Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Concerts, plays and monologues on social controversies

I got a technical treatise on the ex-gay movement yesterday, but before reviewing it (now done, here) I though I would recall a couple of performances in the past at least tangential to this.

In March 1990, I went (on invitation) to a Sunday night service at the National Presbyterian Center in NW Washington DC (near the NBC4 studio) that was said to be sponsored by Love in Action. This specific church, a landmark in the area, is supposedly conservative. I rode in a carpool with some co-workers at a consulting firm in downtown Washington DC. One of them had a housemate, who came on this event, and who belonged to this group, and said that it had something to do with “giving up the gay lifestyle.” I had heard Love in Action mentioned publicly as a Christian ministry to people with AIDS, but the public media tended to play down what are apparently the intentions of the group. In mainstream circles of volunteering with PWA’s (the Whitman Walker Clinic) one heard relatively little mention of it.

The church service was supposed to consist of all music, and it included a Bach Cantata, which I believe was #79 based on “Now Thank We All Our God.” Besides the choir and organ, there was a baroque chamber orchestra. I recall that, before the final stanza, the performance was interrupted by a prayer. The prayer was lengthy and intrusive and lasted about fifteen minutes. Yet, at no time in the prayer or any other point in the service was the supposedly anti-gay intention of the group ever mentioned.

Afterwards, on the ride back to Arlington, everybody in the car agreed with me that the interruption of a concert performance of an important masterwork of classical music had been rude and inappropriate, and disruptive, ruining the performance for religious reasons. No one mentioned the supposed ulterior motive of the group.

Fast forward fourteen years to another event. In January 2004, the gay-friendly Church of the Pilgrims on P Street in Washington DC (DC Front Runners gathers there for after morning-jog picnic lunches) sponsored a performance of Peterson Toscano ’s satirical monologue play “Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement”. It was pretty funny, and it covered some material about the ex-gay movement I had heard before. The speaker recounts paying stiff rent for living in a communal “halfway house” where only Christian books are allowed and where no one is left alone.

Monologue plays can be effective. In April 2000, in conjunction with that spring’s
March on Washington”, the Studio Theater in Washington DC presented Marc Wolf’s “Another American: Asking and Telling,” which traces the agonizing history of “don’t ask don’t tell”; the event was an SLDN benefit. There are other examples, such as Chris Wells ‘s “Liberty” with the theme “Where am I in America” which I saw at the Eye of the Storm Theater in Minneapolis in 1998, or even “Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein” by Marty Miller, which will have a performance in Tacoma WA soon, according to this site: I saw this in the 80s in Dallas, I believe in a theater on Turtle Creek.

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