How glorious were the glory days of high school if homophobia lurked just beneath the surface? How genuine were the friendships formed if they later reel from the revelation that one of the gang is gay?
Based on the dynamics of playwrights Nick Blaemire and Jack Gardiner’s high school circle, Glory Days is the story of four best friends who reunite a year after graduation. As the four catch up, their friendships are tested when Jack, played by local gay actor Darren Burkett, announces he is gay. The surprise announcement prods his friend Andy’s latent homophobia, and becomes the catalyst for the play as the group realizes things are not quite as they were back in high school.
Playing the foursome in the Vancouver production are real-life best friends Adam Charles, Brandyn Eddy, Colin Sheen and Burkett (pictured right in a photo by Paul H. Wright). “To do this with my best friends, in a show that hits upon issues so close to my heart, is really special,” Burkett says.
In “Open Road,” one of the musical’s early numbers, Jack recounts his post-high school trip across the United States where he first came to terms with being gay. Surprisingly, the inspiration for the song comes from a story Blaemire’s father once told him about a road trip he took as a young man.
“The time alone on the road, and the choice to do something solely for himself, gave Jack a chance to really take a closer look at himself,” Blaemire explains. “As he tells the story to his friends, it became the opportunity for him to tell them [he’s gay].”
As Jack’s revelation sets in, Andy’s previously hidden homophobia starts to take shape.
In “Other Human Beings,” Jack sings of tolerance and acceptance and pulls no punches, reminding Andy “that other human beings don’t fuck with each other, unless they want to lose each other.”
“After Andy reveals how uncomfortable he is with all the changes he’s witnessing, it felt like the perfect time to have Jack come forward and explain how careful we all have to be with each other, no matter what we may think,” Blaemire says.
But don’t expect any Hollywood feel-good ending, as the playwrights deliberately leave relationships unresolved.
“It’s a sad truth that people just don’t know what to do with things they don’t understand,” Blaemire says. “So the grey area that it ends with feels much more true to life than any kind of closure to that conflict we could have written.”
Colin Sheen, who plays the role of Andy, agrees: “It’s not tied up in our society, so I’m glad the writers didn’t pretend everything was okay.”
Burkett expects the play’s ambiguity to leave room for audiences to come to their own conclusions, though he hopes it will move younger audiences, who he sees grappling with these same issues in real life, to become more understanding.
For an older generation he has a different wish: “I hope it reminds them of their youth, the friends they had in high school and how far they have come in their own world. Maybe they’ll be surprised as to how much further there is to go, even if they are 50.”
(A version of this article first appeared online at Xtra.ca and in the 11 January 2012 print edition of Xtra!)
18 – 28 January 2012
Culture Lab at The Cultch, 1895 Venables Street
What a difference a year makes. In The Boys Upstairs Equity Co-op’s production of Glory Days, a musical by Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner, four best friends meet up a year after graduating high school. The plan is to catch up, relive some of those good old (glory) days, and pick their friendships up right where they dropped off. Turns out that’s not so easy. Visit http://www.glorydaysvancouver.com for tickets and information.