Whether it's his seventh grade production of "Annie" or playing Sweeney Todd at Miami, Al Oliver III loves theatre.
As a theatre major with a musical theatre minor and acting workshop chair of Stage Left, theatre practically consumes his life.
"I just wanted to do as much as I could," Al said of his first theatre experience, the aforementioned production of "Annie."
At first glance, you wouldn't imagine a colorful character like Al -- with his high-waisted shorts and bubble-gum pink, mermaid-shell crop top -- would be the mastermind behind Stage Left's turn to the dark side. The dark side of musical theatre, that is.
Nov. 8-10, Stage Left will be putting on a production of "Bare: A Pop Opera," a show that surrounds a young, gay couple and their classmates at a Catholic high school who face a variety of obstacles. "Bare," in Al's words, is "truly tragic."
Al describes the show as a "serious mood shift, especially from last year," referring to productions like "Cry Baby" and "Bend, Tear, and Spindle" which were grounded in comedy, as many other previous Stage Left productions have been.
To this, Al responded, "It can be good to change things up, and it's good for audiences who are familiar with the 'fun stuff' to see."
Not only does this show portray darkness and tragedy, it is grounded in reality.
"I saw myself in this show," Al said. "The words, they were singing -- those are things I said to myself in high school."
After speaking with friends about coming out and how that fit into his family's religious beliefs, a friend told him this show was what he needed. Al had previous interest in directing, but had such a personal connection to this show that he knew he had to direct it.
For all, the importance of this show goes beyond himself.
"Having had such a personal connection, I want the actors to find how they fit into this story," Al said.
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The show deals with high-stakes issues like reconciling one's sexuality with religion or teenage pregnancy, as well as more universal struggles, like insecurity in one's appearance or how to communicate with your parents.
"Every character is struggling, and these are relatable struggles," Al said. "Every story is important."
Like many theater-goers, students may be looking for an escape in this show, but they will actually be entering a story that hits much closer to home.
Al hopes the show provides "catharsis" for the audience, and that "they can connect to these characters and experience an emotional release."