I had the unique opportunity to see an original production, Dear Daddy, Who Art in Heaven, at the Anacostia Playhouse on October 15. The play, written by and starring DC native Trevor Telesz, premiered in Glasgow, Scotland, which Telesz currently calls home after recently graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The story follows a boy who is attempting to reconcile his sexuality with his religious childhood and is suddenly met with the Voice of God speaking directly to him in his bedroom. The writing is incredibly witty and insightful, with a nice balance of hard truths and levity.
The production was in a small black box theater and the set was a simple bedroom layout: a bed with a small nightstand, a chair, and a Christmas tree. The show flowed at a nice pace with no scene changes or blackouts, using chimes to effectively signify the passage of time from one scene to the next.
Telesz as The Boy is charming, relatable, and very real. He conveys the struggle of balancing confidence and pride with the uncertainty and confusion that a religious upbringing can cause for those whose lives don’t align directly with what is considered “right” with the church.
The Voice of God is voiced by Sam Nystrom. This is not your typical God, though. Nystrom conveys the fatherly aspect with patience and authority, while also displaying a (gasp) sense of humor and blatant honesty about how time, interpretation, and intent have skewed His words to mean something other than was originally intended.
Nystrom and Telesz’s interactions vary from serious takes on willpower, faith, and the fundamental importance of unconditional love, to lighthearted moments of pining over a new crush and gaining guidance from the “all-seeing” God on hard-to-reach spots in his nether region while shaving. In time, The Boy and the Voice of God evolve into a truly genuine father and son connection, with The Boy confiding, God consoling, and, above all, God accepting and loving The Boy for who he really is.
Dear Daddy, Who Art in Heaven is a truly lovely piece full of pain, love, and hope. Telesz’s take on God as a more contemporary, adaptive, and blunt being speaks to those who crave a relationship with God but cannot seem to fit into the common social narrative of what that is “supposed” to look like. The work does not attempt to know the truth of God or have any definitive answers to the common struggle of experiencing religion in a heated, prejudiced, and hateful society. Instead, Telesz offers a path to reconciliation and potential inner peace.
I thoroughly enjoyed the production and, as a nonconforming human with an often hostile religious history, found tremendous comfort in Telesz’s interpretation, or rather, hopeful imagining of what God could (and should) actually be. The show had a short run earlier this month, and plans are in the works to produce a longer run in DC, Glasgow, and London in 2024. I look forward to seeing where this production goes and cannot wait for more of the world to experience this new work.
Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Dear Daddy, Who Art in Heaven played on Oct 15, 2023, at the Anacostia Playhouse located at 2020 Shannon Pl SE, Washington, DC. For updates on the play and future productions, visit the author’s Instagram page.
Dear Daddy, Who Art in Heaven
Written by Trevor Telesz
Directed by Calum Dwyer
Produced by Globe Openstage (GO!)
The Boy: Trevor Telesz
The Voice of God: Sam Nystrom