Trevor, a man with lizard skin resulting from an unusual childhood incident, goes on a Grindr date, encounters an old classmate, and must prepare to be a hero—through a journey of acceptance and empowerment. This is Lizard Boy, a three-hander American musical making its Fringe debut this year. "It's a queer comic-book-meets-superhero origin story, romantic comedy, and coming-of-age tale," said playwright, composer, lyricist, and star Justin Huertas.
Playbill Goes Fringe correspondents Margaret Hall and Leah Putnam sat down with Huertas, who plays Trevor, as well as co-stars William A. Williams, who plays Cary, and Kirsten "Kiki" DeLohr, who plays Siren. The three spoke about the process of developing the show over the past nine years, comic book inspirations, and modern myths.
What is the origin story of Lizard Boy?
Justin Huertas: It’s so funny, because I feel like Lizard Boy started from childhood. But, out of college, I did a show at Seattle Rep with then-Artistic Director Jerry Manning. He commissioned me to write a show, not knowing whether I could. He just trusted I could come up with something and paired me with a wonderful playwright named Andrea Allen. Eventually, in all of our explorations, I came up with this concept of a guy with lizard skin who is very comfortable with his sexuality as a queer man, but not comfortable at all with his lizard skin. From there, I started writing songs, and then I brought on William and Kiki. Eventually, we brought on Brandon Ivey on as our director.
William A. Williams: To see where it’s come, having built it up to a longer show and then chop it back down for Fringe, it’s been great.
Kiki DeLohr: When Justin first brought us on, I don't think any of us knew what we were getting into because it was still being created. I think coming into a room where the possibilities, the options, and the creativity is endless with no one saying, “Stop, stop being so creative,” it’s been so freeing. We also discovered new skills that each of us has. I knew Bill before, but I did not know that he could beatbox, and then one day he was just messing around, and we were like, “Put it in the show!”
Who are your comic book artist and superhero inspirations?
Huertas: I grew up on Jack Kirby. There's Jorge Molina, and I think he's amazing, his art is so cool. When you see Lizard Boy, you may notice there is some inspiration from the Scott Pilgrim series. So, Bryan Lee O'Malley is also a huge inspiration for me
DeLohr: I always used to say Xena [from Xena: Warrior Princess]. Now, I would also like to add Wanda Maximoff.
Williams: My favorite growing up was definitely Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And there's artists now who I love, this illustrator Ryan Brown and writer Charles Soule, they have this one called Eight Billion Genies. It's so funny and silly.
Looking back, can you tell us what Lizard Boy has taught you about yourself and what you hope it teaches others?
Huertas: I wrote Trevor when I was in the middle of his journey, personally. I was writing it, not really understanding that I was expressing my feelings of isolation and ostracization from being a brown person growing up in white spaces. It really wasn't until the first production when people of color were coming up to me saying, “It really meant something to me to see you up there as a superhero.” That’s when I realized I was still on this journey. And I feel like I'm kind of on the other side of it now.
So, I would say all the things that make you you are yours, and no one can take that away from you. It’s up to you to stand there, and be a beacon of hope to other people who don't feel like they're ready to stand there yet.
What should audiences new to the show know about it?
DeLohr: Come play with us! I think something that I love a lot about Lizard Boy is that it makes me laugh and it makes me cry.
Williams: Definitely throw any preconceptions away. I don't want to say it's not serious, there are serious topics. But, it's a comedy, so have fun!
Huertas: It's been really wonderful seeing how different the people are that connect to the story, how diverse the audiences are. It’s really important to me that people can see themselves in Trevor, because there's so much of that journey we really need to reckon with—being insecure about something and then finding your way around to loving it, loving all the things that make you who you are. One thing I love about Lizard Boy is it is a myth. It's a modern myth, and myths are there to find a magical way to show you deeper things about the human experience.