Matt Young may be the busiest man in Show Biz but he’s got time for you

Matt Young Headshot 2016-1279-min

I recently had the great fortune of meeting Matt Young via social media and I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring him to you all. Being a fan of Hallmark movies and knowing so many of you who are, I know this will be a real treat for us. Matt was part of the Hallmark Channel movie, A Summer to Remember and this coming weekend (Saturday, August 18th) he appears in Pearl in Paradise. But, there’s so much more to Matt and so much more coming up from him.

Matt’s family was part of a Netflix documentary Gayby Baby, which was about families with same-sex parents and he is in the TBS series Wrecked. His resume is quite diverse and includes Theater, Television, Film, dancing, and he finds time to coach others with acting and public speaking.

Now, allow me to introduce you to Matt Young, actor:

Q: You have quite the acting/professional resume. You’ve been in film, theater, and on television. Can you tell us some of the things you love about each and some of the challenges of each? 

Matt Young: I got my start in NYC in the early 1990s when I was a student at NYU.  I came to New York with the dream of being a professional actor, having performed in community theatre in my hometown of Gardner, Massachusetts.  Within 3 months of landing in NYC, I was offered a role in my first professional show, a three person play over the Christmas season, in which I played a reluctant angel Gabriel.  I spent my NYU years performing in downtown theater spaces, and as an extra in Hollywood and independent films on the streets of New York.

I studied to be a Broadway dancer, and was on my first Broadway tour (in Europe) within months of finishing my degree.  I love the physicality of live theatre, especially musicals, where you have to perform 8 times a week to a responsive audience.  Though it can be brutal on the body.  And because I’m from an older generation of performers, where “the show must go on”, I rarely miss a show.  My last tour of a musical, the 2012 Australian tour of Annie, I never missed.  I only missed about 9 performances of my first USA Broadway tour, A Chorus Line, back in the 90s.

So when I got my first lead role in a television show (the Australian/New Zealand/Canadian tri-production of Captain Cook:  Obsession and Discovery), I couldn’t believe how easy it was!  Physically, I mean.  All I had to do was immerse myself in the role, and it fell into place.  I was able to live within the character for the whole 3 months of shooting, so all I really had to do was show up on set and be me as the character on that day.

Film is a bit more intense than TV, as the emotions are experienced on a greater level, but have to be performed more realistically (I find television to be similar to live theatre).  Because you are so largely displayed in a film, the camera sees everything.  So it’s almost like all you have to do is think, and the camera will amplify it.  So I find that very satisfying, because even though I find it mentally exhausting, I love authentic looking film performances.

Q: You are also a director. Did you always want to direct or was that something you were inspired to do as your career grew/evolved?

Matt Young: I direct (and choreograph) live theatre, and recently choreographed a dance scene for the upcoming faith-based film The Other Side of Heaven 2 which will hit US theatres in April 2019.

I approach everything as an actor (especially choreography), so I think it was a natural progression in my career.  I’m a bit of a control freak, and have a habit at looking at everything I do with an outside eye.  Also, as I coach actors for auditions, I am constantly having to analyse scripts and imagine what the end product will look like on-screen or on stage.

I have been asked to direct independent films since my early 30s, but I have always put it off.  I think I have such a respect for film directors, that I’ve always felt a bit unworthy.  And the amount of work is enormous.  As a Dad, I’m constantly weighing up the time commitment and trying to attain that work/life balance.  I have acting students here in Fiji that are chomping at the bit to create a film, so I think I’m just going to have to put aside my insecurities and reservations and do it this year!

Q: How did you get started as a coach? How does one go about hiring Matt Young Company if they are in need of coaching for public speaking, acting, etc?

Matt Young: When I moved to Fiji with my family, in 2014, my kids were on my husband’s work visa, but I was here as a tourist.  Fiji is a developing country, and even though since late 2014, Fiji is one of 3 countries in the world which has a constitution that says you cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, when we arrived, there was no box to tick on any form that allowed the same-sex partner of a Fijian resident to attain residency in the country.  So, I had to either keep leaving the country every 4 months to renew my tourist visa, or I had to start a business.

