After hosting a reading of the script in July of 2018, Provo’s An Other Theater Company is presenting a fully staged production of local playwright Chelsea Hickman’s play, Safe.
Winding itself back and forth through time, Safe tells the story of wide-eyed “Molly Mormon” Aubrey, and “cool California Mormon” Sam, who meet at BYU and find themselves developing feelings for one another. Their stories interweave and connect through major life events, exploring the uncomfortable spaces where they don’t quite belong, and a few of the places where they do. But eventually, the burden of hiding who they are and what they feel becomes too heavy, and they must work to find the places (and relationships) where they can finally live authentically.
Playwright Chelsea Hickman worked on the script over the course of four years. “It needed to be written,” she says. “It needed to be written for myself, and then as I kept working on it over many years, I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore, it was for other people who may have had the same questions as I do and did about their relationship with God, and themselves, and acceptance of who they are, and acceptance of how God sees them, and how they see themselves.” Hickman is a company member at An Other Theater, and has a BA in Theatre Arts from BYU and an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from University of California, Riverside, and currently works as an adjunct professor in UVU’s Theatre Department.
The show features a small cast of four: Maddie Smith (Aubrey), Tyler Fox (Jensen), John Valdez (Ethan), and Laura Elise Chapman (reprising the role of Sam). Almost every member of the cast and creative team has deep personal connections to the script, whether through their religious experiences, their gender identity/sexual orientation, or both. The production is also led by an all-female creative team, including playwright Chelsea Hickman, Director/Intimacy Choreographer Liz Whittaker, and Assistant Director Dani Ice.
“We really wanted to explore the queer Mormon experience with honesty and compassion,” says director Liz Whittaker, a queer post-Mormon herself. “The purpose of this show isn’t to tear down any religion, but to build empathy. We hope our audiences find healing and validation for their own experiences, and deeper understanding for the experiences of others.”
This is also An Other Theater Company’s first time utilizing a dedicated intimacy choreographer. Director Liz Whittaker recently underwent training with Theatrical Intimacy Education, learning best practices to maintain theatre artist safety when dealing with sensitive material. All instances of kissing, undress, and other intimacy in the show were choreographed in a professional atmosphere, with actors’ boundaries being respected. After a Salt Lake City theatre recently shuttered its doors amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations, An Other Theater re-dedicated itself to making their rehearsal rooms safe and professional, and will utilize an intimacy choreographer for all productions with intimacy moving forward.
The play marks the fourth production in the company’s third season which, along the lines of the theater’s mission statement, focuses heavily on stories led by women and the LGBTQ community. Upcoming shows include Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire, and The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer.
Safe runs Fridays and Saturdays, January 24 – February 15 at 7:30pm in AOTC’s blackbox theater in the Provo Towne Centre Mall. There will also be one Sunday performance on February 9 at 5:00pm.
Tickets are $12-$15 online and $14-$17 at the door. Opening night tickets are pick-your-price, and free tickets are available throughout the run for those who cannot afford them through AOTC’s Play-It-Forward program. For details on this program, or to buy tickets, visit anothertheater.org.