Hot from the hands of writer Peter Parnell and director Keira Fromm comes a new About Face Theatre ( AFT ) take on modern families called Dada Woof Papa Hot.
Beginning Thursday, Jan. 10, at Theatre Wit, this new play explores marriage and parenting topics while showing how they both can affect identity.The question is raised in the play if gay people should subscribe to heteronormative relationships and childbearing now that the community can be married and have children. ( The title refers to a daughter's first four words describing things in her life. )
AFT artistic associate and grant writer Benjamin Sprunger plays Rob, one of the central couples in Dada Woof. He just wrapped up performing Into the Woods at Northwestern University for Musical Theater Works before taking on this new project. The openly gay actor has worked with AFT for more than 20 years, starting with the show Whitman.
Sprunger admitted to having conversations with his partner of 12 years about this same story in real life and they have talked about having kids in the past.
He spoke of the storyline that raises questions such as, "What are the pitfalls of parenting that we are not thinking about? Will we abandon who we are as gay men and lesbians just to make a heteronormative family unit during child rearing?"
There are both straight and gay couples in Dada Woof, allowing audiences to see how they perceive one another while watching the story unfold. It takes place during a time of marriage equality, allowing the plot to explore relationships evolving in current times.
"There are generational things going on in the play," Sprunger said. "The couple I am in is older than the other younger, gay couple. For the older couple they didn't even think they could marry, much less raise children. The younger couple always imagined it would happen. It also pits us up against heterosexual couples who had these plans already in place."
Another AFT artistic associate involved with Dada Woofthis time as a directoris Keira Fromm, who has worked with the theater group before in Bull in a China Shop and Significant Other. She grew up in New Jersey, went to school on the East Coast and moved to Chicago for grad school at DePaul University. The openly queer director said she always wanted to direct while studying theater in school. She became a company member of AFT in 2015 and has worked as a casting director for many of the theater troupe's productions. This has led to directing a show almost every year leading her now to Dada Woof. As a recently married person, Fromm said she knows how to address the questions and struggles in the current show. "I bring in many things from life and that is one of the pleasant things with working for About Face," she said. "This play really delves into some issues that gay men and women are dealing with now and facing today, myself included."
Fromm described the play as very funny and moving, saying, "The playwright does a very good job of balancing savvy, smart New Yorkers dealing with heavy issues. It is peppered with a lot of humor. It's about being a successful human while parenting. I think people will enjoy the sense of comedy and connect with the characters. This is not a gay rights play, but instead what do we do with those rights play. How do we navigate this world once gay culture is normalized?"
Sprunger said he wants to encourage people, gay or straight, who are considering having kids to come see the show. "People that have children already will see themselves in what is happening onstage. It is funny, sexy and of-the-moment," he said.
Dada Woof Papa Hot runs Jan. 10-Feb. 16 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are $15-$38; visit AboutFaceTheatre.com or call 773-975-8150.