Ground Floor Theatre is proud to present the World Premiere of the gay/trans play Always A Boy. It was written by Jo Ivester and Jeremy Ivester. Jo is the chair of the board of GFT; and Jeremy plays the lead role of the character first known as Ashley, and later known as Joshua. This is a sensitive look at transgender people, and one that everyone in the Texas Legislature should see (maybe a performance in the Gov’s Mansion would be a good place to start).

Always a Boy is directed by Lisa Scheps. In an interview she discussed the relevance of the play at this time and place in American life. “As a trans person myself, this play is very important. It shows the trans experience in a positive light and gives us the opportunity to educate the public on some of the issues around being trans. It’s a scary time to be trans in Texas and Ground Floor Theatre wants to try to change that.”

In the programme notes, Ivester pulls no punches in his assessment of where we stand now. “It’s been a tough decade for transgender people in Texas, with relentless attacks that seek to weaponize a fear of the unknown for political gain. The bathroom bills, the sports bans, and worst of all, the denial of potentially life-saving medical care for trans minors. The environment has become so toxic for transgender people here in Texas that some families have fled their homes lest they become the target of investigations by the government.” Anyone who wants a historical parallel need look no further than Germany in the late 1930s. Yes, we know a Nazi when we see one!

In the play, there is more than one dynamic. One is between Ashley and the parents: Rachel is played by Molly Fonseca and Richard is played by Nathan Jerkins. As the play progresses, we see both experience an evolution of feeling and increasing understanding about what their child is going through. In an unusual plotline, three versions of their child are depicted: a pre-teen Joshua (Kaden Ono), a college-age Joshua (Laura Leo Kelly) and a mature Joshua (Jeremy Ivester).  With this plot device, we get a multi-year perspective on the life of Joshua, as all three versions talk to one another. It’s like a time-travel film gone awry, but in this case it works nicely.

Mom has her own dream for Ashley, but it’s not the same dream Joshua had. It’s an intriguing exploration of the Freudian ‘id,’ which is a container that holds our desires. Mom desires a grandchild from her ‘daughter’ Ashley, but Joshua refuses to wear a dress, much less get pregnant to satisfy Mom’s id. It is heartwarming to see Mom, performed by Fonseca with suitable bewilderment laced with love, become aware that her dream is Joshua’s nightmare. Jerkins portrays a much tougher character: Dad has a really difficult time with all this, and prefers to escape on a business trip.

Three other dynamics play out here: Joshua’s best friend Tucker (Trace Turner) turns out to be gay; Joshua’s sister Becca (Chelsea Corwin) is all tied up in knots about having Ashley/Joshua as her bridesmaid; and Joshua’s brother Seth (Max Green) is a really annoying biology major who is completely clueless about what his sibling has been going through for years.

I could go on, but I don’t want to give away any more. Go see this excellent production before it ends March 2.


Lead photo: Laura Leo Kelly with Molly Fonseca

second photo: (l to r) Ono, Ivester, Kelly. Background: Fonseca

third photo: the entire cast

fourth photo: Jerkins, Fonseca, Kelly

Image credits: Steve Rogers Photography

By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books. His PhD is in the History of Astronomy, and he also holds a BA in Classical Studies.