Since I had been informally coaching actors for years in Sydney (especially in US accent for stage shows and Hollywood auditions), I knew I could coach actors.  A friend who was formally in the media here in Fiji suggested I should be a media coach, focusing on spoken English.  And public speaking seemed an obvious choice, since I know how to prepare speeches as an actor.   So, to be able to gain residency in Fiji, and remain with my now husband and our adopted children, I started Matt Young Company (original name, I know) and became a coach.

My friend and acting colleague in Australia, Gabriella Masselli McGrail, started recommending her students to me for online coaching, and I started working within the NGO sector in Fiji, as well as coaching the contestants for Miss World Fiji.  But I really hit my stride when I became the speaker coach for Ted X Suva.  Finally, I could use my theatrical training to help public speakers reach emotional depths to tell their stories.  I now work with lawyers, corporate leaders, actors and emcees here in Fiji.

If you’d like to learn more, look for Matt Young Company on Facebook or learn more on my website www.mattyoungactor.com.  I do Skype coaching, as well as give feedback on video submissions, and many actors or speakers in the USA, the UK, or Australia/New Zealand find it convenient to work with me, as the time difference in Fiji works in their favour for “after hours” coaching, as it is often in the middle of my working day.

A Summer to Remember

Q: You’ve been in a few Hallmark Channel films now, A Summer to Remember and now Pearl In Paradise. I am a huge fan of Hallmark Channel, their movies, and their shows. I also know they have kind and loyal fans who are very active on social media. How has it been to be inducted into the #Hallmarkies family?

Matt Young: Ah, Hallmark!  The #Hallmarkies are remarkable.

When I was on tour with Annie in 2012, it was the first time I understood the power of social media, especially Twitter, in engaging with fans/the audience.  I met some amazing musical theatre fans who hosted me in every city of the tour, and made some great friends.

Annie in a way, led to Hallmark.  The adoption of our two boys came through in February 2012, about two months into the run of Annie.  So, here I was in a show about a childless man who adopts a child, and it changes his life.  And we had moved through the foster system and finally were able to bring legal validity to our family.  It was an amazing synchronicity.  And I had decided to do Annie specifically because I had been doing a lot of theater and television that dealt with the military and violence, and I wanted to be in a production that my kids could watch without having to deal with those grown-up concepts.

So when I heard Hallmark was filming in Fiji, and I was a submitted for a part by my Australian agent, I was keen to do more family friendly content.  Something that my kids could watch, and that their grandparents back in Gardner, Massachusetts could share with their community as well.  I was blessed to be cast in two movies, and hope I will be cast in others, whether they are filmed here or in North America.

Through the move to filming in foreign locations, Hallmark has become more diverse by default (South African actors in Love on Safari, Fijian actors in Pearl in Paradise).  But also, as I was thankful to the podcasters at The Bubbly Sesh for noticing, Hallmark is consciously hiring an age diverse supporting cast.  And if one or five of us happen to also identify as LGBTIQ, even better.  You will notice Dr Bailey wears a wedding ring.  What’s not to say that he is married to a man?

Q: You were born and grew up in the United States but now live in Fiji. How did that come about? 

Matt Young: OK.  It’s kinda a long story, but it’s good, so bear with me.

In 1999, I had just finished a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Cape and Ogunquit Playhouses in New England.  I was out of a job, and I ran into another A Chorus Line alumna, who was choreographing a show for a cruise ship and needed a dancer.  At age 27 I signed up for my first cruise ship contract, and hated it, as I thought I should be on Broadway proper.  But, eight celibate months later, we finally landed for an overnight in Sydney, Australia, a week before Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.  And you should remember, this was before e-mail, social media, or dating apps.  I walked into a bar and ran into my friend Emelio, from New York, who I never expected to run into half way around the world, and he introduced me to this Aussie guy named Peter, who he had just met.  Peter and I hit it off and had a great night together, and spent most of the next day together before I got back on the ship.  I thought that was the end of if, as I lived in New York, and he lived in Sydney.  But Peter was persistent, and we ended up meeting up in my next port of call in Australia.  Then he was transiting through Singapore on his way to London when our ship came to port.  And when I got off the ship in Southampton, he was in London, so we spent the week together.  I then went back to New York, where he came to visit, then he invited me to come back to Sydney during the Olympics.  By then we had well and truly fallen for each other.  So, jump forward to 2014, after living in Sydney together for 14 years, when he asked if I’d follow him to Fiji, where his company was relocating him, I said yes.  So we packed up the family, and have been here for almost 5 years.

