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The Prom had its world premiere at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2016, before its hit run on Broadway. The show centers on some big Broadway stars on a mission to change the world, as they work to make it possible for a girl to bring her girlfriend to … The Prom, of course. Critics and audiences alike have loved the show and its compassionate message of inclusion. Variety raved, “It’s so full of happiness that you think your heart is about to burst” while The Hollywood Reporter called it “comic gold!”
The joyous Broadway musical comedy, The Prom, will make its Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) debut in Jackson Hall, when the National Tour of the show visits Nashville on February 22 - 27, 2022.
In advance of the show’s Nashville run, one of the leads, Patrick Wetzel, who plays the role of “Barry” in the show, sat down with me to talk about his own history with The Prom and how it brought him back to the stage for the first time in eight years, and much more. We still live in a country where, for far too many LGBTQ+ youth, the idea of taking an authentic date to the prom is a dream deferred. This show thus has an important message that needs to be seen and heard—and internalized—by audiences across the country.
James Grady: If somebody asked you, as a cast member, to describe The Prom, how would you describe it?
Patrick Wetzel: You know, it's funny. I think if you asked every different principal in the show, you'd get different answers. But my character, Barry, has an objective in the show, and it changes about halfway through. He realizes he's there to learn something and not necessarily to teach, and so I think it's really about growing! It's also about friendship, it's about loyalty, and it's about teaching and learning. And, so importantly, it's about inclusivity and acceptance!
James Grady: When did you first become aware of, or involved in, The Prom?
Patrick Wetzel: That's very interesting! I was an actor for most of my adult career, and then about eight years ago, I needed to take a break. I shifted gears and moved into the management side of things. So I was a stage manager on a very early incarnation of The Prom, a workshop before it came to Broadway. We did that workshop for a month.
From there, my journey with The Prom has been sort of varied. When Ryan Murphy saw the Broadway musical, he decided to make the movie for Netflix. Casey Nicholaw, who was the original director and choreographer of the Broadway musical, went out to work on the choreography for the movie. I was a part of his choreography team working with him on the movie. I worked with James Corden and Meryl [Streep] and Nicole [Kidman] and the rest of the cast to assist Casey with the choreography.
Then I heard that the national tour of The Prom was going out. I had been thinking ... it had been eight years and in the middle of the pandemic Broadway theater was shut down for 18 months. During that time, I thought, "Well, gosh, I don't think I'm done performing yet." So I put the word out that I wanted to go back onto the stage! Then this opportunity presented itself!
Now I find myself, eight years later, back on the stage—and with a show that I initially had worked on as a stage manager when it was still being workshopped! So ... life is funny. You never really know where things are going to lead you, but my journey with The Prom, in particular, has been so strangely varied!
James Grady: Has performing in The Prom revitalized your love of acting? I know you said you felt the need to step back eight years ago.
Patrick Wetzel: It has completely revitalized my love of being on the stage, James. I love this role. I love this part. I love that this is where I have ended up working on the show. It's a beautiful part, and I love playing Barry. It's so incredibly satisfying to get to play him eight times a week, and I'm loving it!
I don't know why, but eight years ago, I began to feel anxious about auditioning. When I first moved to New York City, I was fearless in an audition setting. I was not scared of performing or auditioning in front of everyone, anyone. I loved getting in the room to audition. But as I got older, something started to shift, and my anxiety... I would get the phone call from my agent, I would see that they were calling, and that would send me into a tailspin. And I was scared to to get into the room and audition. I was turning down more auditions than I was going in for, and that's no way to be an actor!
So I knew that I needed to make some sort of shift eight years ago and at the very least take a break.
James Grady: Was it a difficult mental shift to come back to the stage?
Patrick Wetzel: A few years ago, though, I started thinking, "Gosh, I have this itch that I need to scratch to get back on the stage." But I didn't say anything for a couple years because my decision to stop performing had been so definitive! I felt surely this feeling of wanting to be back on the stage was just fleeting, that it would go away.
It was kind of like coming out. You think, "No, I'm not gay. I'm not gay. It'll go away. It'll pass." But that that voice insists. This was sort of similar to coming out. It got louder and louder, until I finally had to acknowledge, "I think I want to be on the stage again." So I finally "came out" and told the people that needed to know, and it felt like such a relief. I'm realizing the parallels now between that and coming out of the closet.
As soon as I said it, I felt free. I felt excited to audition again. And I'm so excited to be back on the stage. For whatever reason I needed to take that break and step away for a moment. And it gave me clarity on where my true passion is. And my original passion for theater and performing and musical comedy--I still just love it so much. It's in me, it's in the center of my being. I have to be a part of it. I love it. I love, love, love, love it!
James Grady: What are some roles you would love to play in the future?
Patrick Wetzel: Off the top of my head, Harold Hill in The Music Man! It's a part I've never played. I've seen the show many, many times, and I love it so much. I just love that part! Harold Hill and how he's this con man who finally comes clean. He gives himself permission to be his true authentic self, and in his own way, comes out of the closet to be honest with himself about his life. I love the music. I love the story. And that's a dream role for me!
