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PRIDE SERIES: CLAYBOURNE ELDER and ERIC ROSEN On Marriage, Having a Child, What Pride Means to Them,

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen with their son Bo

In this new feature called Pride Series, talks with some powerful LGBT couples in the Broadway community. From how they met, to how they are using their powerful dynamics to make a difference in the world, each couple share their stories of how they got to where they are today. These Pride Series interviews are in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, and to celebrate WorldPride in New York City. This series will run throughout the month of June and each week features a new couple and their stories.​

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen are the next couple in the #PrideSeries interview with and have a long list of credits to their name. Claybourne has been seen on Broadway, National Tours, and Regionally and Eric is a director, playwright, and founder of About Face theater in Chicago . Both men share their story of how they met, having their son Bo and the experience of being Dad's, advice for other's on finding "the one," what Pride means to them, and MORE!


Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen with their son Bo

Can you tell us a little bit more about how the two of you met? Clay: We met working on Moisés Kaufman's production of Into the Woods. Eric produced it and Moisés was a mutual friend of both of ours and he introduced us. We became really good friends right away and started working together, but we didn't start dating until the last weekend of the show when I asked Eric on a date. Eric: It was my 39th birthday and it was the best birthday present I ever got. Clay: Ooh, that sounds dirty. But it wasn't THAT sort of Birthday present-- Eric: Hahahahhh! Clay: It was just a really fun date and we had a good time. I went to San Diego right after that to do Bonnie and Clyde at La Jolla Playhouse and Eric came out and visited me four times during that show so that was sort of our courtship. Because we lived in two different cities we had to decide pretty quickly if it was going to be something serious or not. It was shortly after Christmas and we both decided 'okay, I want to do this. Let's, let's try to figure this out.' Eric: Yeah. We took a two-week road trip across the southwest, after we'd known each other for about four months, and by the end of that time he was hooked!

Within the last two years you've welcomed a beautiful son named Bo into your family. How did you decide to have a child through surrogacy rather than adoption?

Clay: It was very special for us both. And in fact, me and my brother, who is also gay and a foster parent, have started a podcast that hasn't been launched yet called "Becoming Daddies” about being gay fathers and the process and what it's like. Eric: I think it was on our third date we had the 'do you want to be a dad question?' And I always wanted to, but, but it didn't seem like it was in the cards. It was so central to the formation of our relationship that when we were talking about at our engagement we made it part of our in our wedding announcement that we were collecting gifts towards our baby's future. Clay: Yeah, when we got married, we registered for a baby. We actually did. We had a website where people could go and donate money towards our surrogacy. So, having Bo is sort of the completion of that whole arc of our relationship — probably the first eight years of it at least.

How has being fathers changed your lives for the better? Clay: Everything changes. It's funny because so many people used to tell us before Bo was born, 'your life's about to change and we can't really tell you why exactly. But everything is about to change.' And it's true, everything changes, your priorities change, everything changes.

We had breakfast with Denis O'Hare the other day, who is another gay father/actor/theater person, and he said something very interesting. He said, 'if I could tell anything to people it would be don't wait until you feel like you're ready, just have kids because kids make you get your ducks in a row.' We feel that for sure. It makes you exhausted, but it also makes you think and prioritize your life in a different, wonderful way. I mean tonight for instance, we were all home at five o'clock making dinner and having a dance party in our living room for about two hours and I can't imagine anything more fun or that I would rather do.

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen

That is so touching and very sweet. So, you got married in 2012, how has marriage changed your outlook on life and what do you think is key to a successful, healthy and happy marriage? Eric: I think it's important to remember that we got married right after it was legal in New York, but before it was legal everywhere. So, we're kind of pioneers in the field, if you will. We've gotten to evolve from a world when we first met where marriage wasn't legal and wasn't a possibility to a world where now it is. When marriage became legal in New York, my mother had us up to her house and she put a sign on the door made out of glitter and glue. But what I didn’t know was Clay was about to propose, two weeks later, which she knew, and I did not. So we've kind of gone through the evolution of gay marriage and gay culture and it is true that it changes things. That one's identity when legally recognized — all the time and everywhere — and it means something. Everyday it's reaffirmed. Being a gay married couple, we want to be present and visible cause that's part of what marriage is — being visible

What's your advice for couples who are in the same industry or different ones and have crazy schedules and are trying to maintain a relationship? Clay: That is an incredibly difficult and good question. I have to say neither of us had dated a theater person before we dated and married each other. Eric: Nope. Never. Clay: I think the fact that we're both in the business but we do two very different things has meant that Eric understands why I would want to leave for three months to go do a play that's really important to me or a role that I've always wanted to play. He understands what that is. Whereas "muggles" — normal people — don't understand why you would want to move away to a place to do a job that didn't pay very well. Eric: Or why every time you do a play, you're going to be gone for two weeks and you're going to work 90 hours for very little money. It's not just a job, it's an avocation as much as it's vocation. So, we understand that the pay is sometimes the experience. And it's very unique to theater couples since we've been together. We've known all kinds of straight and gay theater couples who said the same thing — if you understand the business you can work within it. Clay: You're smart. Eric: I got one of them degrees. Clay: I'm gonna, I'm gonna keep you.