Q: With the Hallmark Channel connection, I have to ask: How was to work with fan favorite Catherine Bell from Hallmark Channel’s Good Witch on A Summer to Remember?

Matt Young: Oh, yes, Catherine Bell!

Catherine is so beautiful in person, it took my breath away.  That hair!  I spent the first few takes just trying to not freak out.
But then I calmed down and got to work.  She is a very professional and generous actress, and has worked with the director, Martin Wood, many times.  So it was really just hanging on for the ride. They knew exactly what they needed, and it happened very quickly.
I enjoyed our onscreen relationship, because, really, all I had to do was act like she was my best friend.  And who wouldn’t want Catherine Bell as his beast friend?  A real joy.

Q: As a married gay man with two teenage boys, how do you feel about the current LGBTQ challenges in the States and all over the world?

Matt Young: It should be noted that though we had a commitment ceremony in 2002, we only were legally married in the USA in 2015, when state marriages started to be federally recognised. Australia only just changed the law to allow same-sex couples to be legally married, so our US marriage is now recognized there as well.  

I think because we have been so used to not having the same rights as everyone else, we just got on with our lives, and hoped the rest of the world would catch up. Our marriage is not legally recognised in Fiji, where we currently live.  But we hope one day, in our life time, it will be.  And the boys have never articulated it, but it must have been hard for them to have to explain that their two dads were not “allowed” to get married for the entire time we lived in Australia.  We were able to foster and adopt (the adoption laws were changed in 2009), but not legitimize our relationship.  It was exhausting to carry that for so many years.

I fear for the civil rights of the LGBTQ community in the USA under the current government.  I’m sort of glad that we are not living there at the moment and we don’t have to be confronted with the US news every day.  And we are planning a trip through Russia, and many of our friends have advised us not to talk about our relationship, especially as we will have our 16-year-old son with us.  So we selectively have to go back into the closet, depending on where we are.

However, I’m an optimist, so I think this is a moment in US history that will pass.  I think it is inevitable that the USA, and the rest of the world, will continue moving forward and recognising that people have different sexual orientations and gender identities.  Certainly for our sons, a person’s sexual identity will never be something they won’t understand or accept.

Q: Your family was one if the subjects of the Netflix documentary ‘Gayby Baby’. What was that experience like? What kind of feedback did you get from it? Did you learn anything during or after filming it? 

Matt Young: The filmmaker, Maya Newell, was friends with our mate, an Australian actress/filmmaker named Natasha Bassett.  Maya lived literally across the street from us.  When she initially approached us about being in the film, which shows the experience of growing up in families with same-sex parents, through the eyes of the children, we were not that interested.  We didn’t want our kids to feel exploited, and we didn’t want to give ammunition to haters to attack our family.  But Maya needed a male couple with kids that were our kids’ ages, so she assured us that the boys would be taken care of, that we would be shown all the footage that was going to go into the film, and that we could at any time let her know if we wanted something removed from the edits.  She is an amazing filmmaker, with great integrity (and the daughter of same-sex parents herself).

She worked with us for about 2 1/2 to 3 years, first focusing on our eldest son, and then focusing on Graham, as Michael started to grow out of the age of the other subjects in the film.  We were extremely used to having her around, so there is no artifice.  She would see our lights go on in the morning, from her window across the street, and call and ask if she could come over.  She accompanied the kids to school, to the supermarket, to sports, to church, and finally to Fiji.  What you see in the film is about the last 6 weeks that she filmed with our family, when we moved to Fiji.

Of course, our greatest fear came true when the film became well-known, and was about to be theatrically released in Australia.  One of the national newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, ran a front page article attacking the film and the children, saying they were indeed “not normal” and that the film should be banned in Australia.  Again, Maya stepped in, got counsellors to talk to all the kids and the parents, and stood firm that we had an important story to tell.

Obviously, the public agreed.  The film has been shown on tv by Australia’s national broadcaster, Netflix picked up the film, it had a theatrical release in Australia, and it has been seen in film festivals around the world.

