ORLANDO – While he was a student, two significant things happened to Bobby DeSormier. First, he struggled to land acting roles at his college theater program, and second, he wasn’t taught sex education in high school.
As it turned out, both of those would play a significant role in charting DeSormier’s future creative path.
All of that is the story-behind-the-story of “Everybody Loves Chlamydia,” the comedy that’s being performed tonight in the Footlight Theatre at the Parliament House resort in downtown Orlando — a play that showcases DeSormier’s talents as a playwright and actor. And DeSormier, who also works at the Parliament House as a bartender, says he owes much of the inspiration for this production to his Catholic school education, and an overly pretentious and artsy theater program in college.
The Orlando resident said he’s always had a passion for acting and being a performer.
“I wanted to be an actor since I was 5,” he said. “At first I think it was an attention thing, and then at a certain point, I would say I’m very decent at it.”
He attended Florida State University’s theater program – and felt it left a lot to be desired.
“I went to FSU and I didn’t like the theater program,” DeSormier said. “I tried to get involved in their independent student theater, but for them, theater is very Avant Garde and dramatic, and I thought ‘This is ridiculous.’ “
What he wanted instead was a good laugh-out-loud comedy.
At the time, DeSormier was holding down two jobs, while trying as best he could to land decent role in some of the theater program’s shows.
“I worked 40 hours a week at two minimum wage jobs to pay for school and my apartment, and I would audition and audition and audition and not get chosen,” he said. “Finally I said ‘F**k this, I’m going to write my own play and perform in that.’ I said the next play that I do is going to be one I write.”
That’s exactly what he did – while finding inspiration for the subject via his own Catholic education.
“I went to Catholic school for years, and they don’t teach sex ed,” he said. While talking to some other guys in his class one day, someone mentioned Chlamydia. DeSormier said at the time, he thought it was the name of a female classmate.
“I said, ‘Chlamydia, that’s a really pretty girl’s name,’ ” he laughed. “And my friends said, ‘Nope, that’s not what Chlamydia means.’ ”
For the past five years, DeSormier has written – and then rewritten – and then rewritten again – his comedic play. That is, until last November, when he decided he’d found the perfect vehicle for this production: the annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, held at Orlando’s Loch Haven Park every May. He submitted the play for the November deadline, and “Chlamydia” was selected through the Fringe lottery system.
“It was premiered at the Fringe Festival,” he said. “It was kind of funny at how it all worked out. I wanted to do it in college and I had written it in college, and I tried to take it to the independent theater groups they had, but I got the runaround.”
He got the idea for Fringe in part because of his job as a bartender at the Parliament House, which is a popular happy hour spot for a lot of Fringe artists and performers.
“I started working at the Parliament House, and at happy hour, I’d have a lot of people who go to Fringe and put on at Fringe, and I thought, ‘Oh, cool, this is going to happen,’ ” he said. “I’m glad that it worked out the way it did. It was really good at Fringe. We sold out two shows, and I had a little over 100 seat venue. I re-wrote it once every year for the past five years, and I wouldn’t have wanted the previous four versions to go on stage. It all happened for a reason.”
His Fringe audience included the owners of the Parliament House, “who came and saw my show,” he said. “They’re very supportive of their employees, and they asked me, ‘Do you want to do it at the Parliament House,’ and I said ‘Of course!’ ”
“Everybody Loves Chlamydia” started its revival there on Monday, Aug. 27, and continues on Mondays at 8 p.m. through Sept. 17 at the theater at 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail.
It is, DeSormier said, a comedy with a message.
“They didn’t have sexual education in my high school, so it was originally supposed to be a play that students could put on because sex ed is so boring,” he said. “I had to do research into all the STDs, and I realized there’s just a lot of misinformation out there.”
DeSormer is now working on a new play, tentatively titled “Seduced by God,” which he hopes to put on at the 22nd annual Orlando Fringe Festival next May. In the meantime, he’s hoping that even more audiences discover “Chlamydia” at the P-House this month.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@mail.com.