The Multiple Selves of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

If you watched the Tony Awards last night, or have even perused arts blogs or news articles, you know that the musical Fun Home won Best Musical last night. And if you know your graphic novels, you’ll know that Fun Home is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel.

I really can’t tell you how much I love Fun Home the graphic novel. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the intimacy of the graphic novel format works extremely well for memoirs. The visual, paneled format allows the author/artist to explore multiple versions of herself, a feat which Bechdel does seamlessly in this title. You see multiple versions of Bechdel as she works through her own sexuality and her memories of her complicated relationship with her father.

What I never thought of, however, was how difficult it would be to adapt these multiple selves to almost any other format. How do you take something so personal and layered and give it to multiple actors? The fact that the musical version of Fun Home seems to accomplish this is astounding, and makes me want to fly to New York immediately to see it. I remember reading an article in the New York Times about this adaption, in which the three actresses who portray Bechdel are described as studying Bechdel (to the point of sleeping in her childhood home) and portraying her in an eerily accurate way.

Last night, the performance of “Ring of Keys” from the musical gave just a taste of this presentation of multiple selves. Take a look, and seriously, read the graphic novel and listen to the musical!


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