And Graham, our son who is featured in the film, is incredibly proud of that snapshot of his life.  Ebony, one of the other kids from the film, and Graham catch up every time we head back to Sydney.  We marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with the other families, and he and Ebony were interviewed for tv.  He travelled to the Northern Territory in Australia and talked about his experience as a foster kid who was adopted by same-sex parents while the adoption law was being reviewed there – it passed, allowing same-sex couples to adopt.  So overall, through all the struggles and worries we had as parents, it turned out to be a gift for our son, and our family.

Q: You’ll also be appearing in the TBS series ‘Wrecked’, which begins in a few weeks. Are you still in production for that or is the season already filmed? Tell us about the show and your character. 

Matt Young: Wrecked finished filming this season in Fiji in May.  I was a core cast extra last season, as they needed other plane crash survivors to occupy the island, (it’s a parody of Lost), along with the main cast.  I was upgraded in Episode 7 of Season 2 to a named character, “Sad Dirty Survivor”.  There is a running joke in the show about the main cast not being aware of the adventures of the rest of us on the island, so it’s a bit of fun to look for me throughout Season 2 in the background!  But at the end of Season 2 – spoiler – the rescue ship we were all on sank and we all piled into 3 lifeboats, with the 10 main cast members landing on a new island!  What happened to those of us on the other boats?  You’ll have to watch this season to see if that question is answered.  I can’t say more.  But you can watch the entire Season 2 on the TBS app.  And the show is hilarious!  The cast was allowed to improvise the dialogue in the last take of every scene, the “fun run”. The actor who plays Steve, Rhys Darby, who I also stood in for during Season 2 filming, was particularly hilarious in those runs.  And some of that material made it into the final cut.  I love comedy.  I’d love my character to keep coming back each season, but I’m at the mercy of the writers.

Q: With all you have done, what are some things you want to do that you haven’t yet?

Matt Young: Although I toured with Broadway musicals in Europe, Canada, the USA and Australia, I haven’t actually performed in a Broadway show on Broadway.  So that is something I need to do within the next 5 years.  I love comedy, so I’d love to be in the principal cast of something like Wrecked.  I’m a sit com kind of actor, so I’m trusting someone will offer me a contract to be a series regular on a sit com.  I love film, so I’m looking to get more film work in Hollywood and abroad.  And I want to play a gay man in a feature-length movie, as I almost always get cast as “straight” or “married”.  I am a married family man, so that makes sense, but hopefully someone will write a role for me.  I worked on a short film which was on the Festival circuit this year called XYXY, in which I played a scientist who was able to create a child for my husband and myself in the lab.  I really hope that gets developed into a feature.

Q: Since we are living in a time of “reboots”, what are some shows you’d like to see come back and roles you’d like to tackle? 

Matt Young: Stargate.  I’d be a great spaceship captain.  Fame. As a dance and/or drama teacher.  Pretty much anything that has to do with dance.  I’m often being looked at to play a ballet master or choreographer, and did a stage show called Goodbye Miss Monroe in which I played Jack Cole, Marilyn’s dance director for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  I’d do that show again in a heart beat.  And in terms of comedy?  Bring back ALF. I’ll play the father of the family he lives with, Mr Tanner.

Q: Where can we find you and online?

Matt Young: If you want to find me, at the moment I’m here in Suva, Fiji looking after my family!  But you can follow me on social media: @mattyoungactor on Instagram and Twitter and Matt Young – Actor on Facebook and You Tube.  And as mentioned, my website is www.mattyoungactor.com.

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Matt Young: I absolutely cannot live without the ocean, and the ability to go swimming in it.  I love it so much I moved to an island! And we are recent boat owners, so that makes it even more accessible.

The one thing I wish we could all live without?  So many things – hatred, bigotry, close-mindedness, climate change, addiction, suicide – the list goes on.  But if I have to limit it to one thing?  I wish we could all live without depression.  Since we cannot, make sure you see a doctor if you feel you are suffering. And get help. It could save your life.

Jordyn Pollack is a man who is all about the love with no time for hate

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I enjoyed my interview with Ryan Santanna so much (I hope you all did as well and that you learned a little something from it) that I decided to reach out to a friend of mine I have known through Instagram. Jordyn Pollack has shared his journey as a Trans man on the social media platform and on YouTube, much like Ryan has. Their stories are similar but I feel (and I’m sure you agree) that we need to hear all the stories because each of us, no matter how similar we are, are so unique. There is always more to learn from each other, more to experience through each other’s eyes, and more bridges to build.

