Steven Fales has been doing his one-man show Confessions of a Mormon Boy for a long time—for 18 years, to be exact.
After a 2001 Salt Lake City premiere and 10-week developmental run in Miami in 2003, Mormon Boy was a hit at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, and enjoyed a four-month Off-Broadway run in 2006. Since then, it’s been performed all around the world—including South Africa this past summer.
However, Fales and Confessions of a Mormon Boy have now created a home, of sorts, right here in Palm Springs: Fales will be performing the show every Tuesday night at The Club at Hotel Zoso through the end of January. After a month or so of previews, the official opening night will take place Tuesday, Oct. 22.
This is the third Coachella Valley stint this year alone for Confessions of a Mormon Boy, following performances at the Desert Rose Playhouse and Oscar’s. I spoke to Fales during the show’s month-long stint at Oscar’s.
“The desert is becoming home,” Fales told me in May.
Fales invited me to check out a recent preview performance. The autobiographical show, using original direction by Tony Award winner Jack Hofsiss, chronicles Fales’ life journey as a sixth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—who realizes early on that he’s gay. The show starts with a recording of Fales blaring out a song he made up as a child.
“I just made up songs like this,” Fales tells the audience. “Mormons record everything.”
Over the next 90 minutes, Fales takes us along with him on that journey—including a mission to Portugal and college at Brigham Young University, during which he joined the Young Ambassadors, a BYU song-and-dance group. It was as a Young Ambassador he had his first gay experience—something Fales promptly confessed to his bishop.
The church encourages Fales to undergo reparative therapy—which, of course, only makes matters worse. Despite the fact that he’s attracted to men, Fales is encouraged to date women, and he eventually falls in love with a woman who just so happens to be the daughter of Carol Lynn Pearson, the author of Goodbye, I Love You—an autobiography about her marriage to a gay man who eventually dies of AIDS. Even though Fales is honest with his girlfriend, Emily, about his same-sex attraction, they get married and have two children.
“We were going to write a different story,” Fales tells the audience.
Despite Fales’ best efforts to battle his homosexuality—including therapy costing $135 for a 45-minute session—Fales and Emily grow progressively unhappy. When Fales eventually confesses a series of sexual affairs to his wife, their marriage is over. So, too, is Fales’ life as a member of the church. For me—myself a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the most moving part of the play comes when Fales recounts his experience in church court, which results in his excommunication.
After this, the play’s tone changes considerably, becoming more frantic and more graphic (including Fales stripping down to his skivvies and simulated sex)—which, appropriately, mirrors what happens in Fales life: He moves to New York City, ostensibly to pursue his acting career. What actually follows is work as an escort, drug use and, as Fales puts it, six months of “my own personal Moulin Rouge.”
There is no suspense, really, in Confessions of a Mormon Boy—we know Fales makes it through, because he’s standing right in front of us, 18 years after the concluding moments in the play, which Fales has tweaked and refined over the years (including the addition of a reveal toward the end of the play I won’t give away here). However, Fales makes up for that lack of suspense by keeping the audience engaged through every minute of the show’s run time: There’s not a lull or a dull moment. There are funny moments, moving moments and appropriately awkward moments (as well as a handful of moments that could be refined or excised, such as more than one brag by Fales about his endowment size). But there is never a dull one.
Steven Fales has been invited to perform Confessions of a Mormon Boy all over the country and the world for almost two decades for good reason: It’s a great show by a talented performer.
Confessions of a Mormon Boy will be performed at 7:30 p.m., every Tuesday, through Jan. 28, at The Club at Hotel Zozo, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $24.95 to $99.95. The Tuesday, Oct. 15, show is a preview with discounted tickets; opening night is Tuesday, Oct. 22, and includes a special performance at 7 p.m. by Jill Kimmel. For tickets or more information, visit mormonboyexperience.com.