Last year I was sent tickets to a little play at the Davenport Theater in NYC. At the time, it was a limited run and they wanted people to review and promote it. I LOVE NYC theater so I happily accepted and read up on it. From the press releases it looked so interesting and slightly risqué with the disclaimers about nudity and the shower scene promos. The beautiful thing about it was the story seemed so relatable and the actors were all fresh-faced, it was a no brainer to give it a try.
What I didn’t know was how blow away I would be by the performances. I took two friends from Los Angeles with me the first night and we all couldn’t stop talking about it through dinner and drinks afterwards. I knew that night that I wanted to see it again. Thankfully, the show was extended so many times, it gave me an opportunity to bring different groups of friends from various cities three more times! This past week, I was offered tickets once again and, once again, I jumped on the chance to see it, bring another friend, and enjoy! Then I was offered the added bonus of interviewing one of the stars, Brandon Haagenson, who was in every single performance since day one!
A few things to note, every person I took with me agreed with me that the nudity was something that was simply part of the story and added to the intimacy, vulnerability, and humanizing of the characters. It made them real, it made the story real, it added to the ability of the audience to relate on a deeper level.
The bad news is, the show will end its run in NYC on Sunday, August 12th. The good news is you still have a few weeks to catch it and to watch Brandon bring Josh to life. Another piece of good news is that I had a chance to have a delightful conversation with Brandon and I’m sharing it here!
Here’s a little official info on Afterglow:
AFTERGLOW is a raw, one-act play exploring the emotional, intellectual, and physical connections between three men and the broader implications within their relationships. Josh and Alex, a married couple in an open relationship, invite Darius to share their bed one night. When a new intimate connection begins to form, all three men must come to terms with their individual definitions of love, loyalty, and trust as futures are questioned, relationships are shaken, and commitments are challenged.
AFTERGLOW opened to strong audience and critical reviews who called the play “A must-see! Afterglow is necessary, honest and vulnerable.” Pride.com; “Compelling, raw, and sometimes uncomfortable (as any honest theater piece is), This is a show not to be missed!” Advocate; “Frank, explicit, insightful, unflinching, vivid and honest. Gelman’s characters grapple articulately with issues many gay men regularly face. Vivid and honest depictions like these that foster a greater understanding of the way we live now.” Towleroad; “Afterglow is inherently watchable, well-paced and a compelling introduction to Gelman’s theatrical voice.” Huffington Post; “Compelling. The trio is exceptionally easy on the eyes. It effectively adds to the authenticity of the story. Afterglow succeeds as it titillates.” Gay City News; “Raw and beautifully complicated, but above all, relatable. No gay New Yorker should miss this play.” Unicorn Booty; “Fresh and riveting. S. Asher Gelman has set the bar high with his first play, Afterglow. Gelman is nuanced as both a director and a writer. The nudity—and it is extensive—is presented with a charged eroticism rather than gratuitous titillation. There is no long-term afterglow for the characters in Gelman’s play. But for the audience there surely is. It comes from experiencing an impressive calling card from a gifted new playwright and director.” OffOffOnline; “Afterglow is a raw and real. Playwright S. Asher Gelman brings to the stage the very personal story of open relationships with heart, grit and a non-gratuitous exploration of the complex theme. This is not just another gay play or limited exclusively for the LGBT community but a play for everyone.” BeautyNewsNYC; “Compelling. Highly charged and extremely sexual. They certainly know how to grab our attention.” Times Square Chronicle; “There is amazing acting happening on stage. Afterglow is a bittersweet love story that will touch you.” ReviewsOffBroadway.com.
The cast of Afterglow includes Joe Chisholm (Regional: The Little Mermaid, My Fair Lady) and Brandon Haagenson (National Tour: Beauty and the Beast. NY: My Big Gay Italian Wedding) and David Merten (Regional Theatre: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, And Then There Were None (Judson Theatre Company). Creative team includes Ann Beyersdorfer (Scenic Designer), Fabian Aguilar (Costume Designer), Jamie Roderick (Lighting Designer), Alex Dietz-Kest (Sound Designer), Mike Ross (Dramaturg), Nina Kauffman (Assistant Director), Kate Lumpkin (Casting Director), Laura Malseed (Production Stage Manager), Will Chaloner (Assistant Stage Manager), Evan Bernardin Productions (General Manager), and Gwynne Richmond (Company Manager) AFTERGLOW is presented by Midnight Theatricals.
And now, here is my interview with Brandon:
Q: I’ve found Afterglow has a different message for different people. What is the message you take away from it and has it changed since you first read the script?
Brandon Haagenson: For one, Alex and my relationship on stage has become more intimate. The marriage has become stronger over time.
The message is totally different too, it used to be a story about a polly-amorous couple but now, it’s about a marriage and what you need from someone. The longer we run, the more it became about this marriage and what they need from each other that they aren’t getting.
This causes Josh to land on this guy, Darius, and he truly thinks he can have it all. But, boyfriends and husbands are different. What makes someone “husband material” is different from what a boyfriend is.
Q: Congrats on all the success! Afterglow was extended so many times and with good reason. How did that feel?
BH: SO exciting! The first few times, it was like “OH WOW”, then it felt like it would run forever!
Q: Did you have any reservations about the nudity?
BH: I didn’t. I always said I would do it as long as it served the piece I was working on. There was no nudity in rehearsals and it was never about hot bodies or showing off your body. It was a natural part of the story.
Q: You were in every performance, so that probably helped you to develop Josh more over time. Did you change anything about him from the first performance to now?
BH: Totally! When I first started there were a few decisions he made that I wouldn’t. So I played him as this other person. I built Josh around someone who only tells half of the truth.
After playing him for a while, I started playing the circumstances and I started feeling like Josh was me. I feel more connected to him now.
Q: I ask this to everyone because I feel it tells a lot about people. What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
BH: I absolutely cannot live without family. I mean long-term friends, my family back home, friends I consider family. The cast became family as we worked together all this time. Family means more than just blood relation.
I wish we could all live without beating ourselves up. The more you want to be successful, it seems the more you have to be your own bully at times. I wish we could all learn to live without doing that.
I truly hope to see much more of Brandon in future performances as he goes on to the next projects in his career. I also plan to catch him in Afterglow one more time before it ends and I encourage you to go see it if you haven’t or go again if you have! It really has evolved and the characters have so much depth. Head over to Afterglow’s website for ticket info and times.
I’d also love to talk to him once Afterglow is done to ponder what happened to the characters or where he thinks they may have ended up. No matter what, I plan to keep an eye out for him and the rest of the cast!