A Show For All: 'The Homosexuals' At The Ringwald

By Dana Casadei

FERNDALE -

Defining what "family" is used to be simple. It was one man, one woman and their two-and-a-half kids. Now, its definition can no longer be described so, well, dully, as families have expanded leaps and bounds beyond those two-and-a-half kids.

Starting Nov. 16, "The Homosexuals" at the Ringwald Theatre will take a look at that ever-expanding definition. "This play is all about the family that you choose, not your family of birth," said Annette Madias, director of "The Homosexuals."

Madias, who had never seen the show, instantly fell in love with Philip Dawkins' script.

Like the family created in the show, Madias added that there was some pressure while directing the Michigan premiere of the critically-acclaimed play, wanting to do her theater family proud. "You want it to be good," she said. "You want to do right by all those people you care about."

Those people include playwright Dawkins, who Madias developed an e-mail relationship with while working on the young man's "coming out journey."

The young man in question, main character Evan, has a story that starts much like one of Dawkins' own, which would become a "little brain infection" for this show.

While at a music sharing party with a "gaggle of gays," he realized the history lesson unfolding in front of him and couldn't let it go. "I was just so fascinated with how the interactions of the people in this room told me so much about where they came from and who they were to each other and how they had molded each other," Dawkins said.

After going home with their music - or as Dawkins put it, "going home with their underwear, it's so personal" - and listening to it all, he wrote the first scene. He had no idea where the show was going, but then a moment of inspiration struck: It would go backwards.

"We were going to work up to that moment where somebody enters a room and realizes there's an entire world here that I'm not a part of," he said. Much like he was at that party.

The decade-long story may focus on this group of men and their history, but it has an interesting one of its own, especially the first read-through.

"I was under the knife as they did the first reading of the show," he says with a slight laugh. His gallbladder had "kind of exploded."

Even though he wasn't there, which he highly recommends, he got very honest feedback, leading to his re-writes happening while in recovery.

"People in Chicago really seemed to take to it in a way that wasn't about agreeing or disagreeing or engaging in debate," Dawkins said. "It was more about just loving these people."

"I think people latched on to the warmth more than the ideologies of each of the characters," he continued.

Another thing that makes up this group is that it's specifically Midwestern; it takes place in Chicago, something that was very important to Dawkins. He had an interest in what it means to be 20-something and newly out at the beginning of this century in the middle of the country.

It may be a question that Dawkins doesn't think he answers, but it's one that these characters are trying to figure out.

Luckily for Dawkins, his professional history is one that he had figured out at a very young age, always knowing that he wanted to work in theater. "It's (playwriting) how I think, it's how I process," Dawkins said.

"I look at the world, and when I problem-solve in my head, it happens on the stage," he continued. "It's part of how I discover the world every day."

Having started as a child actor, Dawkins' first professionally produced play was "Giants, Jokers and Jacks: A Beanstalk Blockbuster," which he lovingly describes as a "lovely gigantic mess." It was also the last time he got to work with one of his mentors, David Wo.

This was the first time that Dawkins got to feel what it was like to be paid and have people perform his words, "even if they were 9-year-olds."

As that show is a part of Dawkins' history, he hopes that "The Homosexuals" can become a history piece as well, especially in regards to "gay plays."

"I hope five years from now this sounds really dated and really honest," he said.

PREVIEW:

'The Homosexuals'

Friday-Monday, Nov. 16-Dec. 10. The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. $10-20. www.TheRingwald.com

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