The 11th Conway Pride Parade will take place Sunday, and a few blocks away, The Lantern Theatre will be in the midst of debuting its show, “Next Fall,” which begins Friday.
“Next Fall” follows the lives of two young men, Luke and Adam. The dynamic of this five-year relationship revolves around the ideological discourse that Luke is a devout Christian and Adam is an atheist. Early in the play Luke is involved in a car accident leaving him hospitalized and in a coma. The play follows the hardships of Luke being closeted and Adam, his counterpart, unable to see his partner in the hospital.
In lieu of the recent events for marriage rights for the homosexual community, actress Lisa Ray explained the necessity of the play.
“I hope it softens the heart of some of the less accepting folks in the community. This play teaches tolerance and promotes acceptance,” said Ray.
Although many will notice the homosexual relationship of Luke and Ryan, those involved with the production said the central theme revolves more around the difficulty of religious friction.
“The biggest struggle in the play is between faiths and other topics. The show breaks down barriers and makes us look at ourselves and not wasting our human connection,” said Trent Reese, director.
Ray explained that her role as Luke’s mother is to “paint a picture of the reality of the situation,” said Ray, “You often hear the story of adult children coming out or having a tough time, but you don’t really see the struggle of the parents.”
Ray explained that there is a difference in tolerance and acceptance.
“I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be accepted,” said Ray. “Tolerance is a low bar in my opinion. It’s easy for people to tolerate one another. Look at your in-laws, that’s a good example, but accepting takes love. It’s a civil rights issue.”
John Schenck and Robert Loyd, coordinators of the Conway Pride Parade and longtime residents of the area, commissioned the play. The have visited rehearsals and met the cast and are excited to see the end product.
Schenck is a Stonewall riot survivor. These were a series of violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against police raids in Greenwich Village, New York City in 1974. After recovering from this event Schenck moved to Conway and has been a resident ever since.
Schenck explained that this play explains the reality of what he has seen in his life, families disowning their homosexual children and the treatment they receive at hospitals.
“I hope it will wake up some of our straight allies. We have an extra set of problems brought on by society,” Schench explained.
The production will run Friday and Saturday May 30-31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday June 1 at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on how to reserve tickets, visit communityarts.org or email ConwayLanternTheatre@gmail.com