It was weird to see it with actual set pieces, and at first I really wanted the empty stage back, but I did really like the grandparents' kitchen.
They emphasized Lulu&Kai -- the mutual sexual attraction -- moreso than in the staged reading, and I remembered one of the concerns raised in the talk-back being about how we didn't see much of why Lulu and Kai are together.
They added an actual demonstration of Kai's drag routine, including going into the audience -- which gives the lie to the director's statement that “HOME has a running time of ninety minutes, and within that time there are no scene breaks, no blackouts, and no intermissions, so neither the characters nor the audience ever leave the stage.” but which I much enjoyed. And yes it helped that I had an aisle seat ;)
Early on, the grandfather mentioned their church being not a Scripture-based church, and I immediately recalled the concern I and at least one other person (the former seminarian) had raised about the play using some specific Scripture references but not in a way that felt like the writers grew up in a Scripture tradition ('cause they didn't). They also cut out Lulu being a seminarian, which was the bestest of all the changes they made.
The grandfather says to Lulu: "We can't lean on translation. The original words don't exist anymore."
My first thought was that this was a neat (def. tidy) explanation of why they had toned down the Scripture citing, but later when Lulu's so obsessed with her grandfather's born-female state as being more real than his presentation of maleness I thought back to that line.
Kai calls the grandmother and then has to go do (his? her? pronoun?) drag routine and the grandma asks what that noise in the background is and Kai says "That's my song," and the grandma says, "I don't know this song." I don't know how much intentionality was behind that, but I loved it, because Kai is so different from the grandfather, so it's such new territory for the grandmother, but she's almost laughing when she says it, so open and accepting and willing to learn and just full of love.
Grandfather to Lulu: "Don't use your faith as a weapon. Don't be that weak."
I loved that line. And especially because I've been reading spirituality/theology stuff recently, I keep coming back to that idea that using religion as a weapon is so easy ("I'm right; you're wrong," etc.) but that we are called to do far more difficult things -- the hard work of relationship, of love, etc.
"My body is a boomerang."
I really liked Kai's speech about loving regardless of body -- though yes of course on reflection it's problematic because we are attracted to bodies, and the slogans of loving people not bodies sound rather like "bisexuality is superior" which of course is problematic -- and loved that line in particular.
Some of the stuff was a surprise just because it's been a while since I saw it. Like, I couldn't remember what happened after Lulu gave her sermon. Afterward, I was thinking that while it's a touch of a cop-out that we don't see how things turn out after Lulu realizes she did a bad thing in giving that sermon, I really liked her lament about not being able to take it back, because I think it's so important to realize the possible effects of what one says/does (which, yes, may seem counter-intuitive since I'm all "honest to a fault"). My mom said she felt like every teenager should see that :)
Lines I liked:
"I'm gonna handcuff you to the bed. Do you wanna pee first?"
"Is this a sideburns crowd?"
"Nothing big, just enough to stun her, just enough to wake her up."
Oh, and thinking back to the staged reading afterward, I remembered that they had cut the part where the grandma tells the story of the grandfather being attacked as a young man, which more-savvy-than-I audience members read as a rape, an explanation of how/why he had a daughter. I'm fine with that having been cut, because part of the point of the play is that it isn't necessary to know all the details but rather to accept. And they do elaborate on Lulu's fears for Kai's safety ("I threw my dick in his face." "And then you ran away, right?" "That's one version you could tell.") which I think does a sufficient job of making clear to the audience how dangerous it can be to mess with people's expectations of what gender presentation should be.
Looking back at my writeup post-staged reading, I saw that they'd cut some of the grandfather's reaction to Kai -- “She’s tall! ... She’ll touch things.” -- and while I really like those lines and the sense of grasping at things trying to explain why someone just rubs you the wrong way, I liked that they added (at least, I think it was an addition) a bit about Kai reminding the grandfather of Lulu's father, and that fear that Lulu would get hurt.
I'm trying to remember now what Lulu's rationale for outing her grandfather was in the staged reading, 'cause I didn't remember the whole salvation thing and was in fact kinda squicked by it -- I think because it felt too similar to the contemporary fundamentalist anti-gay movement so it felt like it was reducing what was for the most part a complex dynamic to an easy thing.
From QueerSoup's press release for the show [PDF]:
What does it take to make a man? God? Is it testosterone, anatomy, or some elusive all natural
male scent? Gender identity is rarely discussed at the dinner table with one’s grandparents, and
in HOME, Minister Lulu Edwards lashes out at her family over what she sees as a secret that her
grandfather kept from her while he was alive. However, her grandfather never identified as
anything other than a man, and so this calls into question, how can his gender identity ever be
something he considered hidden? Complicating this revelation, Lulu learns that her new love
interest, Kai, is a professional drag king who, in Lulu’s opinion, “grinds her audiences with a
silicon penis on a weekly basis.”
“HOME explores this spectrum of gender from female-to-male transgenderism to the
‘genderqueer’ identity of Kai to Lulu’s identity as lesbian while balancing a blend of comic with
the dramatic – within a religious community setting. We have created a family that bridges their
generational differences when it comes to the definition of identity, and ultimately, it is through
their faith that they accept the questions raised,” states Jess Martin, Massachusetts Cultural
Council (MCC) 2005 Artist Grant Recipient and playwright.
Faith as a term finds itself in tricky territory in the queer community since it is so often
associated with organized religion. But it is in faith, which is defined as that confident belief in
something whether it be a person, a value, or one’s identity, that the queer community centrally
exists. HOME approaches faith in the wide expanse of this definition even as it focuses on a
granddaughter and grandfather who were both ministers and served a congregation in their
search for faith.
“This is a test of faith, indeed. HOME has a running time of ninety minutes, and within that
time there are no scene breaks, no blackouts, and no intermissions, so neither the characters nor
the audience ever leave the stage. Artistically, the unique nature of a Black Box theater allows
for the stage to become a genuine place for the audience not only to be challenged by what they
are seeing but also to stimulate our audience to think deeply about what they themselves believe
when it comes to issues of gender, sexuality, family,”says Renée C. Farster, director.
In addition to the play, the Queer Soup artists will be hosting several special events during their
production. On Sunday, January 22nd, Gunner Scott from Gendercrash will be leading a panel
open to the public to discuss transgender issues. On Sunday, January 29th, a special post-show
reception will be held with the Queer Soup creative team, and on Wednesday, February 1st,
"Home" will be ASL-interpreted.
According to the stuff we saw on the wall outside the black box, Jan. 22 is a post-show with Transgender Community Leaders and Jan. 22 is a post-show with various local churches. I'd be really interested in going to the latter. Especially because while I can totally get behind churches being Open & Affirming of queer people, the trans issue is one I have a lot more difficulty with figuring out how to fit it into a Christian context since at its very core it seems to be saying "The body I was born with is wrong for me."