American Homefront

Houston playwright holds everyone prisoner to the truth

Fernando Dovalina, playwright-in-residence for Unhinged Productions, went back to his journalistic roots to find inspiration for his newest play, American Homefront, premiering this weekend at Silver House Theatre. A retired Houston Chronicle editor, Dovalina recounts a story from the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, during which “two of [the hostages] were gay and had kept that a secret throughout the whole time…they were afraid of what would happen if that secret came out.” That historical moment is the genesis of this politically charged work about a gay army lieutenant who’s taken hostage by fundamentalist militant Muslims.

But the story doesn’t take place in some foreign land. Dovalina says that once he started thinking about the plot, he “ended up focusing on the effect on the home front, on the parents, on what they went through.” During the opening scene, an army officer arrives to tell a soldier’s parents that their son is among the Americans captured by Muslim extremists. But that’s just the beginning of the news. Dovalina says, “He also tells them that they need to be careful what they say to the press, because they don’t want to endanger his life any more than it already is,” since disclosing that he’s gay might further endanger him. That revelation shocks the parents, who were unaware of their son’s sexuality. Promising to ignite some lively after-theater conversation, the play touches on a variety of issues, from fundamentalist religion to family secrets, patriotism to homophobia.

 
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