Anyway, the play itself.
“The doors of my church will always be open to you.” -Lulu (which Kai then plays with as sexual innuendo)
Lulu, on her thesis: “It’s going.”
Poppy: “God is in the details.”
Poppy, on Kai: “She’s tall! ... She’ll touch things.”
On the whole i thought it was very good. There was juice and cookies afterward (yay cookies!) and then the co-writers sat on stage to take audience feedback, complete with facilitator and note-taker.
The first couple people said very nice things, which i remember not at all. I hadn’t wanted to start off the discussion with my criticisms, but i couldn’t keep sitting there listening to people gush about the play. So i raised my hand and got called on.
“For most of the play, i was near tears, and thought it a really well done powerful piece. But then Lulu gives her crazy-with-grief pseudo-sermon, and i tried to tell myself that she’s crazy with grief, but she’s a seminarian. What about 2nd Genesis story? I kept mentally arguing with her, and i felt like it had been written by people who were just pulling out bits of Christianity, who didn’t really have a grasp on the Old Testament. And i have no idea what the religious or theological background of any of you is, but that’s how it came across. And after the play ended i was stuck on arguing with her, and i tried to shift my focus back to other parts of the play because it was so well-written and brought up good issues, but i kept getting stuck on arguing with Lulu, and at the end of a play i shouldn’t be arguing with the main character.”
There was some soft laughter from the audience, and it occurred to me that sometimes arguing with the protagonist is what you’re supposed to do -- part of the whole making you think deal -- but i trusted that people understood what i meant.
I think i was slightly less coherent than that, but that was pretty much it. And i was doing that thing i do where i sound like i’m about to break into tears. The facilitator (whose name escapes me, but who was good people) was really good about questioning me further and pulling out from me more concretely what my problems were with it and how i thought it could be done better.
As for the religious background of the people involved, one didn’t say, two were ex-Catholic (one now UU), and Mal, the producer, said “Unitarian Universalist, so really not religious,” and people including me and her laughed.
After i was finished, Mal, the producer thanked me, said it was very helpful. This lifted a great weight off my chest. (And when i finally left, a woman thanked me, and i don’t know if it was for what i had said or just for coming or what, but i was rather taken aback and could only stutter out a “Thank you” in response.)
In my mental argument with Lulu, i had other thoughts about the problematics of saying, “You are made in the image of God. To change that body is to say that God is wrong” I didn’t bring them up to Mal, but this is my LJ, so i get to inflict it upon you.
First of all: where is the line? Shaving off some of your body hair? Dyeing the hair on your head? Getting tattooes or piercings? (Hello, Judaism.) Having plastic surgery? Having surgery to change your primary/secondary sex characteristics?
Second, and this was spurred by an allusion to resurrection that Lulu made: which image is the correct one? Our bodies grow and change, from infant to adult to elderly. There is no one physical image that is a person.
Later, a guy made a comment: “As a former seminarian, I, too, had problems with some of the religious aspects, but I thought she [gesturing at me] covered that aspect well, so I’m just going to talk about one of my other concerns.” I was flattered. Between our two contributions, the facilitator had asked if we thought the word “transsexual” had any meaning to Poppy, and the consensus seemed to be no, since he kept saying things like that’s just who he was, not having any real vocabulary for it. The audience guy said that in talking to transfolk as old as in their 70s, “When Christine Jorgensen walked off that plane, everyone for whom that was their truth, knew.” He said that we shouldn’t forget the senior citizens, by which i think he meant we shouldn’t forget that this movement has been going on for a long time.
He also mentioned something that had bugged me but which had fallen out of my brain by the time it came for audience discussion. Lulu and others accuse Poppy of having deceived them, of having lied to them, but neither Nana nor Poppy nor Kai ever says, “He didn’t lie. He lived the truth of his life.” Though it occurred to me later that near the end, Poppy talks about taking his father’s name and being brought back to his body and says something like, “That’s who I am, and who I was, and who I always will be,” which does affirm the True-ness of his “he” identity.
Former-seminarian did mention some religion things i hadn’t noticed, though. Like Lulu crossing herself even though she comes from a Protestant tradition. (That action occurred early enough in the play that my brain hadn’t given her a definitive denomination yet.) After the discussion was over i went over and chatted with him. His name’s Thomas. I like him. He mentioned other cultural things they had left out -- Scripture quotations and mentions of Jesus in the sermons. He said he was gonna e-mail them (they gave us the address to e-mail -- info[at]queersoup[dot]net -- in case we thought of things later or whatever) and i definitely plan to as well.
Some people had very “ew, religion” responses, which made me sad. I spoke with Mal briefly after the discussion (the writers all stuck around for a while afterward in case anyone wanted to speak to them about something one-on-one) and said that although i had problems with some of their uses of religion, i definitely wanted them to keep it in -- just “do your homework” as she had phrased it. I said that i didn’t think it felt like a device (an accusation at least one audience member had made) but rather and integral part of the story, and that so many queer narratives are secular, or are about “how I rejected my patriarchal Judeo-Christian roots” or whatever, and that is many people’s truths, but many people find their truths in religion, so i was glad to see a play that dealt with that, and i thought it was a very powerful and important story they were telling.
The audience member who called it a device talked about how it gives you a convenient excuse for having your characters preach, which is a valid point, but i still maintain that religion is a major part of the story they were trying to tell, and importantly so. It seemed like a number of the audience members were just very uncomfortable with organized religion/Christianity and wanted it taken out.
Someone else mentioned appropriating spiritual language that we don’t know, which i thought was definitely a very valid concern (since hello i’d raised it myself) and she also talked about the troubling tendency amongst transfolk to claim that they are more spiritual than other people because they’ve done this gender journey thing, and i’ve totally seen that and admit that it’s problematic (just like bisexuals insisting that we’re better than gays and straights because we’re open to people of varying genitalia) but i didn’t see that at all in the play.
Kai felt too... vulgar to me, though i think part of that was the acting. Someone mentioned wanting to see more tenderness from Kai, to help get a feel for why Lulu and Kai are together, which i thought was a very good idea.
Someone else wanted more focus on the contemporary relationship (i.e. issues of navigating dyke and trans amongst today’s young people, that sort of thing), felt there was too much focus on Nana and Poppy. While i admit that Nana and Poppy get fleshed out more than Lulu and Kai, i think the play is in large part about Poppy, and thinking about it later, it occurs to me that religion is an old thing, largely about connections to the past (e.g. the text you are basing your life on is millennia old). To tell the story of how you negotiate having a genderqueer partner when you identify as a lesbian is an important story to tell, but it’s not the major focus of this play, and i don’t think it should be. I think the major focus of this play is reconciling issues of sexuality and gender and identity into a (Christian) faith-based model, and i am glad of that.
Someone commented that having a dead person on stage and talking emphasized the unimportance of bodies, which totally hadn’t occurred to me but which was definitely interesting.
People mentioned the raped/pregnant transman as common tropes, and clearly i am way out of the loop because while i have seen Boys Don’t Cry multiple times, it didn’t occur to me at all to read the physical attack on Poppy as an actual rape until that audience member mentioned it.
"It's a messy world. Help us find home."
And when we've gone a million miles
Made true our dreams with sweat and bone
After we've built it up with our bare hands
Made strong a place we can call home