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Interview: The Pride at Paragon

This Saturday, Paragon opens the second in play in their 10th anniversary season with Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride. The Pride tells the story of two men and a woman, and how their relationships with each other are influenced by society’s attitudes toward homosexuality in the 1950’s and the present day. The play is dramatic, intense, and gets at the very heart of human nature as all of the characters struggle to find their place in society, their place in relationships, and discover how to be proud of who they are. Ensemble member Jarrad Holbrook, who plays Phillip, says the ensemble members at Paragon, “always strive to do shows that will have people talking once they leave the theatre. We want people to be affected, if only briefly, and this show has the power to do that in spades.” 

Jake WalkerJake Walker, who is working with Paragon for the first time, agrees. “This is  a small play, and a very real play, but also (with the time changes) a very daring play.” The time changes that Walker refers to is a central device of the play – the present-day scenes contrasted with the 1950s time period emphasize the different struggles that members of the gay community face then and now. Director Taylor Gonda explains that the play does more than portray the struggles and difficulties of the characters in the present day. “I feel like we are still living in the shadow of the 1950’s culturally,” she notes. “Our characters would have been teenagers during World War II, and the extreme conservatism and isolationism that followed the war ripples into our own time. I think it’s always enlightening to look back and see that, while we have come far, we are more like previous generations than we realize.”

Walker, who plays Oliver, agrees that many of the challenges that the gay community faced in the 1950’s time period are still just as relevant today. According to Walker, “Things are not drastically different now. It is easy to forget, when you’re in the world of theatre and are surrounded by like-minded open wonderful people all the time, it’s easy to forget the terrifying way homosexuals are treated in Africa; that every major religion still preaches it is an abomination, that gay marriage is still struggling for acceptance and that our sitting President does NOT support it. Young people all over the world are still killing themselves out of shame or fear of who they really are. We still have a long way to go.”

Taylor Gonda

Gonda agreed with Walker that we still have a long way to go, but was also interested to note that the opinions and positions have been varied and shifting for a long time. “The fascinating thing I found in researching the piece was that, while homophobia [was] certainly prevalent in the vast majority of people, attitudes toward homosexuality, especially in the UK, were shifting and varied,” she says.  “In 1958, a governmental committee was formed in Great Britain to study the “problem” of homosexuality in society. That committee published its findings in the Wolfenden Report, and they recommended that homosexuality should no longer be illegal. This did not actually happen until 1967, but there are articles and books and psychoanalytic studies from the 50’s that question the accepted assumptions.”

Jarrad Holbrook

For Jarrad Hollbrook, Paragon ensemble member who plays Phillip, he thinks there is at least one crucial area of progress. “There ARE more and more people out there embracing the LGBT community in their own personal ways, from organizations like PFLAG to simply embracing their gay or lesbian friends. In the 1950’s there was no such network of support, nor were there “role models” in the media.” Holbrook mentioned that this is crucial to keep this in mind when getting himself into the 1950’s mindset for the scenes set in that time.  “When approaching those [1950s] scenes, it is important for me to really feel that sense of isolation – that idea that I am the only person in the world who feels like this. While I personally have never felt that depth of isolation, I can certainly pull from my own experiences to get some sort of framing on what that does to someone.”

While The Pride revolves around issues of alienation and acceptance of gay men in two time periods, the messages of the play reach farther than the gay community. The central story of the play, while focusing on members of the gay community, is really about how people can be lumped together and marginalized, and how those people can transcend their marginalized status, to achieve external recognition, but more importantly, internal pride. “Every time we think about and treat people from a supposed category like individual human beings, we enlighten ourselves and empower others,” Gonda says. “I hope the audience recognizes the ways that they categorize and repress others and themselves.” Walker thought the these themes extended even further when he mentioned that to him, the play is, “about human connection. Gay, straight, or transgendered, we are all here together, so why not be honest and generous with each other.”

The Pride opens this Saturday, May 7 at Kim Robards Dance and plays through June 4. For tickets and more information, click the banner below!


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