I really love how brave Jordyn has been by sharing his top surgery photos, progress, his experience with testosterone, and most importantly his feelings throughout. I know he is helping so many others, he is inspiring me, and he is allowing people in similar circumstances to know they will be OK!

The power of social media has always been in the sharing, in being a voice for individuals who don’t feel they have one, and in showing them there are others who are experiencing the same things we are even if we feel alone.

Jordyn is someone you need to follow, someone you need to know, and I believe someone who is making the world a better place. Let me introduce you to Jordyn Pollack:

Q: When did you first realize you didn’t identify with the gender you were when you were born?

Jordyn Pollack: This is a difficult question because I truly believe since I was a young child I knew deep down I wasn’t comfortable with being categorized as a “female”. I truly have realized now that all of my actions back then relate 100% to me taking the step and transitioning. When I was a child I would dress all my “female” dolls as “males”, I would cut their hair, dress them in more masculine clothes. I also remember lying in my bed some nights and just wishing I could be a “boy” for one day, which is crazy to think now that my wish came true about 17 years later. Growing up I always played sports and tried to hang out with all the “boys”, even going into middle school I was very into skateboarding. I dressed in “boy” clothes, when I wasn’t at school, at the skatepark, or even hanging out with some of my friends. One year for Halloween, I believe I was 12, I dressed as a “boy” and went into the guys restroom at Disney Halloween, that is one of my favorite childhood memories, not going into the restroom of course, but having that feeling of passing as a “male”.

Q: What age did you start to become vocal about it? What was the reaction from your family and friends?

JP: I came out to my parents and partner about two years ago, I was 24. Then I came out to some of my close family members, and then I made a Facebook post. Everybody reacted as I expected, luckily I am blessed with a huge immediate and extended family that excepted my transition with open arms. From my Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents they all use the correct pronouns and still love me just as much or even more now. The person I am now is much more confident, outgoing and just loving to be around. My family is my everything. My fiancé told me she would always love me as long as the person I am inside never changes, which how could it, because that is who she fell in love with and wants to marry. Ziggy has never cared about gender, she just wants me to be happy and true to myself. I will always be Jordyn, that is my birth name and I chose to keep it my name. That is who I will always be and was, It just took me this long to get here.

Q: Did anyone surprise you in a positive or negative way as you became more open about it all? 

JP: The people or should I say children who surprise me most are my cousins. I have a very big family as I said above, I would say about 10 cousins on my Moms side and even more on my Dads. From the ages of newborn to my age, they have all been amazing. Validating me every chance they get, reaching out after my surgery. I truly couldn’t feel more love and support.

Q: I’ve seen you posting about your journey on Instagram and it has inspired me so. Does that help you during this process?

JP: Instagram has been an amazing outlet for me during my transition and even before. Social media really helped me come out and realize that transitioning was what I truly wanted to do. Being able to see other people’s journeys, helped me a lot. That is why I post so frequently and try to connect with all of my followers. I truly think being a part of a community and knowing we can have each-others back when nobody else understands means so much.

Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about trans people?

JP: Honestly, the only thing I would like to clear up is that we are no different from any other human being. We are all equal, but different in so many ways and that is what makes the world truly a beautiful, magical place.

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Q: Other than Instagram, where can we find you online? Have you documented your journey elsewhere? 

JP: I have a YouTube account, it is just under my name Jordyn Pollack. I will say, I have not made any update videos recently, but I will make one soon on my Top Surgery experience.

Q: Do others reach out to you and what advice do you/would you give them if they were struggling with their own identities?

JP: Yes, others reach out to me daily through social media. Whether it be to tell me I inspired them, to ask for advice, or just to say hi. I like to connect with my followers as much as possible, as I said before to me having a safe community is so important. I would tell someone struggling with their identity, to for one second try not to worry about anything else in the world besides themselves and in that moment how do they want to look when they see themselves. How do they want to feel? How do they want to be treated? If you are struggling just give yourself time to find who you truly are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, YOU are the only person that knows how YOU feel inside and out.

