The current discussion surrounding gender identification is a necessary one and this winter, About Face Theatre is bringing it to the forefront in its newest production, “A Kid Like Jake,” written by Daniel Pearle and directed by Keira Fromm.
The play chronicles the life of a family living in Manhattan. They are in the midst of applying to private schools for their son, Jake. When Jake begins to express an interest in activities and things typically associated with females, Alex and Greg utilize their son’s differences as a way to distinguish him from other applicants.
“That event sort of launches the play and begins this process for these two parents of grappling with what having a child who exhibits nonconforming gender behavior might entail. It affects each parent to differing degrees,” Fromm said.
The narrative “A Kid Like Jake” shares with its audiences surpasses the realm of entertainment. Today, gender roles and identification are garnering more and more discussion; About Face’s newest production is a part of that drive.
“It’s been a really exciting process. I think everyone we have involved in this production really latched onto this play because I think this is a conversation that has been happening right now in society,” Fromm said. “I think that everybody was really excited about sort of starting this dialogue in a way that increases the momentum and brings some conversation and some visibility to a really important subject matter. Everybody is really excited and anxious and ready, willing, and able to jump in and explore the play in that way, through that lens.”
Fromm described how this play, though it deals with large and important themes, is at its heart a story of a family making its way through the world while trying to keep their son’s best interest at heart. Though its message is universal, the story itself is intimate.
“We try so hard to have our kids succeed in the world,” Fromm said. “It throws a huge obstacle in the air when your kid is struggling. It immediately tags back to your own sense of success or failure as a human being.”
Fromm earned her MFA in directing at the DePaul Theatre School. “(My experience at DePaul) allowed me to flex the muscles that I hadn’t flexed in a long time,” she said. Since earning her degree, she has worked successfully in the world of theater. She immerses herself in each production from start to finish and said that even though some directors will refrain from attending previews and performances of their shows, she loves to see how the work comes alive in front of an audience.
“Theater is such a hunch,” she said. “There is nothing like that kind of kinetic energy that begins to spark when you have those hunches validated by putting a group of strangers in the room and they get to react off of the things that we have found and the chemistry that we’ve already brought to a boil. It’s all a hunch until the audience comes in the room, so that part of it is very exciting for me.”
Something beautiful is born when art can transcend its place on stage and serve a greater purpose in society. About Face Theatre’s newest production has lessons to teach, a story to tell and its necessary message of acceptance rings clear.
“As an artist, it’s always been really important for me to bring stories and characters who have less visibility in society to the stage,” Fromm said. “I think that this story is an important one. I feel that it’s a topic that doesn’t get enough dialogue and conversation around.”
“A Kid Like Jake” will be at The Greenhouse Theater Center through March 15.