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Meredith Holt, Published March 05 2014

Tin Roof tackles controversial play

FARGO - What would you do if you knew what your baby’s future holds?

In “The Twilight of the Golds,” a Tin Roof Theatre Company production opening tonight, a New York family is thrown into turmoil when Suzanne Gold-Stein (Crystal Cossette), and her husband, Rob Stein (Jeremy Ellsworth) discover through fictional genetic testing that their unborn child will be healthy, but he will be gay, like Suzanne’s brother, David (Ryan Soukup).

See, the Golds have never fully accepted his sexual orientation.

“David’s family is tolerant of his sexual orientation,” says Soukup, 24, of Fargo. “They don’t fully embrace it, but it is what it is and they just let it be, and they don’t talk about it a lot.”

So, the synopsis explains, Suzanne “must decide whether or not to keep the child and bring him into a world that can be so cruel to what it doesn’t understand.”

The controversial dramedy by playwright Jonathan Tolins first opened more than 20 years ago, but the issues it explores – love, acceptance, sexual orientation, genetic testing and abortion – are still relevant.

In fact, we may not be that far off from finding a link between genetics and homosexuality. Findings shared last month at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science revealed at least two chromosomes found in 409 gay men that may affect a man’s sexual orientation.

Greg Lemke, an openly gay former Moorhead City Council member and Fargo police officer, says society has changed since the play debuted, but families like the Golds continue to have similar struggles.

Lemke, now the director of public safety for Minnesota State University Moorhead, says his coming-out experience to his family as a 20-something in the early 1990s was fairly uneventful, but not everyone has family that’s as readily accepting.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine sometimes the deep conflicts they have,” he says. “It splits families up.”

Later in life, Lemke, 53, of Moorhead, experienced some backlash over his sexual orientation while on the police force, but his conviction and strong sense of self got him through it, something he hopes local LGBTQ youths can find with support from the community.

Partnering with local organizations, Tin Roof has designated Friday at The Stage LGBTQ and Friends Night.

The Moorhead-based Pride Collective and Community Center and Concordia SAGA (Straight and Gay Alliance) will have booths set up, and a portion of the night’s ticket sales will be donated to the Pride Collective as part of Tin Roof’s Artists Give Back program.

Following the performance, a representative from the Pride Collective, a graduate student in North Dakota State University’s family therapy program and a genetic counselor will lead a “talk-back” session with the audience, prompting an interactive discussion about the play’s content.

“Audience members want to know about the actors’ connections to their characters and where they stand on what happens in the show,” Soukup says, adding that the five cast members have different opinions on what happens in the show and what it stands for.

Lemke, who first heard about “The Twilight of the Golds” from a Tin Roof company member, thinks it’ll be well-received, or at least thought-provoking.

“Hopefully it’s just the beginning and more things like this will be done by this group as well as others,” he says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590If you go

What: Tin Roof Theatre Company’s production of “The Twilight of the Golds”

When: 7:30 tonight, tomorrow and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: The Stage at Island Park, 333 4th St. S., Fargo

Tickets: $15; $10 for students and seniors, $8 for groups of 10 or more; call the FMCT Box Office at (701) 235-6778 or reserve online at www.thestageatislandpark.org.