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

JP: The one thing I could not live without is Ziggy. She is truly my everything. I have never met a human being who is so kind-hearted. Ziggy makes me feel special every day. Yes, we have had our struggles, but who doesn’t. The best part about her is that we can communicate and at the end of the day we have each other no matter what. She is the first thing I see when I open my eyes and the last thing I see before I close them. I am more than excited to spend the rest of my life with her and marry her, that way I will never have to live without her.

The one thing I wish we could all live without is HATE. It is as simple as that. If all humans had more love, compassion and understanding in their hearts we would have a better world.

Brandon Haagenson Shined his way through Afterglow

Brandon Haagenson headshot

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!

After+Glow+Promo.pngA 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.

Brandon Haagenson Afterglow.jpg

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:

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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.

Brandon Haagenson.jpg

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!

Sometimes you can be someone’s hero simply by being yourself

IMG_0042_Facetune_23-07-2018-18-05-44I’ve been waiting to do this for a while now, I want to introduce you to someone I watched grow up AND grow into themselves with such strength and conviction it makes me SO proud. I’ve wanted to talk to Ryan Santana about his journey so we could help/inspire/motivate any of you who are struggling with how to give yourself permission to be who you are or having difficulty talking to the people in your life.

Ryan is a trans man who has shared so much of his experience on social media by making videos of his progress with testosterone, posting pics of his daily shots and facial hair growth, voice change, etc. He has definitely inspired me to live more authentically and has reinforced my belief that I need to keep speaking up for myself and others. Back in 2009 when I marched with the NOH8 Campaign in Washington DC for marriage equality, I felt and spoke about knowing it was so much more than that. It was about all rights for all people. I just didn’t know then how BIG our community would become.

One of the most difficult things about coming out is the anticipation of the reaction from your friends and family. There is always a fear of losing some, of being hurt by some, and of being abandoned by others. I don’t think you can fully understand it unless you have been through it.

Let me let you learn more about Ryan and I encourage you to follow him on social media, check out his YouTube channel, and reach out to him or to me if you find yourself needing a little encouragement.

Q: How old were you when you first came out and did you always know?

Ryan Santana: I came out when I was 18 publicly on social media but I was slowly coming out to people close to me before hand. I feel like I just always knew ever since I was little I would always want to play the boy parts if we were playing a game. When I started going through puberty that was like the moment when I definitely knew something was “wrong” because the way I felt on the inside didn’t match what was happening on the outside.

Q: What was the reaction from your family and friends? Were you surprised about the reaction from anyone?

Ryan Santana: I was surprised how easily people accepted it and how quickly some people adjusted to the pronouns and new name. I remember my girlfriend and I were talking before I came out and I finally asked her how she would feel calling me Ryan and using male pronouns and literally the next day it was like my dead name never existed to her.When I came out to my mom her reaction was just like “ok” and just left it at that. I remember seeing her start sharing things about trans kids on Facebook. I’ve been very lucky throughout my transition that I have such supporting family and friends.

Q: You’ve been very open about your journey and have documented it on social media. Did that help you and have you gotten feedback from other people you are helping?

RS: At first I was skeptical about broadcasting my transition on social media because of trolls and backlash. I remember getting a DM from a trans guy in the U.K. and he was telling me how he’s pre T and hasn’t come out to anyone and he was nervous and we kind of just chatted for a bit and then a couple of weeks later he posted on his Instagram that he got his letter for T , that made me very happy. Also , I just really like having random people message me telling me that either I helped them out or that I’m just simply an inspiration to people because I’m really just living life as my true self just like everyone else should.

Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about trans people?

RS: A lot of people assume that because you a Cis gender people that they’re bisexual or something. I remember one time I was having a conversation with someone about a girl I was seeing and they replied “oh I didn’t know she swung that way” and that made me really upset.

IMG_0072Q: I know you are doing some fundraising to help you with your medical costs. Where can people go to contribute if they’d like?

RS: I set up a Go fund me account about two long years ago haha. The link is Www.gofundme.com/ryansantana

Q: Where can we find you online?

RS: I’m all over social media ! My Facebook is Ryan Santana. My Twitter is @santanaswag . Instagram is @officialsantana and Snapchat is – thesantanaa

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

RS: As cliché as it sounds my cell phone is something I cannot live without. I feel connected to everything and everyone. In my own personal opinion I think the world would be better without Donald Trump.

