The pair met at Theatre Intime and the Princeton Triangle Club in the fall of 2003.
“Triangle is a pre-professional kind of experience,” said Fornarola before a Thursday night performance of Straight in New York. “It’s as close to what it’s like to do a show here as I imagine most people could have in college.
“You’ve got a creative team. You’ve got investors that you present a show to, and they give you feedback. You’ve got audiences to think about. It’s a big budget show on a big stage. The chance to do that twice a year is second to none.”
Well, maybe second to doing the same thing in New York. Straight follows Ben (Jake Epstein), a 26-year-old investment banker in Boston who struggles to understand what he wants, and what he thinkshe should want. Ben feels comfortable in his long-term relationship with Emily (Jenna Gavigan) — or so it seems.
Enter Chris (Thomas E. Sullivan), a college student who’s also coming to terms with his sexuality. What begins as a one-night stand evolves into something more — a significant and sincere connection between two men trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
“It’s a provocative play, and it’s a shocking play,” said Elmegreen. “It’s hard to shock New York audiences, but they’re shocked by it — in a good way. We set out to do something that would have that effect,” he said.
“Our main character, Ben, is pushing against being labeled,” Elmegreen said. “We’re in a more tolerant culture now. We’re in a more accepting culture. We have new understandings of sexuality and gender as spectrums — but we’re still sort of at a place where those labels define people.”
“Whatever it is that they choose to label themselves,” Fornarola added.
After graduation, Elmegreen and Fornarola pursued separate careers as playwrights and songwriters. They have also co-written and collaborated on several musical theatre projects, including Tiananmen, Vote For Me: A Musical Debate (London Theatre Workshop in 2015, and Roy Arias Theater in 2014), College: The Musical (MTVu Award, Hippodrome State Theatre), and Thucydides (Winner, Samuel French Play Festival).
Elmegreen has written several musicals based on best-selling children’s books, and also contributed to the Emmy-nominated Colin Quinn: Long Story Short, a HBO Special directed by Jerry Seinfeld. Fornarola is currently developing both a stage musical and an animated movie for DreamWorks:VeggieTales Noah’s Ark (2015), starring Wayne Brady.
Straight represents a departure from their previous work in musical theatre.
“We thought it was time to dip our toes into the deep well of long-form, er, straight drama,” Elmegreen said.
Straight opens February 29 at New York’s Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street. For more information, visit www.straighttheplay.com.