Faith, fear and forbidden love

'Bare: A Pop Opera' gets encore in Pontiac

By Ashley Laabs

The Detroit Actors Theatre Company will present "Bare: A Pop Opera" at 8 p.m. Nov. 17-19 at Clutch Cargos' iLounge in Pontiac.

"Bare" is a musical rife with personal, social and religious discovery. Witness the journey of high school students as they begin to recognize who everyone else wants them to be, and how their Catholic upbringing fits into their personal identity.

Jason (Jeff Bobick) is a high school hero, loved by everyone at St. Cecilia's Boarding School. However, popularity is a cover for his secret relationship with fellow student Peter (Steven Ross), and he draws a distinct line between his public and private lives.

"Jason spends the entire time trying to please everyone else; he's got a lot of pressure on him," says Bobick.

Peter and Matt (Alex Pedica) both feel ignored by the people they love, and a God who they are told is always watching. Ivy (Enxhi Merpeza) carries a reputation for being easy and struggles to function outside of her peers' perceptions. Her roommate is Jason's overweight sister, Nadia (Jojo Tuzzo), who compensates for her self-esteem issues by being hostile with others.

"'Bare' is a choice," says Tuzzo. "You can either choose to bare your burdens and hide, or you can bare who you are to others and allow them to accept you or get out of your life."

Even members of the supporting cast - Ttari Hellmer, Shondra tippler, David Woitulewicz, Michael Stoyanoff, Marie Martinez, Aliya Lewis, Sarah Oravetz, Michael Barwin, Seycon-Nadia Chea, Keith Zachow and Nic Weinberg - face personal dilemmas that family, friends and church cannot fix with forgiveness alone.

"Being 'bare' and accepting who you are is so much bigger than asking for forgiveness," says Ross. "And it starts within each of us first."

This November run of "Bare" is an extension of its initial showing in August. After seeing the show in Mount Clemens, independent producer Omar George and Amir Daiza of Clutch Cargo's agreed to bring the show to Pontiac for another stint.

"Clutch Cargo's is an ideal location for this show: The nightclub circuit has that free-to-be-me ambiance that pairs so well with the message," says director Eric Swanson. "I hope that the venue and everything about this production brings in people from all walks of life."

On behalf of the cast, Swanson explains how "Bare" carries an important message to the community:

"Admitting that you're gay as a teenager is not easy, especially if you grow up someplace that says it's wrong or doesn't understand. The show is important for people to see because it speaks to two audiences: LGBT audiences will see these struggles conveyed on a theatrical stage, and it provokes that I'm-not-alone feeling. For non-LGBT audiences, it's important for them to seek understanding: The conviction from the non-gay world is so powerful, and it's important for them to understand the journey of gay youth."

Join this group of boarding school students as they try to accept themselves in a world where "confusion is a crime." "Bare" features a myriad of musical styles, ranging from traditional hymns to disco and rock. The music is co-directed by Eric Swanson and Gerianne Ditto.

Tickets ($20 for general admission) can be purchased on http://www.ticketmaster.com. For more information, call 248-333-0649.

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