Chaz Bono takes control of his career in 'Down the Road' at Hollywood's Lounge Theatre

Chaz Bono takes control of his career in 'Down the Road' at Hollywood's Lounge Theatre
Chaz Bono in costume for "Down the Road." (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

To the world, Chaz Bono is one of many things: the lone child of famed entertainers Sonny and Cher, an author, a transgender LGBT rights advocate. But to Bono himself, these titles mean little.

"I'm a guy just trying to make a living as an actor just like thousands of others," Bono said.


But thus far, it hasn't been easy. It's why he decided to start his own production company, Phoenix Fire Productions, to create work for himself and other unknown actors. His first production, running weekends through Sunday at Hollywood's Lounge Theatre, is of Lee Blessing's "Down the Road."

In the play, Bono, 46, stars as Bill Reach, an incarcerated serial killer with a book deal. A writing couple, played by Barbara Howlin and Kyle David Pierce, have been hired to interview Reach and compile the book about his murders of at least 19 women.

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As the process unfolds, however, there are indications that Reach may be embellishing his accounts for the sake of notoriety.

Sitting on the stage of the 50-seat Lounge Theatre following a modestly attended show, Bono rubs his hands together as he fields questions about his rediscovered passion for acting. Visibly tired, he's soft-spoken as he nervously and frantically searches for the best, most accurate answers. By the end of the interview, he admits that he hates doing press because "talk is cheap."

"Until people start to see my work, it's not something that I feel comfortable talking about," he said. "I'll let my work speak for itself."

Bono was first introduced to the role of Bill Reach in a scene exercise during Anthony Meindl's Actors Workshop two years ago. After discovering the full play, he "thought it would be a great first jumping-off point for producing," which he had made a goal for himself this year.

Running a little over an hour, the play is the perfect length, he says, especially because "it's already hard enough getting people into the theater."

"It's always better to do something, I think, that's shorter and have people say they wish it was longer," Bono said. "I wanted something that wasn't going to be long and intimidating."

He also found that the play raises a number of themes that resonated with him, namely the news media's responsibility for how it portrays and sometimes sensationalizes events and how some people can wreak havoc on folks' lives without causing any physical harm whatsoever.

Bono aims to establish a career as a serious actor, even though his public profile, including a stint on "Dancing With the Stars" and the documentary "Becoming Chaz" chronicling his transition in 2011, may seem to be in direct opposition to that goal.

"People have a very fixed idea of me and who I am, and because of that it makes it hard to get seen for [roles]," he said. "This is kind of a way of taking control of my career a little bit."

As such, fans shouldn't expect him on any other celebrity competition show or in any other documentaries in the near future. Once he started back acting, after a "20-something year" lapse since his performing arts high school and college days, he knew acting was the career of choice for him.

"It took a long time to get back into it, but once I started again, it became apparent to me quickly that this was all I could do, something I had to continue to do until I got successful at it," he said. "People won't see me doing anything else."



'Down the Road' starring Chaz Bono

Where: Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 16

Cost: $25