'Lizard Boy,' A Coming-Of-Age Comic Book Superhero Musical
Diversionary Theatre brings the Seattle show to San Diego
The theater's new production Lizard Boy follows an unlikely hero who hasn't left his house in a year. It was disfigured in a freak accident involving dragon blood. It was messy. Now he's too uncomfortable with the way he looks to go out in public. Beth Accomando speaks with Justin Huertas about the evolution of Lizard Boy from a one-man show at Seattle Repertory Theatre to a three-person rock musical. Tell me how did the play originate? The idea came from the idea of not having a superhero to look up to that look like me. My favorite superhero growing up was like Spiderman and X-Men then I didn't really have liked in Asian or Filipino superhero to look up to. There were not any of those on TV. So I wanted to make one. I wanted to be a superhero because I did not get to see myself as one as a kid. I was commissioned to write a one man show and during this commission I was prompted to answer some questions and one was telling -- tell me your coming-out story and my story of a gay man was so boring that I did not what talent so it was like I said hey, everyone I'm gay. So I thought it might be more fun if I invented some kind of drama in my life. So I made up a story where I came out and nobody cared but I had lizard skin and no one talk to me because of the lizard skin. That was a reason why my life is so difficult and that is where the character came from. This would be the parallel universe? Absolutely. His name is Trevor and he is lizard skin. It is not a costume. There's a lot of people out there dress like lizards -- I'm just not counted enough to make a costume this interesting. What inspired you to come out with that kind of element? Growing up without many influences that work mainstream like hero influences that were Filipino are Brown I had a lot of insecurities growing up with the color my skin and how I looked and so in creating this kind of metaphor with this character I wanted something that some people may be the person might think is disgusting and ugly but actually beautiful and powerful. How would you describe with the stories about? I would say that is a coming-of-age comic book superhero origin story told by a three-person folk rock band. It is somebody was having trouble accepting who they are and it is a process of accepting the things that you think are making you week but actually the things that make you different and unique and beautiful and powerful. How do you feel the play is pushing the boundaries on what a conventional musical might be? I can't say I know many comic book superhero stories told on stage where there are so few actors in the show and are also the band and the stagehands and the special effects in the show. It is unlike anything I've ever seen on stage. That's super exciting to me. You are also involved in -- I'm not sure if it is the production design or the look of the play, but it does do some very interesting things in terms of how it is stage. With the telling of the story, the first time we did this show at Seattle Repertory Theatre are set designer designed these illustrations that we projected on the back wall to help aid the story. There is a moment like someone uses superpowers, but we don't have the ability to make their hands glow, then we throw that up on the screen. So for this particular production, I got the opportunity to do the illustrations myself. So I got to contribute in that way, which is really awesome. I grew up drawing and sketching superheroes and everything and that was also the part of me infecting superheroes growing up so seeing myself as a superhero and draw my self as different things. I've grown up drawing. It is really cool that I get to do that for this show. I don't have enough to do, I think. A lot of times with comic books adults are parents will kind of feel like kids will grow out of it or they will learn to read, but it seems like nowadays we really are coming to appreciate how much comic books are really about and how much they are for adults as well. So how does your play tap into -- Comic books when I found growing up is they really tap into our own mythology and American mythology and the way that we perceive heroes and the hero's journey. Any movies that I've seen are watched or follow the same blueprints as a comic book with how an individual becomes a hero and it's really fun writing the show because I got to create a journey just like that the main character. For history to become a hero. That's where I think our elements really come into play is moments when he takes on all of these different obstacles and villains along the way and the villains that he has within himself that is stopping him from getting to where he needs to be. It is really fun. Inventing mythology is really fun. And that's why we've always loved comic books. Would you think audiences will connect within the play? I hope they will see themselves as Trevor and the other characters also. There's something about us that we think we need to overcome something that doesn't change easily. Oftentimes it's about a change in perspective and seeing the things that you are afraid of and finding the power in them. On hoping that audiences can relate to that journey because writing it has been really therapeutic for me. So finding that things that I'm afraid of and finding power in them. Even things like writing a play is something that I am afraid of and I found power in it. It is really cool. I'm hoping that people can relate to that. Thank you very much.
The play follows an unlikely hero in Trevor, played by playwright Justin Huertas, who hasn’t left his house in a year. He was disfigured in a freak accident as a child — we are told it involved a playground, kids, dragon blood … it was messy. But now he doesn't feel comfortable going out in public.
Until the night we meet Trevor. Through Grindr, he hooks up with a cute stranger named Cary (William A. Williams). But that's just how his night begins. Through the course of the play he will also be forced to confront a stranger from his dreams called Siren (Kirsten deLohr Helland) and be challenged to transform from freak to hero.
Diversionary Theatre's artistic director Matt Morrow said in the show notes:
"Lizard Boy" comes to us direct from its World Premiere production at Seattle Rep this season, making our production its encore. I’ve been tracking this show since its World Premiere was announced, and when I finally saw the production I was blown away by its bold originality and dynamic approach to storytelling. Huertas uses the fantastical Comic Book form, but does so in a completely earnest way that is utterly engaging. and this three-hander puts a new twist on triple threat, with the cast becoming their own band, accompanying themselves on a wild assortment of instruments from ukelele to kazoo to guitar to cello.
Huertas called his show "a coming-of-age, comic book superhero origin story told by a three person folk rock band."
Huertas said that he had been asked to write about his own coming out story as part of a workshop, but felt it wasn't an exciting story so he made up the more epic tale of "Lizard Boy." He said since there "were no mainstream Filipino or brown superheroes" he would have to create one.
"Lizard Boy" has been extended through Nov. 6 at Diversionary Theatre.