For our end-of-year giving campaign, East West Players (EWP) presents stories from our diverse community of supporters, who share about their involvement and why they give to support EWP.

La Cage Aux Folles: A Powerful Revival

by Steven Llanusa

Steven Llanusa (far right) with husband Glenn Miya (second from left) at their son’s wedding.

As a gay college student in the 80s, I saw La Cage Aux Folles, the French movie. I was inspired to be a gay dad in part because of the same-sex couple raising a son.

In 1999, California laws changed so that a same-sex couple could jointly adopt children. My partner Glenn Miya (now husband) and I were one of the first couples to benefit from this law when we adopted our three foster sons. It is odd to be considered trailblazers when Glenn and I are “blazing” a trail parallel to the journey our parents, grandparents, etc. have trod.

Seeing this year’s revival of La Cage Aux Folles at East West Players was the fourth time I had seen the musical. The pre-show activities and performances both outside the theatre and during the overture made for one of the best immersive environments. The production was so good that we stayed for the talkback.

One of the comments made during the talk back was about whether La Cage Aux Folles could be considered dated or irrelevant. It made me realize that what may be dated for some is essential for others (like Glenn and me). I hope I didn’t embarrass myself by barely getting my question out. My family is used to me being so emotional. As I tell them, “Strong people feel strongly.”

I was emotional because Glenn and I were preparing for our own La Cage experience. Our youngest son, who is in the Navy, was getting married in Virginia a month later, where we would meet the bride’s parents—two Navy officers from a conservative background. Like the Georges and Albin characters, we felt nervous about the outcome.

Back to the point about relevancy: I work with high school students as a Key Club liaison for Kiwanis. I’m also an openly gay school board member for Claremont and often interact with the Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) at high schools. Gay contemporaries of mine tell me that because of all the positive LGBT portrayals in the media, it seems easy for kids to be gay today.

I explain to them, “While it may be easier for kids now compared to when we were their age, it is not easy.” Shows like La Cage Aux Folles help portray the spectrum of gay experiences that are accurate today.

The leadership and insights at East West Players touch so many communities. Great theatre is both entertaining and cathartic. This is why I give money to support EWP—and urge you to do the same—because telling stories while showing our stories is the hallmark of great art, which EWP does so wonderfully.

BIO
Steven Llanusa has been attending live theater since his childhood when his parents took him and three siblings to plays. He met his husband Glenn when they were students at UCLA in 1984. They became foster parents in 1994 and adopted three sons in 1999. Steven is an elementary teacher and supporter of arts education as a member of ACTIVATE, an arts advocacy leadership program of Arts for LA.

Production images of East West Players’ musical production, La Cage Aux Follesby Michael Lamont (2016).