Michael and Zach Zakar are identical twins. In typical twin fashion, they finish each other’s sentences, and during press interviews — like their latest with Between The Lines for their autobiographical play “Pray the Gay Away” — nothing is different. Endearingly, follow-up emails are closed with the phrase, “Double Love, Michael and Zach,” and one certainly feels like they’re seeing double when meeting them. Thankfully, once we got talking in person, differentiating between the two became much easier. What did stay the same, however, was their take on their brand-new play.
Based on a book of the same name that will make its Michigan debut at The Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak on March 5, the twins caught BTL up on their coming out story, the inspiration for the book and the show, and their lives as YouTubers and performers.
Getting to Know Each Other
The twins grew up in Troy, graduating from Troy Athens High School. It was while they attended school that they came out to each other.
“I didn’t think Michael was gay at all. I came out to myself at about 16 or 17 and then to people at 18,” Zach Zakar said.
“I was more private about coming out than Zach was. As soon as Zach came out he had a freak flag, he had a rainbow flag,” Michael Zakar said.
Zach Zakar jokingly said that instead of coming out he “fell out of the closet,” while his brother took a little more time. In the end, a little risky business in a school bathroom made the decision for Michael Zakar.
“I was in there fooling around with a classmate,” Michael Zakar said. “Two of Zach’s teammates from rugby saw me getting freaky and there and they were like, ‘Oh my God! Zach Zakar is in the bathroom getting down.’”
“I played rugby so they assumed it was me,” Zach Zakar said. “So Michael had to come out to me.”
Of course, Zach Zakar accepted his brother.
“Long story short, I fooled around with the same kid two days later,” Zach Zakar said with a laugh.
Finding a Voice in Print and Onstage
Following high school, the Zakars were a little unsure of their calling. Attending community college several times, the duo changed majors frequently, jumping from topics like social work, writing and environmental science. Eventually, after a stint at Wayne State University, the twins decided to drop out and put effort into their 2017 autobiography, “Pray the Gay Away.”
“‘Pray the Gay Away’ was inspired after me and my twin brother came out and my mom threw holy water on us,” Zach Zakar said. “It’s our coming out tale that follows Michael and my coming out experiences individually and together with our very religious Iraqi mom.”
“We also wanted to touch base on more than just being gay, so the book follows lot of our experiences in life with being the outsiders along with our mom on this journey,” Michael Zakar said.
And the story, both in print and on stage, contains many juicy tidbits, like Michael Zakar’s arrest on their mothers’ birthday, how Zach Zakar had an edible and called the police on himself and much more. Still, despite all of the ups and downs the Zakar twins had in their relationship with their mother, the two enjoy a strong bond today. Though the two admit that when the play was first performed live in Minnesota, they “forced her to come to the show.”
“She wasn’t a fan of it in Act 1, because Act 1 kind of villainizes her,” Zach Zakar said.
“Act 2 makes her look like an angel,” Michael Zakar added.
In the show, mother Zakar is played by female impersonator Vince Kelly.
“He’s originally from Michigan and now lives in Minnesota,” Zach Zakar said. “He’s brilliant. He’s been doing this for 10 years. Murray [Hodgson], our producer, asked my mom how accurate his performance was and she said 100 percent. I think the character portrayed her inner thoughts.”
After the play finishes its Michigan run, Michael and Zach said their futures are undetermined — but always motivated.
“Michael and I are kind of creatively confused,” Zach Zakar said. “We kind of have about 11 projects in our files right now. We have another book or some TV things. Right now, we’re in the process of talking to TV producers, but we kind of need a resume and currently our resume is ‘Pray the Gay Away,’ the book and play.
“We’re seeing what happens after this current production to see if we should step up and do different productions or continue with ‘Pray the Gay Away,’” Michael Zakar said. “There’s always hopes to stay with ‘Pray the Gay Away’ for 10,000 years, but if other opportunities arise then other opportunities arise.”
Zach Zakar said that he’s eager to take on future creative challenges and that “closing the chapter” on the story might be a great avenue to do that. In fact, it might open the door for another book in the same series but with a different focus.
“I love the story and the storyline, and I love that it helps people,” he said. “But we don’t want to be trapped as always being known as gay. Right now, we’re known as the gay twins and we want to be known as the twins. Obviously, our market right now is being gay. So our second book is more funny and sexual based, though obviously it’s gay sex.”
“We started in this industry writing TV and film scripts, but fortunately, our book was the first to be produced,” Michael Zakar said. “We want to go back in film. We love that our real life is relatable to people and they laugh at it. But we want to show people our creative brains.”
But don’t be fooled, Michael and Zach are mighty proud of “Pray the Gay Away” and are eager to present it to live audiences.
“It’s a play but it’s a very interactive show,” Michael Zakar said. “It’s fun and funny the whole way through. We want you to be laughing the whole time.”
‘Pray the Gay Away’ runs March 5 through 8 at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, which is located at 415 S. Lafayette Ave. Tickets are between $35 and $45 and are available from zakartwins.com.