‘Fun Home’ Scribe Lisa Kron on Lansing Upbringing, LGBT Awakening

Jun 2, 2017

The 2015 Tony for Best Musical, Score, and Book went to the show Fun Home, which opens at the Wharton Center next week. The show was also co-written by Lansing-native Lisa Kron, who sat down with our very own Jamie Paisley.

Jamie Paisley (JP): Lisa Kron, thanks very much for joining us here at WKAR.

Lisa Kron (LK): Thank you, I"m very happy to be here.

JP: Fun Home is your first kind of musical attempt, with the exception of something that you did here in Lansing for Purim.

LK: [Laughing] Right, I did — My father was one of the founders of Congregation Kehillat Israel, and we, umm, my Hebrew school class and cohorts, we did a lot of, I would say still very remembered Purim plays. I don't want to use the word 'legendary,' but people still talk about them.

JP: You grew up and you graduated from Everett High School.

LK: Yeah.

JP: And you grew up in West Lansing and that story, I think it's very interesting about why they [your parents] chose that area.

LK: Yeah, I mean, my family moved here in the '60s, and my parents were looking to buy a house. They didn't really have any money. That was one thing, but also my mother was very interested in us growing up in a very racially integrated community, and the west side of Lansing at that point was in the process of being block busted, you know? It was being converted from an exclusively white neighborhood. There was still covenants on houses then that said, you know, "whites only." To clearly on its way to being an all black neighborhood in the way that was manipulated by outside forces and my mom started talking to other neighbors and they formed this organization called the Westside Neighborhood Association which was really the, you know, the backdrop of my entire childhood and the neighborhood is still a stable, racially integrated neighborhood.

JP: So, socially progressive, did they know that you were, umm, a lesbian before you did?

LK: Umm, no.

JP: You know what I mean?

LK: I do, yeah. No, I was more like a, you know, I was like a weird grandmotherly antique collecting child, I think, more than being a sporty girl, or you know, I was kind of a booky, nerdy girl.

[A section from "Ring of Keys" from the musical Fun Home]

JP: You have in Fun Home, that moment of epiphany of self-realization with 'Ring of Keys.'

LK: Yeah.

JP: What was— what was your moment, and did that tie into that writing process?

LK: You know, I wouldn't say that I had that kind of a moment. There were other things that were more, you know, when [Fun Home co-writer] Jeanine Tesori and I were working on adapting Alison Bechdel's story Fun Home, Jeanine has said 'It's hard to tell sometimes which one of our childhoods make up the thing that we made.' But for me, I think it was more, I went to Kalamazoo College, and I was involved in the, umm, well, it was called the Women's Interest Group, or WIG. And so what, I think, as I was writing those scenes that take place for Alison in Oberlin College, I was definitely picturing my experiences at Kalamazoo College. You know, that dorm room, Alison's dorm room in my mind was my dorm groom at K-College. And the Gay Union in, in Alison's book was the WIG room in my experience. So, I think those were more the parallels that were really useful to me in writing the piece."

We’ve been chatting with Lisa Kron, Lansing-native & co-author of the Best Musical Tony-winner Fun Home which opens at East Lansing’s Wharton Center this Tuesday June 6th and runs through the 11th.

You can find WKAR's extended interviews with Lisa Kron via the links below this page.