Next Fall

A love story about belief.

Through the relationship between Adam, a life-long atheist, and Luke, a devout Christian, Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts explores the difficulties that arise when two people on opposite sides of the faith spectrum meet and fall in love.

In today’s society, there are clear and distinct lines that dictate how to love. These lines are created by societal norms, religious tenets, and cultural traditions. What happens when strong feelings of love question these lines and threaten to push the boundaries of belief and action?

When a tragic accident occurs in Luke and Adam’s life, family and friends are brought together, all hoping for the same thing, but pulling that hope from different places – memories of the good times, the comfort of a pill bottle, or the words in the Bible. In the confines of a hospital waiting room, different faiths and perspectives collide that ask us to question how we judge love and create connection.

We have asked 4 national and community leaders to present their thoughts on the play, specifically about the intersection of love and religion and the social constraints that define who we are and how we love.

We invite you to read, discuss, and contribute your thoughts.

Our lead contributors will stay the same, and new comments will be added daily.

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Geoffrey Nauffts is an award-winning playwright, actor, and director. He recently concluded a four-year term as artistic director of Naked Angels

There’s great divide that exists in our country – in our world today – along religious lines. I wanted to explore that with this play by taking two individuals from polar opposite ends of the faith spectrum, a believer and a non-believer, having them fall in love with each other, and watching them navigate their differences.

The problem with religion, for me, are the rules. These established, archaic set guidelines that have been passed down for centuries, that don’t allow for much wiggle room when it comes to making your own choices in life. There’s very little crossing the line that’s permitted which makes it close to impossible for people from different faith backgrounds to really connect and understand each other.

As a gay man who didn’t really grow up with religion, I was very aware of the judgment most faiths had towards homosexuality, and was very anti-religion because of that. Why would I want to belong to a club that didn’t accept me as a member?  In recent years, I’ve come to know a group of people who have faith, who come from a Christian background, and found them to be, surprisingly, just very “normal.”  It’s been particularly interesting for me to get to know the gays in the group, to watch as them struggle to live their lives authentically under constraints their religion imposes on them.

We all know people who grew up with religion, and at a certain point in their lives, made the choice to stop believing. I think that’s easier said then done for some people. In the case of Luke, for instance, the gay Christian at the center of my play, he came from a broken home, and religion was his salvation at a very young age. It brought stability to his life, a sense of peace, that he’s never experienced before. To give that up, something that’s meant everything to him, is a sacrifice he’s not willing to make, even if it means potentially losing the only other person he’s loved so deeply.

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Pastor John Syster has been the senior minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sarasota for the past 29 years.

Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.  That was a humorous re-configuration of the old adage that we used back in college days when we would rather do almost anything than write the paper that loomed in the not so distant future.  But it seems sometimes to be a truism of our society.  How are we ever going to deal with new understandings of human sexuality?  What is the point of “don’t ask, don’t tell?”  Let’s not deal with the issue.  Lets tell the next generation of gays and lesbians that they aren’t really normal, they aren’t like us.  We were able to do that for centuries with African Americans, and a lot of people really believed during that time that the color of one’s skin made one less capable, less intelligent.  We know that is nonsense now, but it was also nonsense then.  Society did the same to women and some would say, parts of society still does.

Next Fall takes a look at how putting off until next fall, what should be said and dealt with today affects two men trying to configure a relationship in the midst of their divergent backgrounds and understandings.  What will my parents think, what will my church think, what will …  The immanence of death brings a new factor into the equation and suddenly love wants to be acknowledged in front of everyone.  It was a telling moment when Mom opened wide her arms and embraced her sons lover, welcoming him into her family.  The end of the play brings a lot of hope.  Perhaps it is a moment our whole society can embrace.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the church could become an agent of change instead of a protector of the status quo?

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Rabbi Simon is Chairman of the Robert and Esther Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative Committee of the Sarasota/Manatee Jewish Federation.

