Provo, Utah native Will Swenson, who is currently on Broadway playing the role of Mitzi in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, will be directing a film adaptation of Facing East, Carol Lynn Pearson’s play about a Mormon couple coming to terms with their gay son’s suicide. Pearson is writing the screenplay for the project and production on the show will begin this fall, though no casting has been announced.
Facing East was first shown in Salt Lake City by Plan-B Theatre Company in November, 2006. Plan-B then secured an off-Broadway theater and showed it in New York City the next year.
The show focuses on the fresh grief of devout Mormon couple Alex and Ruth McCormick (first played on-stage by Charles Lynn Frost and Jayne Luke) after the suicide of their gay son. They meet their son’s boyfriend, Marcus (first played by Jay Perry), in a chance encounter in a cemetery, causing the parents to reconsider their faith and what they know about their son.
“I’ve never been involved in a play that’s emotionally driven before,” Plan-B Artistic Director Jerry Rapier told the Salt Lake Tribune during the show’s first run. “My eye, artistically, is drawn toward restraint, and while this play has that in it, it’s explosively emotional. This is a play written from one gut to another.”
“Getting through my own adolescence as a young Mormon was challenging as it was, but watching my best friend struggle with his identity as a gay teenager was heartbreaking,” Swenson said in a statement. Swenson was raised in a Mormon family and attended Brigham Young University.
Swenson was nominated for a Tony Award for playing the role of Berger in the Broadway production of Hair. He has also played on Broadway in 110 in the Shade, Lestat and Brooklyn. He co-directed and starred in the 2004 film Sons of Provo, a comedy about a Mormon boy-band and played in several other Mormon cult films, including The Singles Ward, The R.M. and Dear John.
Swenson has been married to his wife, Amy, for 15 years and has two children. His put on his resume that he “works well with gays.”
A percentage of the film’s profits will benefit the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens. Priscilla also recently teamed with the organization for a special campaign featuring Swenson and his co-stars.