’s a great conversation starter. Don’t stay away because of its content. This show is so much more than that.”

“Fun Home” is running this Thursday through Saturday at Wichita Community Theatre at 8 p.m. with a matinee on Sunday, at 2 p.m.