Fun Home: Heart’s Saying Hi

by Alyssa Sileo

On September 10, 2016, the original Broadway production of Fun Home closed, but the legacy of this groundbreaking musical was just beginning.

Called “heart-gripping and cathartic” by The New York Times, the 2015 Tony Award winner for Best Musical is an unprecedented venture into the life of cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The piece travels throughout formative moments, including her dealing with her challenging family, her coming out, the realization that her father also had an uneasy closeted life, and the coming to grips with his scars that she took on after his death.

The creative team of this musical had been inspired by a unique medium一Alison Bechdel’s 2006 autobiographical graphic novel of the same name一and were compelled to stage Fun Home in the round, crafting an in-your-face, sometimes painfully organic show that’s equal parts musical comedy, tragedy, and celebration of everything that makes us flawed, tenacious people.

Fun Home’s creation is something so precious to so many queer thespians. This musical was something I was introduced to by the Tony Awards, a couple months after my journey as an out queer woman began. I’ve been blessed enough to see the musical two more times — at their tour stop in Philly and at a professional theatre in the same city. Fun Homes are now popping up at playhouses all over the place.

Like all great musicals, Fun Home challenges the audience to see beyond their eyes and tap into another frame of reference — their hearts. This is the first Broadway show to have an openly lesbian protagonist.

Alison’s honest desire to unearth joy in her marred memories is nothing short of inspirational beauty. A Young Alison feels a tug at her heartstrings during “Ring of Keys” after seeing an “old-school butch” woman walk in the luncheonette’s door. Something within her whispers of being akin with this stranger, and she wonders if this delivery woman felt the flutter in her pulse too, Alison’s “heart saying hi.” This type of wordless connection is like to the occurrence of unfamiliar people becoming family during the hour and forty minutes of pure, raw performance. “Don’t let go yet,” Alison sings to her Dad in the finale, “Flying Away,” and Fun Home sings to us, “don’t let go yet” of every and any hope of happiness.

It is so special that this story, that features a butch lesbian and celebrates her resilience, is entering the hearts of so many fans. If I was asked if I felt Fun Home’s “heart saying hi” to me, I would so joyfully say yes. They came into my heart’s door and will never leave the room.

About the Author:

Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the cannon.