You both have a heavy social media presence. How have you used your social media presence to connect with the LGBT community and help them? Clay: This is a good question. I, like many people, feel that social media is a necessary evil. Sometimes I want to throw my phone across the room and never touch it again and sometimes I love the connections that you make with people. There was a time, when Bo was first born, we were kind of nervous about sharing pictures of him or sharing that story. But we quickly realized we wanted to because we are a gay family and I think that it's important to have someone to look up to.

I didn’t have any older people to look up to who were married and have kids, or I didn't when I was in my twenties. It's not that they should look at us as a shining example. We're not perfect by any stretch of imagination, but we are a married couple with a son and we're just trying to make it work and we're posting about our journey to make it work and our quest to be good parents. Eric: And for me, being the co-founder of About Face Theater in Chicago which is one of the country’s major LGBT theaters, and the politics of that company is visibility's everything and to be living a life in which we are out, proud, and celebrating the most banal things about family life is in a way, I wouldn't say it's radical, but it certainly is consistent with the values that I came up with.

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen with their son Bo

What is one trait that each of you have that you love about the other? Clay: There are many. Eric: Clay is ingenious in the sense of "we happen to have two eggs and flour and this old mirror I found on the street. I'm going to make pancakes while I refinished that mirror and hang it on the wall and since I am home, I'm going to build a house.” You're a very creative thinker. Clay: I feel the same way about you. What I love about Eric Rosen that he is not afraid to make a change, to take a step, to be brave, or to do things that are scary. I really appreciate that. I get to have him holding my hand while I do scary things because he inspires me to do them. What's your advice for other gay men on finding love and the right one? Eric: I would say wait until you're old. I'm just kidding. It's true that I frequently think that if, gosh, you know, Clay and I met when I was 39, and if I could go back in time and undo all of the heartache I had about this relationship and that and wanting to be married and wanting to be loved and all those things, if I had just known that it was coming when I was ready I could have gotten a lot more done. Clay: Yeah but I think all those things were probably very important in your development as a person to be loved. But it's true that, that I feel very strongly that all the people I dated before you led me to you. You know, I learned things in those relationships that made me know that when I came into a relationship with you, that I was in the one that I wanted to be in. Eric: I think for New Yorkers, my advice is get out of New York for a minute. It's very hard here to see the forest for the trees. Clay and I met in the Midwest and now we're sitting in our apartment in New York feeling like New Yorkers, but being away from it made it easier to see each other. Clay: That is very true.

You've both done a lot of work with Broadway Cares through the shows you've done. What are some other causes that are near and dear to your heart?

Clay: I do work with The Covenant House which helps young people who are homeless. They have a strong LGBT program and I really believe in and love the things that they do. I participate in Broadway Sleeps Out every year to raise money for their programs and I really believe in them.

Eric: I’m very passionate about theater education and positive youth development for queer youth which is work that I've been doing for a long time, first back in Chicago, and now in my present life. Any type of work that supports new ways to think about diversity, anti-racist training, addressing white supremacy — things which we must address to continue to take the movement forward. I support initiatives that make us think more than just about being gay but really about being part of a large coalition of people who are dealing with things such as oppression, dealing with white supremacy, dealing with a world that we wish we could change.

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen

What exciting things are coming up for both of you personally and professionally that you can share? Clay: Summertime! I am actually doing a lot of work right now. It's that season I'm working with Steven Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens on a new musical they're developing. I'm going to Florida to do a workshop of that for a couple of weeks. My brother and I are continuing to work on our podcasts which should be released sometime in the late summer. Eric: Aren't you shooting a short film in August? Clay: Yes! I'm shooting a short film in August that Eric Rosen wrote and is directing but I was going to let you talk about it.

Eric: I'm trying to branch out from theater to TV/Film and I've written a movie called Netuser and Clay's going to co-star in it.

Clay: I'm very excited about that.

Finally, what does pride mean to you? Eric: To me, Pride always been sort of a misnomer because I think it implies, how do I say this…it's not that we're proud of being gay, it’s that we demand to be seen and heard and respected for being gay. Clay: That's what I was going to say. To me it means to be seen — allowing yourself to be seen and allowing others to see you. Eric: But I think this year, at 50 years, you know, I was at Stonewall 25 when I first came out and now it's Stonewall 50. Pride is to feel extraordinary gratitude for 50 years of activism that have completely changed American culture and the world. And that is something to be very proud of.

Claybourne Elder and Eric Rosen with their son Bo

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