“Don’t ask don’t tell” a terrible concept, an insult to the gay and lesbian community.  The worst part of this is those who coined such an idea thought it was the answer to the “problem.”  What kind of answer is this?  Hide your reality?  Never admit to who you are, or if you do keep it ever so private?  Make yourself behave like “normal” people?  It is wrong, totally, completely wrong.  The teachings of Judaism emphasize the sacredness of the individual.  We are ALL created in the image of God.  Thus there is a part of the divine within each and every one of us.  The goal is for individuals to be who they are.  Live your life as you choose.  To do this we must all be true to ourselves.  My eyes are brown; does that make me “different” from those blue eyed people?  My friend is six feet three inches tall; does that make him better than my wife who is five feet three?  We are who we are, and we all have the right to live and to love as we choose.  I have chosen my wife because she means  everything to me.  John has chosen Larry because he means everything to him.  Yet, for many, my selection is acceptable, but John’s is not.  “You draw the line at love?”  I would hope not.  In fact why draw the line at all?   What we need is respect for the individual and for his/her decisions in life.  Today respect has become an almost forgotten concept.  It is replaced with the maxim agree with me, for I am right.  Such cannot win the day.  Respect for each and every individual is a must.  Paying deference to what one believes, even when it is contrary to another’s belief, equals respect, equals understanding, equals community building.  If you have it, you have everything.  If you lack it, you harm yourself and life itself.  “Don’t ask don’t tell” must give way to accept and share; then you can live in harmony.  Then you can live with hope.

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Paul White, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice. He sees children as well as adults. Also, he has taught at Webster University in their Masters Degree program for Counseling.

Over and over again in my practice, when I work with same gender couples there is the refrain of wishing they had been able to be more open about their sexual orientation. The secrecy impacts self-esteem, spontaneity, honesty, and closeness, not only with the partner, but with all associations that might and still cast criticism or rejection of their very nature.  The real sin is how society still insists upon convention and conformity to heterosexual unions.  Two people of the same gender that want to present themselves openly still face the jaunted looks of many who do not accept or support this way of life and the sin is that it effects quality of life of the objects of condemnation and prejudice. And when convention rules, the same gender couples suffer. This is yet another example of the impact of carrying a secret. Yes, we do have some states that legally recognize the legal unions of same gender marriages. There is still ample evidence of how “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies have left people feeling not good enough in the eyes of the law and the codes of morality. This play challenges us to view our own prejudices and learn to value the intimate connections people make without our judgment and rejection. True equality in our culture demands that we not allow prejudice to prevail at any level of participation in society.  There are so many challenges around accepting differences.  What a paradox that Luke prays after having sex.  The very nature of his belief system undermines his intimate connection.

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ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE DISCUSSION

Post comments below or submit a formal post to Amanda Cayo at acayo@floridastudiotheatre.org. All comments are subject to the editorial discretion of Florida Studio Theatre. Material will only be included that contributes to the discussion. 

8 responses to “Next Fall

  1. Whether it leans toward comedy or tragedy, over all, the play is a mystery to me.
    The playwright didn’t grow up in a religious household, therefore one would surmise that his fascination is toward the type and the political environment of the nation. He said he envies the fulfilling faith of the believer, which, as flattering a statement as that may be, still leaves me with the consideration of the title. We all know that the “next fall” is not, in all actuality, a reference to the next time Luke would be able to see his brother, but it may very well reference three other falls looming in the language of the play: the falling in love, the falling for a lie, or the fall from grace by man. The latter two might just be contemptible enough to consider outweighing the first one, for we may see the playwright as saying that here’s another one biting the proverbial dust and buying into the lies of Christianity; and therefore doomed to accept the fall from grace inherited by man, out of which the believer is fated to accept that the rest of his life should be an endless search and pursuit for purification in thought and action according to the teachings of the book. Yes, the same old lie dressed up in new dramatic thematics.

    Yet, if it is about the fall from Grace, about the Will to reach out to God and have the Grace to receive him, the play puts the same-sex-relationship in a context and tradition adjoining that of the majority; not merely in a tolerant or accepting way, but in a participatory capacity. This is quite commendable, to say the least. In spite of my initial apprehensions regarding the title, perhaps what it’s saying is that this neglected segment of the population is just as reliably capable of participating in the religious “underpinnings” of the first relationship and its cast off from Eden.

    In the play, they mention an experiment with a mouse, which in the absence of human contact growing up, simply sat in the corner and shook for the rest of its life, “You tell someone ‘no’ long enough and they start believing it.” Hence, the disbelief developed from ignorance, monstrous injustice permitted, denial and exile from a family or church, the silence of God… Adam expected Luke to one day leave him, deny him his love, because of their difference in age, worldview, belief. You tell someone “no” long enough and they’ll start believing that they don’t deserve love, be it the love of God or that of another human being. Is it a punishment? That’s what Adam figured AIDS was, the result of loveless, lustful sodomy. But such is not the case, not with Luke, who seeks a love away from the shadows of Brandon. Yet this play, ultimately, will not be denied. It carries too much faith, like Luke – the experience is universal.

