Bare: An Interview with Ben Huey

By Lauren Glass, '13

The University of Dayton Theatre Program is currently putting on a production of the contemporary pop musical, “bare.” This powerful and provocative show deals with a group of high school students struggling with their identities in relation to their religion and to others as they prepare to transition to adulthood.

I interviewed one of the actors, nutrition and fitness major Ben Huey, who plays the supporting role of Matt in the show. Initially cast as the lead role in the play, Ben not only discussed with me the play itself, but also revealed to me his own struggle in his discomfort with the subject matter of the show, how he grew to better understand and celebrate the meaning behind the show, and the parallels that exist between his own transformation and that of the characters in the play.

In your own words, what is the play all about?

The play is about a group of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school. Two are dealing with their homosexuality, and the rest of the students are dealing with how to incorporate that into their own lives. It’s really about everyone finding themselves, and learning to accept themselves.

What are the main themes of the show, and what do you think their relevance is to today’s audience?

One of the themes of the show is the suppression of homosexuality, and how we tend to try and push away things that we don’t think are acceptable. I think it’s very relevant to today, not only in the sense of homosexuality and being accepting of it, but also in finding ourselves and accepting who we are and others.

What were some of the challenges particular to producing this play?

What was a challenge, not just on my part but on the behalf of the whole cast in general, was tastefully performing the content in a way that got the point across and kept the emotion behind it. Certain scenes are more scandalous than others, but I think that Gina [Kleesattel, director] did a good job of incorporating sound and lighting with our acting to get the point across without being “up in your face” about it.

What do you hope that audiences get out of this show?

I hope that the audience is taking away Jason’s internal struggle of who he feels like he needs to be, who he is, and his love for Peter. I hope that they take away the message that it doesn’t always have to be such a schism; it can be one in the same. The person you are can be—is—the person you’re supposed to be. It’s ok to be different, and you should embrace who you are, embrace your true self. I guess that’s really the big thing.

You’ve already performed the show to an audience twice now. What has been the audience feedback?

I've heard nothing but good things from the people I’ve talked to. They love the energy that we have in our group ensembles. I've heard so many people say that they felt so much in the later songs where everything becomes more passion driven and the emotion really starts to come out in the songs, and I've even seen tears in people’s eyes during those parts.

Out of all the characters in the show, who do you relate to most, and why?

I relate to two characters pretty well: I relate to my own character, Matt, in that for a long time he’s set apart from the group. He’s set apart because he’s really focused, and he’s really passionate about his work and his interest in Ivy. I can relate to that because I get really focused on things and sometimes that separates me from the group at large. I also understand his feeling of being second in a lot of things. I have a twin, and in my relationship with him growing up, I definitely felt a lot of that, and a lot of the feeling of being invisible that Matt has to go through.

I also relate to Jason now that I’ve grown to know his character more. Jason is struggling with who he feels like he needs to be in order to be accepted, and who he feels he really is on the inside. That really strikes home with me. In high school I was struggling with a lot where I was seen as being very pious, and so I felt that I needed to be very strict with myself so that I could maintain that image with people. But on the inside I really just wanted to be a fun loving and out there kind of guy, but it just didn't fit in with what I thought I had to be. So I can definitely see that in Jason as well.

What is the most emotionally charged scene, for yourself and for the cast?

For myself, it’s “bare,” the final song between Peter and Jason. They’re just putting themselves completely out there. Jason’s finally coming to realize too late that he knows what he wants, and Peter can’t hide anymore. They just both have such passion in the song, in the lyrics themselves, and in the way that they're sung. It just brings me to tears.

When we come together as a cast, we all kind of get more emotional in the final number, “No Voice.” We start off in sorrow, and all of our roles that we feel in it, and it moves on to one voice, one love, one light, to have that feeling of hope. That’s what we’re trying to end with, to send people away with: despite all of this, there is hope. There is hope for the future. There is hope for tomorrow, and it’s up to us. So that’s a very powerful number when we all come together.

From what I understand, you were unsure about the show in the beginning. How has that progressed to how you feel about the play now?

Initially, I was cast as the role of Jason. Before I auditioned, I had not actually looked at the content of the show. I knew that it dealt with homosexuality, and I knew that Jason was one of the homosexual men in the show, but I wasn’t familiar with the show itself. So after I was cast as the lead role, I did a little bit more looking into it and I watched some YouTube videos. I kind of cherry picked various songs, which was a mistake because honestly the show has to be taken as a whole, and not just as individual songs. But I did that and I listened to songs like “You and I,” and I just didn’t think that I could handle it.
So I actually pulled out of that part altogether. Only through being coerced by the director, Gina, and by other cast members to come back in, I took the lesser role of Matt, which I am very thankful for. Over the course of the play, in performing the songs and in getting to know the people of the show, everything started to make sense. I became more comfortable with the concept of the show dealing with homosexuality, and it became more about the story itself. It became more about the message, and all the discomfort just melted away to the point that I know any of us could have played any of those roles to get the message across.

Looking back on your choice to not accept the role of Jason, would you do anything differently?

Yes. With the knowledge I have now, I would definitely accept the role of Jason. I do feel that Matt is a good character for me, but I understand Jason’s struggle of dealing with the external and internal personalities that he’s trying to uphold. The passion in his songs are things that I’ve felt, so I find myself longing to sing those songs in order to share that with people.

Why should someone go see the play?

It is a fun and energetic show, and it is also a very passionate and powerful show. Coming from somebody who was initially hesitant about the show and about being in it, I would understand their hesitation to see the show if I were in their situation. But honestly, being in this show has made me realize so much about myself and has made me grow so much emotionally, in my self-confidence, and in my acceptance of others. They should come for the message to be open to yourself and to others, and to support the University of Dayton Theatre Program.

The musical, ‘bare,’ will continue March 21-23 at 8 p.m. in Kennedy Union’s Boll Theatre on the University of Dayton campus. General admission tickets are $12; $7 for UD faculty/staff/students. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance through Kennedy Union Box Office, 937-229-2545.

NOTE: This play contains adult content and language and is not recommended for children.

Lauren Glass is a senior at the University of Dayton, where she is studying journalism. Currently working as a social media assistant for ArtStreet, she enjoys music, writing, and photography.

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