Play set in Camp Str8-N-Arrow sharply satirizes homophobic mind-control methods.
Over the past few years, the junk science of the so-called ex-gay movement has gathered toxic steam. Fueling violent homophobia in Uganda and social-engineering exploits in the United States, it has become an insidious industry for “reparative” therapy, hack writers, and fake 12-step programs that treacherously mislabel homosexuality as an addiction to be recovered from.
Savage Umbrella Theater has been developing a play about such absurdities entitled Ex-Gays. What began as a two-person stage workshop coconceived and performed by Laura Leffler-McCabe and Eric F. Avery in April 2010 has transformed into a scathingly perceptive nine-actor ensemble project.
Leffler-McCabe, now the production’s director, says of its workshop roots, “Our concern at that point was adding a second man to the show, so that we could show the physicalization of Brian and Ricky’s attraction.”
That’s Pastor Brian (Carl Swanson), who along with Associate Pastor Kim (Sheila Regan) heads up Camp Str8-N-Arrow—visit www.campstr8narrow.weebly.com—where intern Ricky (Russ Dugger) is one of a group of “sinners” trying to “get fixed.” Imagine a struggling lesbian and a struggling gay man being coerced into an inherently unsustainable romance.
Avery now serves as playwright, with input from Leffler-McCabe and a bright young cast that relishes exposing the perversity of ex-gay methods.
As Avery says, “In Ex-Gays, we get a glimpse of characters all trying their best to occupy space as a Christian, which seems in some ways to be more about how they are perceived than their own personal relationship with God.”
That said, playwright and director have no beef with Christianity in general.
Leffler-McCabe explains, “What we’re skewering is a certain percentage of the conservative movement that uses the trappings of Christianity to instill fear in people in order to get their way. When the leaders you follow are pushing and pulling at the truth, to bend it to their will, it’s impossible to know if you ‘have it’ or ‘don’t have it.’” When the truth shifts based on what your leader wants, there is no way to know where you really stand.”
Swanson shares, “Brian’s trouble is that his particular brand of Christianity functions in such a way that it limits God’s love, that all-knowing and all-validating love, to a single mode of heterosexual functioning, backed up by specific readings of scripture.”
Regan adds, “Kim is a butch lesbian trying to be straight, so I have to create one character and her mask that shift back and forth between each other.”
Through July 30, post show panel July 22
Matthews Park Community Building
2313 19th Ave. S., Mpls.