Early in my telephone conversation with Chris Lam his doorbell rang. Back on the phone in under a minute, the irony that it had been two Mormons looking to spread their own brand of religion didn’t escape us as we chatted about his role in the Pacific Theatre production of 100 Saints You Should Know.
The company’s season finale, Kate Fodor’s 100 Saints You Should Know is the story of five people attempting to reconcile life with their faith. Among those five is Lam’s character Garrett, a 16-year-old grocery delivery boy who finds himself in a discussion with Father Matthew, currently on leave from his parish after some compromising male photos were discovered in the rectory, about his own sexuality.
“It is about a bunch of stereotypical characters that all come together in this weird situation and it becomes a test of their faith and their ability to cope with their existence and what they want out of life,” explained Lam.
For someone who says he grew up in a non-religious family, the second irony of our chat comes to light as Lam revealed that this is not the first time he has found himself in church as an actor.
“This is the second play I’ve had to deal with religion,” laughed Lam. “In Tony and Tina’s Wedding I played a priest and I had to learn a lot about Catholicism for that role”.
Immersing himself into the research for his role in Tony and Tina’s Wedding, Lam actually found himself thinking about entering the seminary.
“I was very invested in what I was doing in Tony and Tina’s Wedding and went to a real priest and consulted with him. With all the reading I did about Catholicism I thought maybe [entering the seminary] was something to consider and would allow me to do some good in the world.”
While continuing with his acting career appears to have won out over the seminary, Lam says he sees a lot of Garrett’s story mirroring his own. Originally seeing Garrett as a gay man who was simply denying who he was, Lam soon discovered that perhaps, like his own life, it wasn’t so cut and dry.
“For me Garrett’s story really does resonate. When I came out myself I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be gay or not and there was a lot of fear in finally making that decision. There is a lot ambiguity in Garrett that I can relate to,” said Lam.
But more than trying to answer the questions explored by the characters in 100 Saints You Should Know, Lam hopes that audiences will look at their own lives and ask themselves what they really want out of life and try to answer that question.
“Purely on an existential level the play deals with people trying to make real connections and find their own sense of purpose. I hope an audience will be able to ask those same questions when they leave the theatre.”
By Kate Fodor. Directed by Anthony F Ingram. A Pacific Theatre production. On stage at Pacific Theatre through May 26, 2012. Visit http://pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.