Monday, July 22, 2024
EntertainmentTheatre

Fired gay Catholic teacher (and Broadway actor) speaks out again!

Despite the Pope’s recent approval of blessing for same sex couples, Michael Califano, a teacher in the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island, was fired for being gay this past December.  

Now, Matthew LaBanca will present a benefit performance of his solo show COMMUNION on February 3 at Studio Theater Long Island. The event is designed to continue to spotlight the injustice of Michael’s termination and will raise funds for his legal bills.

Ripped from the headlines, COMMUNION is a one-man show about a gay Catholic school teacher who is fired when the church discovers that he married a man. His termination causes a crisis of faith, not only for himself but for his entire community. Based on the real-life story of Broadway actor and playwright Matthew LaBanca, COMMUNION spotlights themes of delusion, spiritual trauma, and hope, reminding those who would use religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people that the most basic tenet of spiritual life is that we are called to love one another.

COMMUNION was given a highly successful, twice extended developmental production last fall at Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre that became a hot ticket. The play will make its official Off-Broadway debut this fall.

COMMUNION is directed by Kira Simring. It features projection, music and sound by Julianne Merrill; additional projections by Ryan Belock; and set and costumes by Rodrigo Hernandez.

COMMUNION runs Saturday, February 3 at 7pm at Studio Theatre Long Island (141 South Wellwood Avenue, Lindenhurst, NY 11757). Tickets are $30, available at studiotheatrelongisland.com.

Matthew LaBanca performed on Broadway in the original companies of Young Frankenstein, White Christmas, and A Christmas Carol. His solo show Good Enough played Off Broadway at the United Solo Festival, winning the festival’s Best Musical Award in 2014. Matthew’s controversial termination from the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2021 led to a media firestorm, and is the inspiration for his new solo show, Communion. His story is also portrayed in the documentary May All Be Wed, which makes its debut on the film festival circuit this autumn. Matthew’s TV credits include Broad City, Live from Lincoln Center, and the upcoming season of Severance on Apple+. In addition to performing, Matthew is a proud NYC elementary music teacher at PS151 in Woodside, Queens.

Matthew LaBanca

Michael Califano a beloved, well respected and committed 3rd grade teacher at Maria Regina grammar school in Seaford New York was unjustly fired from his job by the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The Diocese made a decision to fire Michael based on his sexuality and nothing else. (The Diocese will of course, deny this.) Michael is devastated not only because he lost his job but he will truly miss his students and the place he called home his whole life. Going foward Michael will be facing some hard times financially keeping up with his everyday bills and paying for medical insurance.

Kira Simring is the Artistic Director of Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre in NYC, where she has developed and directed new works since 2006. Directing credits include the world premieres of What Kind of Woman by Abbe Tanenbaum, The Women Who Rode Away by Natalia Zukerman (the cell and Off the WALL), Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom (Irish Rep), Crackskull Row by Honor Molloy (New York Times Critics’ Pick) and Hard Times: An American Musical by Larry Kirwan (New York Times Critics’ Pick). Kira is a three-time Origin Theatre 1st Irish Award Winner for Best Director.

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