by Craig Houk
On the evening of Sunday, June 24th, 1973, thirty-two men perished in a fire at The Upstairs Lounge, a sanctuary bar for working-class homosexual men in New Orleans. On that same evening, several blocks north, nearly a dozen women, including a gifted young nursing student, Sydney (Syd) Trahan, were taken into custody and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct for dancing together at Brady’s, a notorious lesbian bar in the French Quarter. Hopeful that the deadly fire and the controversy surrounding its multiple victims might overshadow Syd’s arrest, Bud, a reputable blacksmith, and Helen, a God-fearing woman, do everything in their power to curtail the impact of their daughter’s transgression on their seemingly near perfect lives.
- Cast Size: 2M 3W
- Running Time: 90+ minutes
- Royalty Rate: $75 per performance
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About the Playwright
Craig Houk is a D.C. based Playwright, Producer, Actor & Director. His original full-length play, COLD RAIN, was awarded Best Drama and named one of Best of Festival at Capital Fringe 2018. Craig’s other plays include SYD, BRUTE FARCE, RADIATOR, THE RELUCTANT HEN, ONE OF THEM, and three play anthologies: TETHERED, LOST IN PLACE, and SOLITAIRE SIX PACK. As a general rule, Craig writes to entertain. And in the process, he does his best to write strong characters with compelling stories to tell; characters that actors might yearn to play and stories that audiences might yearn to see and hear. Craig is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
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Too many people interpret “made in God’s image” as “God hates the same people we do.” Almost half a century later there are still parents who reject their children, believing that is what God would have them do, and children who are forced to separate themselves from those who should love them. Craig Houk explores these family dynamics in a dramatic and relatable way that will prompt audiences to reconsider their own relationships. The play reads well and would be impactful on stage. Highly recommended.
One of the many powerful elements of this atmospheric and haunting play is the tenuous bonds parents have with their children becoming their own person, away from the life that the parents envisioned them. In Craig Houk’s skillful hands we see two families deal with their gay children in very different ways, made even more intense by tragedy and recrimination. The moments between a father struggling to understand his daughter, and a mother trying to understand what God has placed before her are achingly crafted, lyrical, and genuine. I would love to see this play produced again and again.
I know every single person here, including those who do not appear on stage. I knew them in 1973, I knew them in 1997, and I even know some of them now. And that is one of the greatest strengths of Houk’s cautionary work: although the play takes place in the early 1970s, the Beverlys, the Helens, the Beaus… they all still exist and the fight for acceptance is still raging on, whether the battleground is the family kitchen or the public arena. Thank you, Craig Houk for shining your light where it needs to be shone.
This play renders vividly portrays a real, horrific incident while still contrasting it with a touching family drama. What I particularly like is the playwright’s ability to convey the events that happen offstage without resorting to tired exposition. Instead, these are rendered immediate and emotional through the characters. The characters themselves are well drawn and I truly lost myself in their story.
Syd packs a powerful punch. A play about love and family, how hatred can destroy lives. Characters are so richly and distinctly drawn, you feel like you know every single one, and you root for each one of them to beat their demons. What a rare gift. Bravo!
“A reminder that love can run just as deeply as hatred for parents and children is brought to life in Craig Houk’s tale of two families with differing dynamics and vastly different outcomes to tragedy. The greatest strength of the piece lies in Houk’s sure-footed characterizations of the main players. These people feel real and messily complex, which adds to the heartbreak of Beverly’s breakdown over the death of her son. While Helen, just as confused and hurt over Syd’s behavior toward her, manages to overcome her un-Christian attitudes and find acceptance. This is wonderful and important writing.
Until the Pulse nightclub massacre, the 1973 Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans was the worst single incident of mass murder of gay people ever recorded. In SYD, Craig Houk builds a compelling family drama on the periphery of that horror, as two families struggle through the uncharted waters of having gay adult children when such a thing could barely be mentioned. The Trahans and Larsens are written with humor, salt, specificity, and empathy, people doing their best, even when their best is not good enough — or is actually, in fact, the worst. A compassionate and thoughtful work.
Based on actual events, Houk spins this family tale about being in the closet with a flair for drama and dialogue. It’s a powerful tale of tragedy that sometimes rolls along at a leisurely Southern pace, only to turn in unexpected directions. Intricate relationships unfold and shift and will draw you in. Great stuff.
A powerful play, Craig Houk makes you feel deeply for the flawed family we meet. Bud and Helen truly love each other. Helen is not yet ready to understand Syd but we root for her to get there, to love her daughter wholly. It’s a slow burn, with a great act one/into act two question and a perfect closing image. I loved every word of this piece and hope to see it produced – excellent for four actors around forty and for a female actor that can play nineteen. A perfect work of American Realism.
The world created in this play is nearly 50 years ago and yet so relevant and important for today. In SYD, Craig Houk presents two Southern families navigating gender roles, sexuality and faith while also showing the tragedy of lives lost in different ways. Craig writes with such depth and naturalism where the lines instantly play out in my head while reading. And the rhythms of dialogue punctuate each character so well. This is a play I’d greatly enjoy watching on stage and a delight for performers, too, with its many surprises.
Syd is a play, a character, and perhaps a warning. Grounded in historical events, the story reminds us that being gay in 1973 in the United States was very dangerous indeed, and could become so again. Lush dialogue and dialect place this play in a New Orleans of the not-so-distant past, and raise familiar issues of family and acceptance. An important story, very well told.
Set in a conservative Christian Louisiana community in the early 1970s, this play gives us two families dealing, in very different ways, with crises involving a gay son and a lesbian daughter. Houk evokes the specific world of the play through canny selection of revealing details. He expertly renders the regional dialect while giving each character a believable individual voice within it. Family tensions and affections feel complex and real. Some of the characters make disturbing choices, while others rise to the challenges with unexpected grace, and it’s all written with compassion and insight. Worthwhile and stageworthy!
Set in the 1970s, yet completely relevant today, Syd deftly illustrates how deep-seeded hate and fear can tear families apart and lead to tragedy. Houk pulls you in with the complexity and strength of the characters and then, with masterful subtlety, reveals their often repulsive layers while still driving a truly compelling and heart-breaking story. Definitely recommended!