Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Reverend's Interview: Basking in the Afterglow with S. Asher Gelman

Good communication is key to the success of any long-term relationship – gay, straight or otherwise. Without honesty and openness, there is little chance for growth. Don’t just take my word for it; ask your local marriage or relationship counselor.

This month will mark the West Coast premiere of the hit Off-Broadway and London sensation Afterglow. This gay-themed play recently opened and performs through Saturday, June 19th at the Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. Tickets are available at here. Of note, the play opened simultaneously in Madrid, Spain and will also enjoy productions this season in Ft. Lauderdale, San Juan, and Buenos Aires.

Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman, Afterglow is a raw one-act play exploring the emotional, intellectual, and physical connections between three men and the broader implications within their relationships. When Josh and Alex, a married couple in an open relationship, invite Darius to share their bed one night, a new intimate connection begins to form. All three men must come to terms with their individual definitions of love, loyalty and trust as futures are questioned, relationships are shaken and commitments are challenged.

The LA cast will feature Noah Bridgestock as Josh, James Hayden Rodriguez as Alex, and Nathan Mohebbi as Darius. This production also boasts the original Off-Broadway team of designers.

S. Asher Gelman

Creator S. Asher Gelman is a director, choreographer, playwright and producer. Afterglow, which ran for 14 months Off-Broadway in 2017-2018, was his first original play. He subsequently produced the Off-Broadway musical We Are the Tigers, written by Preston Max Allen, followed by Gelman’s second play, safeword. He most recently directed and choreographed two dance films, The Greatest City in the World and in memoriam.

Originally from Chevy Chase, Maryland, Gelman received his Bachelor’s degree in Dance and Theater from Bard College and his Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from George Washington University. While living in Israel, he co-founded The Stage, Tel Aviv’s premier English language performing arts organization, and served as its first Artistic Director from 2013 to 2016. Gelman today serves on the Advisory Board of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. He lives in New York City with his husband, Mati.

This talented multi-hyphenate recently spoke with me in advance of Afterglow’s LA premiere.

CC: What is Afterglow about, in your own words?
SAG: It’s about honesty and communication, and what happens when it falls apart. Or when relationships fall apart because we can’t communicate honestly and openly with each other.

CC: What was the genesis of the story or play?
SAG: About eight years ago, while my husband and I were living in Tel Aviv, we opened our relationship. Then I met a man and we were together for a couple months. But soon it became clear that he wanted to supplant my husband and ruin my marriage. I knew at the time that I did something wrong but I didn’t understand what. That search within myself was the seed that would become the play. I ultimately wanted the situation to be the antagonist rather than any one character.

CC: Are you making any changes or updates for the LA production?
SAG: The show has become more nuanced, because my understanding of the situation has become more nuanced. My husband and I now have a partner, and I have a boyfriend. We all understand polyamory much better now. There is no room for nuance in our society today, when communications are distilled to a few words in a text message or a few minutes online. My whole team is understanding and taking this more nuanced approach, and its amazing working with them.

CC: How was the casting process? Is this the first time that these actors are doing the play?
SAG: Correct, although our original Alex is now the assistant director. Fun fact: We were supposed to open in LA two years ago and our final day of callbacks was March 12th, 2020, the day Broadway shut down. One of the actors was cast then so he’s had the part for two years. The others were cast via video or Zoom more recently. We all returned to LA on March 12th, 2022, exactly two years since we all left. These actors are so giving, so generous, and it’s a joy to work with them. A joy and such a privilege.

CC: Has anything surprised you or particularly touched you in terms of reactions to your play?
SAG: Look, the dream is you hope your mom sees it and then everyone beyond her is a net positive. (Laughs) One year ago, I saw the first foreign performance in Madrid. It was in Spanish, which I don’t understand, but I wrote the play so I could understand it. It was beautiful. It’s been amazing to see it touch so many people and hear from people from all over the US and all over the world. In New York, I knew some people who wouldn’t see the show with their partners because they were afraid of the conversations it might engender. I thought it was terrible that their relationships were so fragile because they were living in fear. The worst thing is not to be alone; it’s to be in a relationship and be unhappy.

CC: Wow, that is sad. I’m curious: Did you begin your performing arts career as a dancer?
SAG: I did both dancing and acting. I was a little theatre brat in middle school, and then I went on and got my BA and MA. I never studied playwriting until my husband and I moved to New York in 2016. I was surprised writing came so easily to me. And then it was amazing to see these characters I’d written on a page, these lives, come to life on stage!

CC: And now you are moving into film, correct?
SAG: I made a couple of dance films during the pandemic. I love that I can use different mediums to tell different stories. We try to label and pigeonhole people as one thing, and now I’m doing all the things I can do! I do not know what is next for me, and I love that. I can do whatever I want!

CC: That’s awesome! What do you hope California audiences will take from Afterglow?
SAG: I hope they take away the same thing that every other audience has taken away from it: the courage to have the difficult conversation, whatever the conversation is about. To have that bravery and move your life to a better place.

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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