With his patented "Donny Osmond smile," Steven Fales is no stranger to captivating audiences with his charm and wit. In 2006, his poignantly searing solo play Confessions of a Mormon Boy had its New York City premiere at the Soho Playhouse. Likewise, he made his New York cabaret debut at Joe's Pub with Mormon American Princess. This month, the deft storyteller and celebrated solo performer returns to the city that never sleeps with the world premiere of his latest solo comedy show, titled Cult Model (which runs at the Laurie Beechman Theatre from October 15 through 23).
In the cabaret-like show, Fales examines human susceptibility to cult mentality with hefty doses of humor, singing, improv, and even (yes, you've been warned) audience participation. As a former candidate for poster boy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Fales has an intimate understanding of cult mentality. Yet, Mormons aren't alone here. "There's kind of like a Kinsey-scale of cults," Fales tells Out. "Some cults are really benign, like the Episcopal Church. So, organized religion is kind of a one, and it goes all the way up to ISIS, which would be a seven."
Religion is not the only way that people fall for cults though. "We're going to go down paths of stuff you might not expect, including the cult of romance and love," Fales says. "Even in our quest for love we can get taken in." Yet, he won't be stopping at or in the name of love. With Cult Model, he will also explore the cult of the sex industry and where human trafficking is showing up in America.
Fales is 14 years free from the sex industry, but this topic is one he is very passionate about. "I want to talk about our young men who are being exploited in sex trafficking rings that haven't been p.c. to talk about," he says. "The homeless youth are very susceptible to being picked off and literally sold."
While this all sounds heavy, Fales' Cult Model promises to explore these sensitive topics in ways that will get audiences both laughing and thinking. How will he make corruption comical? "We'll see," he responds coyly. "I can't help but get deep, so my comedy has to lift the serious themes," which will include human trafficking, the cult of personality, the GOP, and "the cult of Obama," just to name a few.
Of course, Fales is no way attempting to be prude with Cult Model. Where would be the fun in that? "We all have sex work secrets to one degree or another," he teases. "I am in the position to shed light on something that is going on, that I think we need to look at." So, he will use his platform to talk about improving all lives. "In this age of marriage equality, I am really more concerned about marriage quality and the quality of our lives," he explains. "I am concerned about the quality of our lives versus the quantity of our rights."
Improving quality of life isn't just something Fales wants to talk about. He's putting his money where his mouth is (so to speak) by raising funds for a 501c3 tax exempt organization called The Possibility Foundation, which exists to give sex workers who want to get out of the business scholarships for their dreams. "I remember when I was getting out that I was very vulnerable," Fales says. "It was not only my change of heart that made me want to get out, but I had some professors give me grant money to basically buy myself a month of time." In that month, he managed to write Confessions of a Mormon Boy. "I literally wrote myself out of the gutter," he explains. Unfortunately, there are no preexisting agencies or grant opportunities for people trying to get out of the sex industry, which motived Fales to begin creating The Possibility Foundation.
Cult Model isn't the last New York will see of Fales. He has been successfully touring the nation with his full Mormon Boy Trilogy (Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Missionary Position, and Prodigal Dad), and he is currently shopping the whole cycle to New York venues. Unlike his initial 2006 Off-Broadway run, thanks to Book of Mormon, there now appears to be a market for Mormon stories on the stage, and Fales plans to bring his real-life tales of Mormon experiences to New York stages in the fall of 2016, just in time for the 10-year anniversary of Confessions of a Mormon Boy Off-Broadway. So get ready for more confessionary tales than you ever dreamed were possible.
Cult Model runs October 15 - 23 at Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC. For tickets visit SpinCycleNYC.com