As you can see, Ryan’s family (especially his amazing mom Jessica) were supportive and even unfazed by his coming out. For many of us, the fear of the reactions is so great that we put it off for a long time but when we do find ourselves at that moment where we know it’s time, so many of the people who really know us aren’t surprised at all.  Another thing to note is that each of us know when we are ready, there is no set time or age that is right, no one should force anyone to come out, and no one should ever “out” another person. It’s a journey only you can go through and only you can know when the right moment is for you.

As great as it is to come out and have positive reactions or have people not be surprised at all, there are so many cases where that is not what happens. There is such a large population of homeless LGBTQ youth because their families do not accept them and refuse to support them. Even worse, many cases cause addiction and many end in tragedy. I think when someone shows such courage, they should be applauded. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one had to spend any part of their lives in fear, hiding, or made to feel ashamed? Wouldn’t it be awesome to celebrate people for who they are, being their authentic selves, and showing support for them in any way we can?

One thing I do encourage anyone who comes to me to do is to find out if there is a community center or organization in their area that is available for LGBTQ  individuals who need assistance or someone to talk to. Or get on social media and search for people and groups who have things in common with you and are supportive. The down side to social media is the troll and the bullying that occurs but if you find your tribe in life and on social, you have to block out the others as much as you can.

Here are some resources you can use:

Trans Lifeline is a national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Our vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid. US: 877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366

The Trevor Project: Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. 1-866-488-7386

S. Asher Gelman’s Record-Breaking, Hit Off Broadway Play AFTERGLOW Offers a “Pay What You Wish” Ticket Through August 5, 2018

afterglow doorI plan to see Afterglow a few more times before it ends its current run in NYC and I hope to bring you a few interviews as well. I wanted to share this press release with you to encourage you to get out and see it if you haven’t and if you have, head out to see it again! It’s a powerful play that leaves you feeling so much and wanting more. – Tommy

**Press Release**

“This is a show not to be missed!” The Advocate

“It’s clear “Afterglow” will be a must-see among New York theatregoers” Huffington Post

“Frank, explicit, insightful, unflinching, vivid and honest” Towleroad

“Compelling” Gay City News

“Bold and Buzzworthy” NewNextNow

“Provocatively entertaining” Theatrescene.net

New York: NY’s hit, Off Broadway play, AFTERGLOW, written and directed by S. Asher Gelman, will have performed 467 performances to nearly 25,000 audience members when it ends its successful run on August 12, 2017. In an effort to make sure that everyone has a chance to see the “compelling and raw” drama, “that is not to be missed,” the show will offer ten (10) “Pay What You Wish” tickets at each performance, on a cash only, first come first serve basis through August 5, 2018, at The LOFT at The Davenport Theatre (354 West 45 Street, 3rd Floor). Tickets are normally $59.50 – $109.50 and available by visiting Telecharge.com.

AFTERGLOW owes its success to the wonderful community that has supported us throughout our incredible 14-month run.  In honor of that support, which allowed us to extend well past our initial eight-weeks, we wanted to make the play as accessible as possible.  Effective immediately, we will be offering 10 “Pay What You Wish” tickets to each performance.  As we enter our final weeks in New York City, we want to ensure that everyone who wants to experience the show can have that opportunity.” Playwright/Director, S. Asher Gelman

afterglow hugAFTERGLOW 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.

afterglow trio.jpgAFTERGLOW

Written and Directed by S. Asher Gelman

The Loft at The Davenport Theatre is located at 354 West 45 Street, 3rd Floor

FINAL WEEKS!

Performance Schedule through August 12, 2018

Monday & Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Thursday – Saturday at 8 pm

Saturday at 3 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm and 7 pm

Running time 90 minutes NO intermission

Tickets can be purchased by visiting Telecharge.com.

Now Through August 5, 2018

10 Tickets Available – “Pay What You Wish”

Cash Only at the box office, based on availability

Tickets are $59.50 – $109.50

PLEASE NOTE:  AFTERGLOW contains nudity.

18+, No Late Seating

For more information on AFTERGLOW, please visit www.afterglowtheplay.com