From the moment I read the press release for the play LURED, I wanted to see it. I immediately researched the writer, Frank J Avella which made me want to talk to him. As luck would have it, I was invited to see the play this coming Sunday and I was given the opportunity to interview Frank as well. I will bring you a review of the play after but I didn’t want to wait to share the interview with you. I know you will find Frank as interesting and passionate about social injustice as I did. I’m hoping it encourages you to find out more about him, his projects, and that it makes you want to see LURED as soon as you can.
Projects like this make me proud to spell my name LGBT. I love artists who get Social Good and make it part of their mission. Entertainment can educate, change the world, and give a voice to the voiceless.
Here is the press release that started it all:
NEW YORK, NY, August 22, 2016 – LURED, a new play by Frank J. Avella that explores the persecution of gays in Russia, will be presented in the 2016 Dream Up Festival at Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director).
Based on factual accounts and events, LURED focuses on a Russian hate group’s attack on a young gay man and its repercussions. The play brutally depicts how these vigilantes lure and entrap LGBT people, humiliating and sometimes torturing them on camera.
“In Russia, in the last several years, gays have been persecuted and tortured, with the blessing of the Russian government and Russian-Orthodox Church,” said Avella. “The play reveals some of the shocking ways in which vigilante groups are involved in LGBT persecution.”
The cast of LURED features Cameron August, John Ball, Carlotta Brentan, Cali Gilman, Brian Patterson, Dave Stishan, and Ian Whitt.
LURED is directed by Rod Kaats. Christine Cox is the associate producer. David Shocket is the lighting designer. Fight choreography is by Kris “Cappy” Caplinger. John David West is the social media coordinator. Mario Merone is the stage manager.
Frank J. Avella (Author) received a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts for his play Consent, which was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O’Neill and will be published by Adirondack Plays as part of an LGBTQ anthology this winter. He is the recipient of a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant & Bumbalo/Chesley Foundation Playwright Award, also for Consent, which confronts bullying and homophobia. Frank has written 19 full-length plays. Vatican Falls, set against the backdrop of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, will have its World Premiere in February of 2018 in Malta. His other work includes:Lured, For Mamma, Michael’s #1 Fan and Orville Station (published in the UK by Lazy Bee Scripts). Upon reviewing Frank’s farce Iris, the Cincinnati Post wrote: “Avella’s plays tend to send earthquakes through his audience’s comfort zones.” He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.
Rod Kaats (Director) directed Marvin’s Room (with T.R. Knight) and Company (with Norm Lewis & Donna McKechnie) at the Helen Hayes Theatre Company in Nyack, NY (where he was also the Artistic Director). He directed Neil’s Garden at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and wrote and directed The Ballad of Little Jo in The Harold Prince Musical Theatre Program, a new musical that was subsequently awarded The Richard Rodgers Award and produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. Rod produced the West Coast production of Silence! The Musical and What You Will starring Roger Rees at American Conservatory Theatre. TCG New Artistic Directors Program, Charles H. Revson Directing Fellowship, Lincoln Center Lab Director, Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop.
Performances will be held on Mon., Sept. 5th at 6:30pm, Sat., Sept. 10th & Sun., Sept. 11th at 2PM, Mon., Sept. 12th & Thurs., Sept. 15th at 6:30PM and Sun., Sept. 18th at 8PM.
Tickets ($18) can be purchased online at www.LuredThePlay.com or by calling 212-864-4444. LURED is recommended for mature audiences.
Theatre for the New City is located at 155 1st Avenue between East 9th and 10th Streets, NYC. Subways: 6 (Astor Place), L (1st Av), N, R (8th St – NYU).
For more information visit www.LuredThePlay.com or call 973-715-2356.
Here is our interview! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it!
Q: Tell us a little about your project LURED.
Frank J Avella: LURED is a pretty honest and brutal portrayal of the Russian persecution of gays that began in late 2012 and reached epidemic levels in 2014.
The play blends real events and characters with a few fictional twists, telling the story of one hate group’s attack on a young gay man and the repercussions that follow. The play shoes how these vigilantes lure and entrap LGBT people, humiliating and sometimes torturing them on camera, hoping to ruin their lives by getting them fired from their jobs and shunned by their communities and families. We don’t pull any punches so audiences should be warned about the violence in the piece.
I just came from the last rehearsal and the actors are just electrifying.
