This is the eight post in a series of blogs about our current production, Ex-Gays, written by Eric F. Avery. Ex-Gays will be presented at Matthews Park and Recreation Center, continuing through Saturday, July 30th. This blog is written by company member, Rachel Nelson.
Working on Ex-Gays has been a heart-breaking experience. I know, I know, its a comedy. Well, a satire. A heartbreaking satire? Fine, we'll go with that. Originally, the company was excited about producing Ex-Gays because it was both socially relevant and artistically exciting. Little did we know how politically relevant it was about to become (enter Marcus Bachmann and the gay marriage explosion in New York). Again and again over the past week, I've had conversations with audience members about their experiences with Christianity, with spirituality, with sexuality, with gender, and the list goes on and on. This show touches a nerve in almost everybody.
Obviously, this kind of impact on the pubic is a great success and a wonderful blessing for theater artists. It's also touched off a whole slew of neurons in my brain about who Savage Umbrella is, and why it is important. In the light of recent social-political events, it is worth pondering why we make theater instead of lighting buildings on fire? Instead of taking the extra time to cuddle with those we love? Or stand on street corners throwing pamphlets into the wind? Why is this important?
Here are some not-so-clearly-organized thoughts:
Repression of self and desire is always heartbreaking. It's a movement away from love, and that is what I am most interested in when I think about theater. Jeanette Winterson once wrote "what we risk reveals what we value." I've been thinking about this a lot as our season reveals itself. It seems to me theater pieces are always based on some form of love. Love is what motivates us. Everything else is just fluff and distraction.
Seeing how removed the conscience acknowledgment of love is from our day to day activities is somewhat shocking, and ultimately heartbreaking. I'm gonna go out on a shaky limb here and say that I think that theater's greatest gift is that is hones in directly on what motivates us. That's right...love. Theater is not embarrassed to say it. Theater is not subtle. Theater wants to pull you into the bathroom and talk intensely about your feelings, then break your heart and write you a really great poem about it. Theater always gives you the first orgasm (er, catharsis). It can't help it. It's designed that way. Theater speaks clearly and directly into the places that feel embarrassing or too intimate, and it's almost always talking about love.
When the company members of Savage Umbrella wrote our mission statement last winter, we talked about community conversation. We had a vast difference of opinions and styles about almost everything, but on one thing we were clear: we wanted to be involved and present in the lives and conversations of our communities. We wanted to be a conduit. It seems, as I look at this season, we are all focusing in on love. We have shows about people fighting toward some form of love through great adversity, shows about self-discovery, shows about pain and denial, and shows that expose the false notions and snares of traditional love. When I see the bravery of the other artists in the SU company in addressing these topics, it suddenly becomes clear to me that this is one of the best forms of activism: the kind that starts conversations, the kind that connects. This is why this is important.
So! Ex-Gays is closing at Matthews Park this Saturday and then we are moving to the Fringe. Then, work on our new show Ravagers is heating up, our big bad fun fundraiser is looming at the end of the month, and season auditions start next week. I hope that the energy and the conversations from Ex-Gays carry us through into the fall, and I hope that you (whoever you are) are planning to be involved somehow in the radically lovely and gutsy season we've got coming your way. I hope we see your face and get to know you. I hope you continue to embrace theater, and that it continues you embrace you back. It will. It can't help it. We can't help it either. We're just kind of built that way.