Call Answered: Ty Autry: "A Southern Fairytale" at New York Theater Festival's Summerfest
I met Ty Autry after our mutual friend and fellow "Call Me Adam" participant Alex Bond passed away in 2017. We have remained in touch ever since, so when I heard that Ty's play, A Southern Fairytale was making its NYC debut in New York Summerfest Theater Festival, I knew I had to speak with him further about this show.
Based on true events, A Southern Fairytale, is a story of a gay Christian growing up in the Deep South. Through this piece you see him go through coming in and out of the closet multiple times, excommunicated, conversion therapy, and even his dad asking if there is a demon inside of him.
1. This September your play A Southern Fairytale, which chronicles the story of a gay Christian growing up in the deep south will premiere as part of the New York Summerfest Theater Festival. What excites you about having this show premiere in NYC? There is a lot that excites me about this show premiering in NYC! First off, I am most excited to get the chance to test the waters on how a show like this engages with an audience. I’ve told bits of my story to friends over the years, but they are a very different crowd than New Yorkers who live and thrive off of theatre. Second, it is an opportunity to start a conversation around how the church has handled the LGTBQ+ community. Hopefully, a conversation around healing and forgiveness.
2. What are you most nervous about? Disappointing people. This show isn’t just about me, it is about every single person who was ever told that they would never amount to anything because of who they are. I want this piece to authentically represent those people and not just be a show about me.
3. What was the hardest part of writing this play? What part was the easiest? Well, the hardest part about writing this play was actually having to share it with my family. This show is partly filled with truth from my personal life and I want it to represent the truth about the choices we make in life while also protecting my family from feeling like I am attacking them in some way.
The easiest part, hm, that is a tough question actually. I would say the easiest part was remembering what my adventures through therapy, excommunication, and being banned from a school taught me. Those lessons have stuck with me through the years and are always what I remember when thinking back on what happened while growing up in South Georgia.
4. What went through your mind as you wrote this show? Oh, geez, what didn’t go through my mind when I was writing this show? I started writing this show back in October of last year and it was a struggle at first. I didn’t know what I was trying to say or accomplish with this story. I had the memories, thoughts, collection of stories from others, but no clear direction of what I wanted to say.
While I was struggling to put together a structure for the show, I remember feeling a lot of anger, frustration at recalling everything I or others had gone through. But, then also laughing at how crazy, stupid, or funny these stories are now.
5. The character in this show goes through quite a lot: coming in and out of the closet multiple times, excommunicated, conversion therapy, and even his dad asking if there is a demon inside of him. What do you think attributes to his surviving all of this? Faith. Hands down that is what gets him through everything. One major point in this story is that I wanted to have a moment where the only thing he has to lean on is God. And then also see that fall through, in a way, to leave him alone. Which, begs the questions, if you are a person of faith, are you ever alone? Or is that just our perception?
6. I love the tagline on your website, "Ty Autry: Engineer turned Actor." I have to ask, what made you want to pursue the rocky road, but very satisfying world of acting over the safer path of engineering? That is a real good question! When I decided to go from engineering to acting, I turned down a position in a company that would have landed me a six-figure income in five years. That is no small thing to just walk away from and pursue a career where I may never touch that level of financial security. But, this goes to show, that you cannot and should never pursue this career with money being the goal.
Honestly, once I booked my first professional show, while I was in my senior year of college, I was hooked. The idea of spending my life telling, writing, directing, or choreographing stories that could change the lives of those involved and people watching was just too compelling to turn down. I had to give it a shot and see what I could contribute to a thriving world. When you find your passion, it is very hard to walk away from it.
7. How do you feel studying engineering prepared you for being an actor? Engineering is all about problem solving and finding solutions to near impossible situations. Acting can be viewed through the same lens. How can I figure out this person to the best of my abilities; inside and out. Know them like the back of my hand and ask impossible questions about why they do what they do. Why are they making that choice? Why do they say that? Why don’t they stay? Why don’t they leave? And on and on and on. My engineering degree gave me the tools and drive to not back down from hard questions with no foreseeable answer.
I also “failed” 90% of my class, as did everyone else, so it also set me up for a life of getting 100 no’s to 1 yes.
8. We came to know each other because of actress & writer Alex Bond who sadly passed away in 2017. What do you miss most about Alex? What did you learn from her? Gosh, her enthusiasm, her smile, her joy, her stories, and most importantly how she knew what was right and wrong. Alex not just taught, but showed me just how important it is to embrace where we come from and how we got where we are now. She was unapologetic about who she was and embraced that with everything she had. Through her example, I gained the understanding and strength in knowing how to not just live in my truth, but tell it in a way that could inspire others to be better.
9. If you could have one more conversation with Alex, what would you want to talk to her about? Are you trying to make me cry right now? I would want to talk to her about the struggles I am having in New York. About how it is so much harder than I expected and even though I am surrounded by friends, there are days that are hard to remember that when things get tough. She was wise and strong in so many ways. I know that she would probably laugh in a sweet way at what I am experiencing, call me honey and then share a story of when she felt the exact same way.
10. Bringing this interview back to the play, let's play with the show's title, A Southern Fairytale. What is one Southern Fairytale you love that you take with you everywhere you go? I don’t know if this is considered a “southern” fairytale, nor do I actually remember any that are particular to just the south, but my favorite fairytale of all time is Cinderella. From the original story to the classic Disney musical, I love every single moment of that tale. It never gets old to me.
More on Ty:
Ty is a small-town southern boy with a big heart for the city and adventure. Originally from a farming county in South Georgia, he moved to Atlanta in 2011 to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. After he graduated Summa Cum Laude from the program, he decided to switch gears completely and follow his passion in the performing arts. Fast forward another two years, after successfully working around Atlanta on the stage and behind it, he found himself in New York pursuing a career as an actor while training at Atlantic Acting School in their summer intensive and evening conservatory program. Ty's roots may have started small and his heart still belongs back with his family in Georgia, but there is no denying that the hustle and bustle of a city and it's thriving art industry has pushed him to explore every aspect of his limits as an actor, writer, director, choreographer, and teacher.