James Grady: It occurred to me that, when the show was written, a lot of us thought we were getting near the end of this era, near the end of this fight. And now we find ourselves, years later, finding it so very timely, unfortunately.
Patrick Wetzel: There are places where the story needs to be told, as we journey around to different cities. This message does need to be heard by some parts of the country more than others. Living in New York City, being gay is very accepted, but a lot of the places we are traveling things aren't so clear. But I think the message will be heard loud and clear!
Things are evolving and changing all the time! I moved to New York City in 1989. And thinking about where things were there, then, and where we are now. I mean, we've come so far, and we're evolving. The trans community is, in the LGBTQ community, at the forefront, forging ahead and blazing the trails for our community as a whole. We're continuing to push forward and forge ahead and normalize our community.
Courtney Balan, Patrick Wetzel, Bud Weber and Emily Borromeo in The National Tour of THE PROM.Photo by Deen van Meer
Bringing it back to The Prom and speaking of normalizing things--there's nothing more normal than wanting to go to a high school dance and dance with the person that you love. And that's really all this story is, in the end. It's about a teenager, who wants to go to a dance with her girlfriend. There's nothing more normal than that. That's no different than any other person of any other gender or identity. They just want to dance with their loved one. It's fascinating telling the story.
James Grady: What's the reception been like from audiences around the country?
Patrick Wetzel: Well, it has been surprisingly good! There's a couple of politically charged moments in the show. It's not with a heavy hand, but they are there those moments! So we didn't know how this was going to be. The show played very well in New York. But we had wondered what it would be like when took the show to cities in the Midwest or the South.
What it has shown me is that The Prom is just a really well-constructed and well-written and very funny musical comedy. So it's played very well! It has surprised us all. We sort of walk into every new city that we play, holding our breath a little bit, thinking, "Well, how is it gonna play here?" But we have learned to trust that the material is really good. It's really funny. They did such a beautiful job writing the show. That wins audiences over.
The Prom will knock you over the head with the comedy because it's so funny, but then it will surprise you and catch you off guard with its emotional moments and messages. So I always tell people, come to our show ready to laugh but bring a tissue!
James Grady: What has been the response from the older crowd, people who didn’t grow up with a concern for things like this necessarily?
Patrick Wetzel: Well, it's interesting because I was just talking with a person who saw the show in St. Louis after the show. We were chatting, and she's an older person, late 60s, early 70s, and her response was, "I didn't realize how important this story was to tell people. It's a really good message."
Again, it is not with a heavy hand. They're just telling this story about a young girl who wants to go to a dance. And it's as simple as that. But surprisingly, people do need to see that it's important that we let our young people be who they are. They're going to shape our country and our world.
James Grady: What would you say to your LGBT audience who may be thinking of coming to see your show?
Patrick Wetzel: Yeah, well, you know what's interesting, James? We see so many young kids with their parents coming, and we get so many notes and letters from young LGBTQ community members who say, "I was scared to tell my parents that I was gay. I was scared to come out to my parents, and you have helped me. Now I have the courage!" I mean heartbreaking letters from kids all around. And we say, "Come and be accepted. Come and don't be scared. Come ready to laugh. But bravely enter our theater and be ready to let your freak flag fly.
For more information, please visit www.theprommusical.com or find the show on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The Prom will run nightly at TPAC’s Jackson Hall from February 22-27, 2022. Tickets for the TPAC shows can be purchased at TPAC.org or by calling 615-782-4040.
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It's been quite a year and we're only halfway through 2022. The pandemic is still ongoing, LGBTQ+ rights are under threat, money struggles are prevalent, and that’s just to name a few issues. In the midst of all this, it’s hard not to feel anxious. Understand that your feelings are valid and so we put together this handy guide for mental health apps.
Dr. Jack Turban, MD, MHS, a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine researches the mental health of transgender youth. He explains that during the pandemic the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth has been declining. He says, “For instance, the Trevor Project crisis line for LGBTQ+ youth has seen a surge in volume.”
If you’re struggling, know that you aren’t alone. Seeking help may be a difficult step to take, but it’s a necessary one. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there that can help you find support and affirmation.
How Can Mental Health Apps Help?
Mental health apps are a low-cost, accessible way to receive instant help for your struggles. While they aren’t a replacement for professional care, they have various functions to promote mental wellness, such as sleep reminders, calming music, and even mood trackers. Some apps also have teletherapy services, where you can communicate with a licensed specialist to get started with treatment.
“One of the most important parts, and beautiful parts when used correctly, is that digital mental health tools and the internet in general, create a space for connections. [Mental health apps] are beneficial because they can help remove some of the possible barriers LGBTQ+ individuals deal with in less accepting environments. Hopefully, they can access such tools without someone standing in their way or being gatekeepers that bar their path to better health”, says Dr. Chase Anderson, MD, MS, a child psychiatry fellow at the University of California San Francisco.
Five Mental Health Apps
Mental Health Apps
Below is a list of five mental health apps that can help to make your life a little easier.
