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Loud Fridge Theatre Group Makes Debut With ‘Straight’

Actor John Wells III creates theater company to bring play to San Diego

Photo credit: Eddie Martinez

Ben (John Wells III) is attracted to Chris (Bryce Gerson) in the play "Straight."

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There’s a new theater company in town and it's bringing the San Diego premiere of the play "Straight" to Tenth Avenue Arts Center’s Forum Stage.

Aired: July 26, 2019 | Transcript

There’s a new theater company in town and it's bringing the San Diego premiere of the play "Straight" to Tenth Avenue Arts Center’s Forum Stage.

Actor John Wells III wanted to see the new play "Straight" come to San Diego. But if he wanted that to happen then he’d have to do it himself. The first challenge was that he could only get rights to perform the play if he had a theater company so he created one. Then he christened it Loud Fridge Theatre Group.

"I thought it was a catchy name, it’s funny, it’s ironic. But also because I want to be a constant noise in the community," he said.

As artistic director, Wells brought Andréa Agosto and Kate Rose Reynolds on to direct the play.

Wells recalled, "We sat and we talked and I said, 'Well do you think I should do this?' And they said, 'Yeah you should do this, let's go forward with this.' So the three of us actually are the founding members of Loud Fridge and we talked about what we wanted and how we wanted to be viewed and pretty much we wanted to tell meaningful stories that speak to humanity and the human condition. And that's kind of where Loud Fridge came from."

"Straight" is a three-character play in which Ben (Wells) is torn between the love he has for his long-term girlfriend Emily (Arielle Siler) and the attraction he feels for college student Chris (Bryce Gerson).

Written by Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen, the play deals with sexuality and identity in what the playwrights call "post-equality" America, which is a place that prides itself on the pretense of acceptance while still judging people and trying to label them.

"We live in a world, in a society that prides themselves on being so accepting and so progressive," Wells stated. "But beneath that, I don't think we've come as far as we like to believe. We have this post-equality, we're still fighting for equality in so many areas outside of even just sexual orientation, you know between orientation and gender and race. We're still fighting for this equality and yet we're making strides but I think that we still have these things of trying to put people in their respective boxes. You go here, this person goes here, and instead of just accepting who we are at the core."

At one point in the play, Ben says, "We're obsessed with drawing neat little lines around things, dichotomizing, people don't like ambiguity. A man is straight by default, if he does something with another guy, he just goes over to gay with everything attached. But say you are bi … see who believes you."

With the play opening Thursday night, Wells reflected on the whole process of starting a theater company.

"It has been a huge struggle and it's extremely difficult," he said. "I've been so grateful and fortunate to have such a strong community of theater artists who supported [us] and even other theater companies around who have supported in different ways — Diversionary Theatre, Cygnet Theatre, Lamb's Players Theatre — they've all supported in their own individual way. That's what's so great about San Diego, it's not like this everywhere. In San Diego people are so invested in each other and we look out for each other and we support each other in the theater community and that's one of the things that I'm very grateful for."

Having been forced to create a theater company out of necessity, Wells now has to consider if Loud Fridge has a future beyond "Straight."

"I will see where it goes," Wells said. "I am not opposed to keeping it going. I would not be surprised if we did do some other plays in the future. I have a very solid team who I believe can handle the stress of starting a new theater company. So by no means am I'm saying this is the end of Loud Fridge Theatre but I'd like to see what happens next."

"Straight" begins performances tonight at the Forum Stage of Tenth Avenue Arts Center. It closes on Aug. 4 so there are only two weekends to see the debut show of Loud Fridge Theatre Group.

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