G.L.O.W. stands for Gay, Lesbian or Whatever, and the venture began with the two women interviewing 20 young people, 15 to 24 years old, all of who fall somewhere under the LGBTQ rainbow. The interviewees came from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, and had as many differences as they did similarities. All the subjects discussed their backgrounds, their experiences coming out (including some very surprising reactions from parents) and how they currently define their sexuality. Some of the memories they offered were happy, some sad, some frightening. Some of the speakers were confident and sophisticated, some were hesitant and had difficulty expressing themselves.
The theater piece, developed from 11 of these interviews, features five actors, each playing multiple roles. (At the performance on February 12 at El Barrio Artspace in Manhattan, sponsored by The Identity Theatre, Nicholas Linnehan producer, the performers were John Gentile, Betsy Kuehl, Jillian Lynch, Mak Morin and Stephen Michael Straub.) The actors were given access to the original taped interviews, and recreate not just the words of each interviewee, but speech patterns, pauses, hesitations, etc. They find so much of their characters in those non-verbal spaces. The actors are also cast without reference to gender which can, at times, be disorienting for the audience until we pick up certain verbal cues. In the talk-back following the show, several of the performers discussed their experiences meeting face-to-face with some of the people they represent on stage— a moving, and somewhat intimidating experience.
The play, which runs about 40 minutes, is done on a bare stage, with just a set of chairs — rearranged to create varying environments. The movements are as much choreography as direction, but they feel natural while evoking the emotions of the work.
Following the presentation, the cast and creators discussed the piece and the issues it raises with the audience. Lesnick said that the questions asked during these sessions varies widely depending on the makeup of the audience. Middle-schoolers tend to be very concrete and ask about memorizing lines and other technical matters, while older audiences focus more on the emotions of the piece. Some high schoolers have even expressed anti-gay sentiments, but participated in the workshops and seemed to have a shifting in their outlook.
At this time, there are six more performances scheduled, and Lesnick and Humphrie look forward to helping new groups of LGBTQ students develop their own shows in the post-Trump world. The next production open to the public will be on April 1 at 7:00 p.m. at The Loft in White Plains, 252 Bryant Avenue.
For more info, see: http://howweglow.com/