One of my primary sources of income is teaching theatre classes to middle- and high-schoolers. I really enjoy it, and I firmly believe that it allows for self-expression and the development of interpersonal skills, two things that are important for all professions, in all walks of life. We – the other directors and I – are in the process of picking the stories we would like to work on with our high school students. The end goal is a performance in March, consisting of four ~20 minute pieces and some improvised scene and story work.
As I was observing the story workshops this year, I kept a particular eye out for the relationship scenes present in a few of the stories being examined. Inevitably, they all involved male/female relationships, just as they have in the past. But this year, much more than in years past, it really bugged me.
I acknowledge that having a gay relationship in a story – particularly with high-schoolers – will often mean the focus of the audience is on the gay-osity of the story, at the expense of everything else. Likewise, if the purpose is to teach students to portray stories on stage, adding issues of gender and sexuality will complicate and distract from the primary purpose for most students. But I’m not straight, I’m gay. The straight-osity is distracting for me. And, statistically, we probably have a few students who aren’t straight in our high school class of eighteen kids.
Part of this, I think, is coming from the bad taste in my mouth left from the recent transphobia I experienced. Still waiting to clear up some things before I really post about that, but it’s made me more aware of my minority status as a trans woman and a lesbian. So I’m feeling a bit more confrontational than I once was.
But I also want to know if it’s possible to find a balance, of allowing kids to portray non-heterosexual characters without it being A Big Deal. I want to be able to direct pieces – even in high school – about People Like Me without the entire process turning into a discussion on what that means. (Just like we’re directing pieces with straight characters without it being a big deal.) Is simply an unrealistic and naive desire?