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Is gender a fact we are born with or a more complicated identity that we are all searching to discover?And when we-or society or our governments-define identities, are we actually creating rigid boundaries that limit our ability to discover ourselves and all the richness and diversity of human sexuality?
hese questions are so heavy that few Hamptons or Fire Island dinner tables will broach them this summer for fear that the otherwise friendly chat erupts into impassioned, fiery disputes with plenty of un-relaxing-vacation-like profanity.So we tend to leave the debate up to others.
This August, four original one-act plays produced by the up-and-coming, independent Diverse City Theater (DCT) will tackle these gender and sexuality issues for us with a balance of witty humor and heart-felt drama.In each of the four pieces, someone is hiding behind something-a "veil," a "cape," a uniform-to protect or disguise his- or herself.But underneath, each protagonist has a desperate and universally human need for emotional connection despite unconventional notions of gender and sexuality.
hy go to the theater for this?True, Freud gave us some explanations and plenty of pop-psychology self-help books do as well.But sometimes seeing and experiencing gender and sexuality up close and personal is the only way to get close to understanding the issues.Theater is the only artistic medium that can put the issues in our face.No other art form envelopes its audience or viewers in such a complete way-actors and spectators are in the same room, hear the same things, see the same objects...
And questions about gender and human sexuality are important, aren't they?Schools try to inform kids about them-if their parents let them-but we still spend most of our lives trying to figure it all out.One month after Gay Pride and we are still trying to figure out what all those letters in the LGBTQI identity stand for.What used to be simply G&L has added B and T (notBridge and Tunnel!The B is for Bisexual and the T is for Transgendered or Transsexual, but no one is sure which) and sometimes Q (Questioning) and I (Intersexed).And there are probably a few other letters.Why has the identity become some long?Because there is great diversity in human gender and sexuality.It's much more complicated than we can sometimes describe or even understand.
The one-act plays are part of DTC's annual Theater Festival called "The Equality Playwrights Festival" which will run from August 11 - 26, 2006, at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre on West 42nd Street in New York City.The Festival's plays-by both emerging and established playwrights-will revolve around one single diversity issue each festival year.This year, the inaugural year's theme explores "Gender Identity Issues of the 21st Century."The Festival's mission fits with DCT's goals.The theater company's socially-conscious mission is to promote diversity in the theater through non-traditional casting and by commissioning, developing and producing original plays that explore and examine diversity issues.
The roster of plays also fits that mission."Cold Flesh" addresses three categories of discrimination: race, class and gender, as a Filipino economic refugee and closet homosexual seeks his "freedom" while temporarily separated from his wife. "Clean Living" tackles the military ban on gays with song, dance and a disco ball.While hilarious shenanigans help tell the weighty story, it poignantly follows dedicated soldiers trying to define sexuality within narrowing confined boundaries.
Like "Cold Flesh," "Veils" also finds the intersection of race and gender as it follows an American GI, Rusty, and his veiled sexual conquest, Aliya, in a confusion evening of passion and love in a Middle Eastern city.Finally, "Onna Field" introduces us to an awkward gay teen as his straight, insightful athletics coach helps him to come to grips with the cape he wears to protect himself.
The theater is the only medium that puts its artists so close in the face of its spectators. And actor Victor Lirio, DCT's Chief Artistic & Producing Officer, leverages this fact.He says that his theater company uses the theater as a venue for examining tough social issues with its audiences.In the end, says Lirio, it's all about the human experience and the "universal truths, about our need for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, stories about what it means to be human-serious, whimsical, funny, absurd."
·Robert Askins' absurdist Clean Living, an exploration of truth and men in the military where men can neither "ask nor tell;"
·Joe Byers' Veils, about an American soldier in a war-torn Middle-Eastern country and his first sexual encounter with a local woman;
·Stuart Harris' Onna Field about a gay high school boy and his sports coach; and
·Jorshinelle Taleon-Sonza's Cold Flesh, about a recently 'outed' gay Filipino doctor dealing with the arrival of his wife from the Philippines.
·All four plays were commissioned by DCT as part of its annual mission to develop plays that revolve around one diversity issue of cultural significance.Launched in December 2005, this season's festival focus is on "gender identity issues of the 21st century." Three other plays by female playwrights are still in consideration as of press time. Linda Faigao-Hall's Walking Iron about a construction worker who outs himself in the worksite will conclude the festival in February 2007.
The festival is an intense creative process that begins with commissions given to selected playwrights to write and develop plays exploring one diversity issue in a six-month workshop guided by this year's Festival Dramaturg, Maxine Kern.The workshop includes dramaturgical guidance as well as individual sessions with the playwrights, group meetings and readings by company actors. The workshop's goal is to complete production-ready one-act plays which will then culminate in a month-long theater festival.
Victor Lirio, DCT's Chief Artistic & Producing Officer, stated that "although DCT uses the theater as a venue for examining social issues, the festival's primary goal remains presenting character-driven plays that dramatize the human experience. That behind all the painful and sobering cultural collisions that arouse powerful emotions in our discussions today,there are universal truths, about our need for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, stories about what it means to be human-serious, whimsical, funny, absurd."
He added: "I am fortunate to be part of a highly-charged creative community where playwrights want to write about profound issues and actors seek greater and deeper meaning in their creative expression. We live in a global society. Artists' roles have increasingly become more significant in communicating human truths and affecting social changes in the community."
ABOUT DIVERSE CITY THEATER CO.:
Diverse City Theater Co. Inc., is an independent not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization-run by artist playwrights, directors and actors-that focuses on promoting diversity in the theater arts. Its mission is to commission, develop and produce original plays that explore and examine diversity issues in our national culture thereby creating multiculturally fluent theater audiences, as well as advocate the non-traditional casting of actors.
Formed in 2003, Diverse City Theater Co., Inc. is based in New York City. For more information, visit the organization's website at www.diversecitytheater.org.
FridaySunday:August 11th and August 12th @ , August 12th & 13th @
TuesdaySunday:August 15th August 19th @ , August 20th @
TuesdaySaturday:August 22nd August 26th @ , August 26th @
WHERE: Clurman Theater at THEATRE ROW, 410 West 42nd Street, New York City
Tickets: Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com