Coming Out to Philadelphia: Fringe visitor Bay Bryan talks GROWING INTO MY BEARD

It’s a difficult process for any young gay man. Who will be there for you? Will you be accepted? We’re talking of course about bringing an out-of-town show to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Creator/performer Bay Bryan is making the bold step with his coming out cabaret GROWING INTO MY BEARD, “a fusion of storytelling, improv, song cycle, and just a drop of drag.” Bay and director Artsen Yatsunov tour Philadelphia this Fringe—Tabu, William Way Center, 954 Dance Movement Collective, Philly AIDS Thrift—after previous runs in hometown NYC and the Minnesota Fringe Festival. A native of Colorado and former resident of Scotland, Bay shares his thoughts on Philadelphia and tells Phindie a little about his show. [various Center City locations] September 3-18, 2015; fringearts.com/growing-into-my-beard.

Bay Bryan. Photo by Artem Yatsunov.

Bay Bryan. Photo by Artem Yatsunov.

Phindie: Welcome to Philadelphia!? 

Bay Bryan:  Yes! My first visit to Philly was in August and I already know I’m going to have a wonderful time performing here and checking out all that this city has to offer. I’m really looking forward to exploring the different neighborhoods!

Phindie: What were your impressions of Philadelphia as an outsider?

BB: I don’t know why I haven’t been here before now! I love the architecture, and how different it is from even one street to the next; There was a moment as we were driving through Center City that I thought I could easily be back in the UK right now—I suppose it was raining at the time so it sold the idea even more!

Phindie: How’d you decide to bring GROWING INTO MY BEARD here?

BB: We heard really great things about the Fringe and about the city. We just had a successful run of the show at Minnesota Fringe Festival, so we are really excited to see how people here resonate with the story and it’s delivery.

Phindie: Where are you taking the show next?

BB: Since going to Minnesota Fringe and from this sure-to-be-amazing experience here in Philly, we return to our main stomping grounds: East Village, NYC.

Phindie:  What’s GROWING INTO MY BEARD about?

BB: I’m on a mission to find my true love, and to “feel that thing…” From a very young age I have, like many of us, put this romantic ideal at the center and the top of what I wanted out of life. The story follows me from being a wee boy in Golden, Colorado, to bonnie Scotland where I do, in fact, find “that thing…” but as we all know, it might not be exactly as I planned it to be. With the combination of it’s inherent queerness, storytelling and my music, I think it makes for a unique telling of what is a age-old love story!

Phindie:  That sounds kinda gay.

BB:   It’s very gay. It’s Never Been Kissed starring Drew Barrymore gay!

Phindie: What was the development process like for you?

BB: The process of writing this show has been incredibly challenging for me. As a songwriter and a performer, I have already been telling stories in a way, but when it comes to “storytelling” I don’t have as much experience. It’s the writing side specifically that’s been the most difficult, and I think that’s because it’s my own life experiences and actual moments that I’m bringing to life.

Phindie: What do you want audiences to take away from the piece?

BB: I want people to leave feeling empowered, like they are allowed to share themselves more freely- to be more boldly vulnerable with the people they love and the world around them; I know, I am a hopeless romantic… There’s no fourth wall in the telling of this story. I am sharing directly with each individual in the room. This for me establishes a real vulnerability and a personal feeling of “being seen.”

Phindie: Do you have a beard?

Bay Bryan: There’s the question! No. I don’t. I’ve always wanted one, but alas I am still unable to grow a beard. BUT I predict that in five years I will be able to grow one. Mark my words!

Phindie: Should I shave this off?

BB: No! You must rock it! Loud and proud is what I love. However, if you want to shave it off, I support your decision. You should do whatever the f*@k you want my dear.

Phindie: Have you heard about any other shows in the Philly Fringe you hope to catch?

BB: Not For Profit, The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo – lots of shows by LGBT artists which I’m very excited about. I love me some physical theater too: Sit Down Stand Up, She is a Problem, and Duende are def on my list!

Phindie: Thanks Bay!

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.