June 5, 2005
By Bill Gorondner
Sabrina Audrey Jess, the Stone Bridge High School playwright, is in good company for trying to portray the effects of intolerance and bullying and for shining the light on the need for diversity and understanding in our community.
Three generations ago, the legendary Mae West was thrown in jail for writing, producing and starring in her play “Sex.” In 1956, or thereabouts, Grace Metalious created a furor in her little town when she published her novel “Peyton Place.” Naturally, nice people in a little town went bonkers when reality as expressed in fiction collided with their sanctimonious bent.
I didn’t see Jess’s play, but from what I read, the final scene presented a question that everyone who is making such a to-do should ask himself or herself, just as in years after “Peyton Place” small-town people had to ask themselves: What about reality and the way life really is scares the hell out of you? Ryan, the gay protagonist, asks: “See me as a person, inside. Do you see one just like you? Is that the problem? A little of me hiding in you? Is that the problem?”
Jess just might be another Lillian Hellman or Tennessee Williams or Gore Vidal growing up here in Loudoun County. It would seem to me that she would be lionized for an obvious rare talent and even rarer sensitivity to diversity and to tolerance. Obviously Jess had great guidance in the direction and production of her play in that “the kiss” was a necessary part of what she was portraying, but the tastefulness of a dark stage and “the kiss” in the viewer’s imagination is a technique of class and style like the legendary stripping by Gypsy Rose Lee as compared to a performer in a 14th Street dive.
This unfortunate controversy points out that we haven’t come very far from the era of Mae West and Grace Metalious. Contrary to the way the country in general and our county specifically is drifting, it is ever more imperative that we insist upon a separation of church and state. Every attempt at censorship and evoking religious tenets to rule the general populace should be stopped the minute it rears its ugly head.
High school kids, whether we like it or not, are sexual beings and should be educated to deal with a world where all the possibilities exist. It will enable them to know themselves and to make decisions that will lead them to a satisfied and healthy life.
Del. Richard H. “Dick” Black (R) and Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), in particular, have demonstrated an unbelievable bigotry, to say nothing of an abysmal lack of savvy, when it comes to getting the drift of what a playwright intends in his or her work. Since the Messrs. B & D have, in my opinion, squandered and pillaged our open spaces for greedy development, I suggest our county kick in a little more money and send them both to New York City for a theater party and after-dinner supper at Sardi’s. The Broadway musical “La Cage Aux Folles” should be a fun way to get them to ponder Ryan’s questions.
I can only hope that at the end of the musical our two esteemed elected leaders will have seen something of themselves the way Ryan in the play asks them to do. If they do, I’ll bet they will be swinging with the rest of the audience to the tune “It’s the Best of Times” as the curtain falls, and when they come home and spread the word, we’ll be singing that song, not “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”