Q: With current events at the Olympics where gay athletes were outed many of us were reminded why it isn’t always safe for some to live their truth, even now. What were your thoughts during that?
Frank J Avella: What that journalist did was irresponsible because he did not take into account the realities of the situation in MANY countries around the world–That homophobia is still a part of the fabric of many cultures and outing someone could destroy their careers and even put their lives at risk.
Sure, things have significantly changed here in the U.S., but it happened very quickly and should not be taken for granted. I think it’s a mistake to feel too secure–even here. If some right wing loon is ever elected president, we could find ourselves in another lavender scare situation. I’m not advocating that LGBTQ people should cower in fear, I’m saying we need to continue to be loud and proud and demand to be accepted and celebrated (not tolerated). But we also need to be aware that there are places where homosexuality is still considered abnormal and where outing could endanger lives. It’s called empathy.
Q: It surprises me to see the criticism entertainers get for coming out late like we’ve seen with Colton Haynes. I’ve always felt coming out was a very personal experience and we each have a different journey. What do you make of it all?
Frank J Avella: I see both sides. And I am just speaking specifically about Western countries. On the one hand it is a very intimate thing that each person should have the luxury of dealing with their own way in their own time. But when you have someone who, say, is a closeted conservative politico voting against LGBT rights issues, that person should be outed. And I would go one step further and advocate outing certain big name celebrities who “refuse to do a same-sex kiss” onscreen or turn down any film with a gay theme. I think that hypocritical behavior hurts us.
Haynes wasn’t doing any harm to anyone by taking his time and coming out his way. The criticism against him was unfair. But we live in social-media-blather-frenzy times where everyone has to bitch about everything.
Q: How does it feel to have your work presented at the Dream Up Festival?
Frank J Avella: I am thrilled because Michael Scott-Price, the awesome Dream Up Festival Director, is all about the art and believing in the work. Dream Up is a great place for this brand new play to be birthed and there are less than 2 dozen plays chosen so there’s less of a chance to get lost in the mix. I’m so happy we have this opportunity.
Q: This is not the first time you’ve tackled tough issues. Your play Consent confronted the problems of bullying and homophobia. Do you feel a responsibility to address these issues in your work and do you feel we all should explore these social good topics more?
Frank J Avella: In the last decade my work has turned more to social issues and themes and I think it’s made me a stronger dramatist. I’ve been so angered and appalled by so much and the only talent I have is to write about it. When Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, it was such a wakeup call for me. How was it that in this day and age a young gay man would rather die than have people know he was attracted to men? How could that happen? That was the reason I set out to write about bullying and CONSENT was the result. I am damn proud of that play.
VATICAN FALLS came about because I felt that certain themes surrounding the Catholic sex abuse scandal needed to be explored but no one was doing it (and still isn’t) for fear of pissing off the Church. Even SPOTLIGHT, as great as it was, played it way too safe with the storytelling. Has any institution ever gotten away with the rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of children in the history of the history???
I will get off my soap box now but these are questions that need to be asked.
And I do feel that we should explore more social topics in theatre. I get in trouble for bitching about certain types of shows constantly being tossed onto the great white way because there’s built in tourist money but that’s only because I truly believe that if you give audiences a well-written and acted socially relevant play, they will come and they will leave with something to think about, and talk about. And they will want to see more.
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work online?
ImpetusEnsemble.com there is a ton about past work.
https://newplayexchange.org/users/5582/frank-j-avella there is a breakdown of my newest work.
LUREDTHEPLAY.com is all about LURED.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Frank J Avella: I cannot live without writing. It gives me such great joy.
And to paraphrase the great John Lennon, I wish we could all live without religion.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Who was it from?
Frank J Avella: Stephen Sondheim who once told me that I should just write and not worry too much about what I was writing or whether it was any good but to just keep writing.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve even given? Are you good at taking your own advice?
Frank J Avella: To take all criticism and then break it down from where it is coming from and apply it accordingly. For instance, comments from people you know want you and your work to succeed should be heard and seriously contemplated.
Am I good at taking my own advice? Sometimes. I try to be.
Q: What’s up next for Frank J Avella and LURED?
Frank J Avella: We truly are hoping to give LURED a life beyond the Festival and we are hard at work doing our best to make that happen. Sometimes it’s just about getting the right people to read and/or attend your work. The entire process of people getting on board this particular endeavor has been so gratifying. Most everyone HAD to be a part of this play. You don’t often find that. It’s been a blessing.