A group of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school faces issues of sexuality and personal identity. As they struggle to come to terms with who they are, and who the world thinks they should be, they seek answers from their Church, their friends, and ultimately, from within themselves. Its rich, vibrant score draws on many styles of contemporary music.
It is the Feast of the Epiphany, and Mass is being held at St. Cecilia’s boarding school to welcome students back from Christmas break. Peter, an altar boy, falls asleep during the Priest’s homily and drifts into a nightmare in which he is “outed” by statues of saints, his mother, and his classmates (“Epiphany”). On his way to class after Mass, Peter finds his roommate and clandestine boyfriend, Jason, who tries to assuage Peter’s frustration about their relationship (“You and I”). Peter asks Jason to audition for the senior play, a production of Romeo and Juliet, so they can spend more time together, but Jason refuses. The bell rings without Peter getting his desired kiss, and as he watches Jason walk away, Peter reflects on their relationship (“Role of a Lifetime”). At auditions that afternoon, Sister Chantelle, the school’s no-nonsense drama teacher, is underwhelmed by the acting candidates—until Jason surprises Peter by showing up (“Auditions”). Jason and Matt, another altar boy, battle for the role of Romeo. Sister Chantelle awards the role to Jason, and Ivy, the senior class’s most beautiful girl, is his Juliet. Peter is Mercutio, Matt is Tybalt, and Jason’s acerbic twin sister, Nadia, is cast as the nurse. Jason stays to console his sister, who wanted the role of Juliet (“Plain Jane Fat Ass”). She opens a letter she’s received from their father, revealing that Jason has been accepted to Notre Dame, his first choice of schools.
In study hall, Matt tries to plan a small surprise gathering for Ivy’s birthday while Lucas, St. Cecilia’s resident party boy, tries to recruit everyone to go to a rave (“Wonderland”). In his best white boy rap, Lucas introduces the students to two drugs: K and GHB. The night of the rave, Nadia decides not to go, after seeing the skimpy attire on Ivy and the attention it’s generating from Matt. When everyone leaves without her, Nadia takes out her cello and spends another quiet night by herself (“A Quiet Night at Home”). At the rave, Peter dances closer to Jason while Ivy dances closer to Matt (“Rolling”). As Peter goes in for a public kiss, Jason pulls him outside. They argue over the nature of their relationship, Peter wanting to be more open, Jason telling him that the rave is different from school (“Best Kept Secret”). Peter finally gets his kiss; it’s not public, but it is, unbeknownst to them, witnessed by Matt.
The following morning, the groggy students gather for their least favorite St. Cecilia’s activity: confession (“Confession”). Peter comes close to telling the Priest how he feels, and Matt comes even closer to telling him what he saw. At first rehearsal that afternoon, Sister Chantelle realizes she has her work cut out for her. During a break, Nadia jokes about Ivy’s promiscuity, causing Ivy to reflect on the image the students have of her (“Portrait of a Girl”). The intimate party Matt was planning to impress Ivy gets commandeered by Nadia, who turns it into a full-scale bash (“Birthday Bitch!”). Peter stuffs his face with brownies, not realizing they’re pot brownies, and begins flirting openly with Jason. Ivy, drunk, also flirts openly with Jason, and when Jason chooses Ivy over Peter to protect his image, Peter storms off. Ivy dismisses Matt’s advances, concentrating her energy on landing Jason. She asks for a kiss for her birthday, and Jason reluctantly agrees (“One Kiss”). Both Matt and Peter retreat to the solace of the church’s chapel, where they ask God for answers (“Are You There?”). Matt then seizes the opportunity to ask about the “nature” of Peter’s relationship with Jason. Peter, still high from the brownies, confesses all to Matt, desperate to talk about his confusion. When Matt abruptly leaves, Peter realizes what he has done, but is stopped when he has a second “vision” in the church: Mother Mary, appearing in the guise of Sister Chantelle. She and her two angel sidekicks tell Peter it’s time to tell his mother his secret (“911! Emergency”).
At rehearsal the following day, Jason and Matt’s fight scene turns real, and they have to be separated (“Reputation Stain’d”). Peter tells Jason about the vision he had, and that he wants Jason to go home with him over spring break so Peter can tell his mother about them. Jason’s had enough, and breaks up with Peter (“Ever After”). As students pack to go home for spring break, Nadia sings a self-penned ode to spring (“Spring”). Peter leaves wordlessly with his mother, as Ivy shows up at Jason’s dorm to apologize for throwing herself at him at her party. When Jason suggests that he enjoyed kissing her, Ivy goes in for more, and Jason gives in. As Peter misses Jason, Matt pines for Ivy, and Nadia begs to be noticed, Jason has sex with Ivy in his dorm room, hoping this is the right thing to do (“One”).
