Michael Mitchell was Plan-B’s board chair from 2003-2005, while he was also the Executive Director of Equality Utah. He is also the former Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats and is currently the Director of Communications for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, DC. He shares his thoughts on Plan-B’s LGBTQ work as part of Give OUT Day.
I had been living in NYC for many years and found myself returning home to Utah in the early 2000’s. I somehow found myself on the Plan-B Theatre board, which turned out be one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life.
Being a former actor, I love the theatre and deeply appreciate how art shapes and changes culture. It’s no secret that Utah has a particular – and one could successfully argue, conservative – culture. Plan-B has been a life-giving and, I would go so far as to say, lifesaving counterbalance.
I say “lifesaving” because I have no doubt in my mind that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks in the Intermountain West seeing themselves on stage – as human, flawed, heroic, humorous and necessary – has shattered deadly loneliness every moment the actors walk on stage. MY LEFT BREAST (2002) saved lives. It was acted with sharp grace and heartbreaking humor, reminding us that cancer doesn’t care about sexual orientation. When Plan-B announced that it was going to do HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2003 and then revived in 2005 and 2012), I’ll admit I had my doubts that it would do the original justice (having seen it several times during the NY run, including opening night); I knew it would literally rock Utah, but could it live up to my expectations? In hindsight, I realize how ridiculous I was thinking that. Plan B has been creating stunning productions for years, and HEDWIG took that standard and blew it out of the water. The 2003 production remains one of the seminal cultural experiences of my life to this day.
Plan-B’s commitment to LGBT plays and characters is on its own a huge gift. Coupling that with a long-standing commitment to Utah playwrights and themes ingeniously centers the work where it makes an incredible difference – in the hearts of people at home. It changed my life.