1. Ayana Therapy
Ayana is an app that helps people from marginalized communities find a therapist they can identify with based on their unique experiences and identities across race, gender identity, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. This on-demand app allows for flexible communication across convenient platforms (text, phone, and video call) to get in touch with your LGBTQ+ therapist whenever you need to.
2. Pride Counseling
This is an online counseling program for the LGBTQ+ community, led by specialized mental health professionals. Through the app, you can conveniently get in touch with a licensed specialist through live chat in addition to booking weekly scheduled appointments. Pride Counseling also offers need-based financial aid to make counseling affordable.
Sowlmate is an LGBTQ+-focused self-care app with a wide library of interactive courses and meditation sounds designed by LGBTQ+ professionals. A key feature of this app is the AI-based mood tracker, where the data is used to showcase content tailored to your individual needs. New programs are released every week on the platform.
4. Trill Project
This is an anonymous, social network where you can freely express yourself. Through the app, you can share your deepest, unfiltered thoughts and build authentic conversations with other members of the LGBTQ+ community. There is also tons of content focused on LGBTQ+ issues and mental health for users to discover and share.
Wisdo is a peer-to-peer support platform to connect with people who’ve walked your path and share your own helpful advice. In the app, there are live sessions from mentors and virtual communities focused on discussing LGBTQ+ issues. You can also easily have private conversations with people you guide or learn from.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit www.SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.com for additional resources.
If you are an LGBTQ+ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline immediately at 1-866-488-7386.
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A gay cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.
Without any surprise, one of the most commonly determined goals for this year is to be happier. It doesn’t matter what you secretly want, such as to lose a couple of pounds, build up your muscles or find the love of your life – the ultimate goal of every single one of us is the same – to be happy.
After all, anything that we want from life, we want so that it could bring us happiness. But happiness will not come to whomever, as every person needs to work hard and think long about all the things that make them happy and actually earn that happiness. The end of every year is the perfect time to start thinking about that, to reflect on the previous year, see the negative points that you never want to repeat again and then see what the aspects you need to focus on more are. Take a look at some of the ideas that will help you become a happier gay man in the next year.
Who cares what others have
The first and most important piece of advice would be to be who you are, but since this is as cliché as it can get, let’s say that the first thing to do is not to compare yourself with other gay people. This is something that can create so many different issues – first of all, with your self-confidence and image which can have a big effect on your life, and secondly, it can affect your relationship with other people. There are certain things that are always “expected” from gay men, such as having abs, being very handsome, having crystal clear skin or dressing up in the latest fashion. Well, be who you are and never try to be someone else so that you can stand out. This is the most important tip you should follow as this is the only way you will truly be happy.
Make yourself a routine
Creating a routine for yourself and having activities that you enjoy doing on a daily basis is an essential thing for your happiness. What is important to know is that your habits create your mood, and the more interesting habits you have, the happier you will be. It is always a good thing when you get to come home from work and have certain things that you can get up to. However, it would be good that your routines in 2020 revolve around everything that is natural, healthy and organic. So, buying yourself a gym membership or taking up a sport are two great ideas. If you want to be bolder, you can always hit the best kratom shop and turn to natural products that will make your daily routine much more pleasant, and you happier. Remember that this doesn’t have to necessarily be a daily routine that you have to create, but rather have several things that you like doing and can do from time to time when you want to feel better.
You are enough for you
Next up, we should turn to one of the biggest issues of unsatisfied people – the fact that they’re single. Now, not all single people are unsatisfied, but the majority of people feel dissatisfaction once they have nobody by their side, which is one of the traits they definitely have to change. You do not need anyone else to tell you are perfect or amazing or pretty or beautiful, you do not need anyone so that you could feel validated. What you can do is spice things up, and if you are a sexual being, you can always find someone to spend several hot nights with. However, if you are looking for a relationship, you need to start with yourself and stop feeling sorry for yourself because you are single. This is what shows, and nobody wants to hit on someone who has a lot of negativity going on.
Socialize with positive people
Photo by Ba Phi from Pexels
There’s nothing that works better for your own happiness than surrounding yourself with people that you love and people who are positive (obviously, you get the most of it when you combine these two and spend time with people who are both positive and very important to you). In 2020, it would be best to ditch negativity and leave it behind – even though it might be difficult, limiting the time you spend with negative people can definitely do wonders for your own mood and overall state of happiness.
Finally, focus on yourself. It is 2020, so whatever you choose to do for your own well-being is definitely not something you should be embarrassed about. If yoga is something that is going to calm you down, take your stress away and thus make you a generally less unsatisfied person – so be it. You can also turn to meditation or simply spending time with your friends and laughing. Laughter is also one of the strongest remedies. You know what they say – when life gives you lemons, make a lemonade. Beyoncé made it and it’s the best album of the decade.
Hopefully, you will be a better person in 2020. After all, it doesn’t matter what you do and how others perceive you – if you like yourself, that’s what matters. So, make the following a New Year’s resolution – love yourself.