Act Two opens in the church, where the scene is set for an elaborate gay wedding. Peter is dreaming again, this time about making his relationship with Jason official (“Wedding Bells”). After Mass, class ranks are posted; Jason has once again bested Matt, walking away with the valedictorian spot. Ivy wonders why Jason hasn’t called, telling him that she has, for the first time, fallen in love (“Touch My Soul”). Jason, realizing that Ivy is describing the exact feelings he has for Peter, breaks things off, devastating her. Peter phones his mother to finally tell her his secret. But she won’t let him say the words, continually changing the subject (“See Me”). She hangs up on him, but she knows what he wanted to tell her. Alone, she wonders how to deal with what to her is a confusing and earth-shattering revelation (“Warning”).
With two weeks to go before the show, Ivy misses yet another rehearsal, claiming illness. Sister Chantelle asks the understudy to read with Jason, but she can’t remember her lines. Peter steps in, and for a moment, all is perfect, as he dances with Jason (“Pilgrims’ Hands”). Ivy finally shows up, breaking the spell. Sister Chantelle cancels rehearsal, and tells the students they are on their own for rehearsing—she’s through. Ivy begs Jason to talk to her, and he agrees to meet her before the student-led rehearsal that evening. As students move to exit, Sister Chantelle tells Peter to stay. She knows what’s bothering him—and tells him that he’s exactly as God intended him to be (“God Don’t Make No Trash”). When Nadia returns to the dorm room, she confronts Ivy about missing rehearsal, assuming she’s moping about Jason breaking up with her. They argue, and Ivy reveals the true reason she’s been missing rehearsal: she’s pregnant (“All Grown Up”). Ivy leaves and finds Jason practicing his valedictory address in the auditorium, and there she tells him her news. As Jason reels from the revelation, he wonders whether this is exactly what he wanted all along. He tells Ivy that maybe he does, in fact, love her, but at that moment, Matt steps out of the wings and reveals Jason and Peter’s relationship. Peter shows up, then Nadia, and then the entire cast is revealed, having heard everything (“Promise”).
With nowhere to turn, Jason goes to the priest to ask the question that has tormented him for years—does God still love him? When Jason presses the priest for an answer, the priest ultimately condemns him (“Cross”). Jason returns to his dorm room and watches Peter sleeping peacefully (“Once Upon a Time”). As the students lead vocal warm-ups for the show, Lucas passes out their afterparty drug orders (“Two Households”). As the show is about to begin, Jason pulls Peter aside and makes a plea: run away with him. Peter tells Jason he’s done running. Jason nods, knowing it’s finished; just before going on, he takes a lethal dose of GHB. As everyone moves into place, Jason pulls Peter aside to tell him he loves him; the share a final kiss (“Bare”), and the play begins.
As the play unfolds, Jason becomes increasingly disoriented. During the Queen Mab speech, he loses his place completely and begins to hallucinate (“Queen Mab”); this segues into the masked ball scene, where Jason has increasing difficulty keeping time as the players switch partners, and he collapses, reaching for Peter as he dies (“Glooming Peace”). Peter visits the confessional, confronting the Priest about his final visit with Jason. The Priest asks Peter for forgiveness, which Peter grants (“Absolution”). At graduation, Peter, Matt, Ivy and Nadia struggle to process Jason’s death, trying to understand it and wondering whether they could have prevented it. As the senior class of St. Cecilia’s graduates, the chorus of students crescendos and they move forward into a world that offers more questions than answers (“No Voice”).
Book by JON HARTMERE and DAMON INTRABARTOLO Music by DAMON INTRABARTOLO Lyrics by JON HARTMERE
“bare” received its world premiere staging at the Hudson Mainstage Theater, Hollywood, California on October 14, 2000. Produced by God Help! Productions (Danny Feldman, Eric Anderson, Daniel A. Miles, Damon Intrabartolo & Kristin Hanggi), John Ottman & Donnie Land.
Directed by Kristin Hanggi. Original Los Angeles concert reading directed by Mischa Pfister in June, 1999.
7 female and 8 male featured roles, plus an expandable chorus
JASON: handsome golden child of St. Cecilia’s senior class
PETER: introspective, Jason’s clandestine boyfriend
IVY: pretty, popular, insecure
NADIA: Jason’s pudgy, sardonic twin sister
MATT: studious, pious, Jason’s academic rival
LUCAS: The school’s fun-loving purveyor of altered reality
TANYA: Lucas’s girlfriend
KYRA: student, sexy
DIANE: student, very naive
RORY: student, sarcastic
ZACK: student, jock type
ALAN: student, nerdy
CLAIRE: Peter’s mother
SR. CHANTELLE: African-American nun, wise, no-nonsense
PRIEST: St. Cecilia’s headmaster
ADDITIONAL STUDENTS: three male, three female