    A point of contention surrounds Luke’s practice of praying after sex. From the queer perspective, it might, to a degree, be self-loathing and “self-loathing by association” in the part of Adam. What people don’t understand is that other people of the same faith would not expect him to do that, it is something born of Luke to help himself deal with an irreconcilable doctrine, whose terms everyone has a distinct way of dealing with. Is there a reason why one can’t just have a fetus removed like a cyst? Or kill a man in self-defense without feeling guilt? As lawful as all these things are, our lives are not merely made up of the physical and the logical laws that govern us.

    I would like to think that this play is about the transference or reemergence of faith. About how it is an experience given by God through others. For the first time, Adam had walked Holly all the way to 75th street. She always wanted him to, expected him to, but he never would. She always wished to feel safe, but was on her own after a certain point. Likewise, faith is transferred from God to being through miracle, and from one being to another through the faith in your fellow men.

  2. Renee….Once again, medical teams cannot make decisions about who to allow to visit a patient and who should be making end-of-life decisions. That person is either designated in a durable power of attorney for healthcare or dictated by state law. That is the reason EVERYONE needs to complete a legal advance directive to name the person you want to be your healthcare surrogate. Don’t leave it up to state law…make the decision yourself, make it now, and put it in writing in a legal document.

  3. When I finally realized that the play was going back and forth in time, I was very emotional. I was crying at the end of the play, really crying. How sad that a loved one is refused admittance to a hospital room simply because the loved one is not “related”. If love does not make a relationship, then what does?

    Well acted.

  4. As healthcare ethicist who specializes in helping people prepare their advance directives and a frequent speaker on the need for advance directives, I believe this play underscores the critical importance of those in the GLBT community to have durable power of attorney for healthcare documents identifying who will make medical decisions when the individual cannot make them for himself. It broke my heart that the partner was not considered part of the “family” and was not included in making any critical decisions about the end-of-life care. None of us likes to think about dying, but no one knows what might happen when we least expect it — as shown in this play.

  5. Formal post submitted by:

    Joan Lowery

    “Next Fall,” is an incredibly powerful play. It left me crying and stunned at the rawness and truths it so elegantly delivered.

    We all have so many “isms” that get in the way of being, don’t we? This play really captured that. It reminded me of the Beatles song, “And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.” (also actually written, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”)

    The language of the play was very beautiful and bold. I especially liked the way the mother intuitively wanted to remember the scene in “Our Town” where the deceased young woman comes back to observe her fellow townspeople and realizes how little attention we pay to the preciousness and fragility of life.

    The direction kept weaving and weaving, climbing and climbing until the crescendo of Luke’s death leads to everyone putting aside their individual “reality boxes” and, for a while at least, they allow themselves to feel the true love and preciousness of their relationship with Luke…beyond judgments and societal/religious veils.
    What a play.

  6. To me the dialog made it seem that Adam was anti-Christian more than an atheist. The impression was constant.

  7. As a Catholic Christian, I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone wrote a play about a gay, fundamentalist Christian and gave it a positive outcome! What I saw was a loving young man who was very conflicted about his circumstances, but did not reject God. His devout belief and love ultimately brought the people he loved to accept each other AND to be open to accepting God as well. Luke accepted God’s invitation to make his life a journey to perfection, a difficult road for us all which requires only that we do our best along the way- that’s what’s pleasing to God.

  8. I would love to see and hear the perspective from a theologian that understands Christianity from the origin of Scripture and how that applies to our lives today. Many Biblical Christians believe in the authority of the Word of God and are relieved to see how it guides all of us sinners with its inerrant moral compass. I saw the play. I did not like it for many reasons. But this subject is one that couldnt be brought to conclusion in the two hours of this theatre. I believe that all people are sinful and the Bible makes that very clear. I believe that we shouldnt categorize sin as one is worse than another. Clearly, Luke’s understanding of Christianity and apparent ‘born again’ reality allowed him to be not into the ‘image of God’ but he became a “child of God” which clearly differentiated him from the others. His faith journey is filled with sinful actions (like us all).. the difference for him is repentance and forgiveness … God’s mercies are new every morning for true children of God. I would like to see and hear more from Christian perspective based on inerrancy of Scripture not just man’s version of situational Christianity

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