Play aims to stop ignorance before it starts

Christina Stavale

Assistant stage manager Liz Talaba, right, and director Yolanda Board give directions to to the cast at the first rehearsal for “True Life: I’m a Kent State Freshman.” FILE PHOTO BY CAITLIN PRARAT | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Junior theater major Molly MacLagan said she has seen a great deal of tension between the straight and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities at Kent State.

For example, last year she witnessed her residence hallmates writing derogatory terms near a transgendered student’s door.

“And I can’t count the number of times a day I hear, ‘that’s so gay,'” she said. “I want to plant the seed in people’s heads so we can combat that ignorance.”

MacLagan and a number of other students are trying to do that with performances of “True Lives: I’m a Kent State Freshman.”

The play is based on real stories of LGBT issues at Kent State.

About 40 students attended a workshop last spring to share their LGBT experiences on campus. After much storytelling, improvising and discussion, the group created the script that is being performed at the Kent and regional campuses in the next few weeks.

The process was not quick and easy. Senior theater major Jillian Forsty, who was involved from the beginning, said they spent time acting out different scenarios.

“For example, you’re a transvestite walking down a city street at night and people are harassing you,” she said. “It showed us that you really do hurt people.”

Director Yolanda Board, a Kent State graduate who was involved in the workshop, agreed it shed truth about discrimination.

“When slurs and stereotypes about the gay community were thrown around, it showed the power of the words,” she said. “It was healthy to try to really address those things.”

MacLagan plays a PRIDE!Kent activist who is beat up because of her sexual orientation. She said acting out the part required much internal reflection on her part.

“I knew I was playing a real person, so it was important to maintain her integrity,” she said. “There was a lot of soul-searching and asking myself, ‘how do I feel about the issues?'”

Dan Grgic, junior musical theater major, spent extra time preparing for his part as a man in the ROTC who is struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation.

“There were parts where I had to find out about coming out,” he said, “and I talked to others about homosexuality.”

Daniel Nadon, professor of theater and LGBT studies, said the play tries to portray different kinds of people in the LGBT community – a feminine man, as well as a masculine man, and a masculine woman and a feminine woman.

Though all characters in the play are based on real people, Nadon said the stories are fictionalized enough to protect the privacy of those involved.

“It’s not some fictional ‘what if,'” he said. “These things happened on this campus.”

Sociology major and PRIDE!Kent President Colleen Eltibi agreed.

“I think that this show is a reality check,” she said. “Lots of people are coming here from small towns where they didn’t know anyone that was gay.”

MacLagan said although the play is not meant to change minds, she hopes something will come out of it.

“I’m hoping students will have a little bit of a revelation,” she said. “Because it’s not something people always think of as an issue at Kent State.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].


“True Lives: I’m a Kent State Freshman”

•Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in Wright Curtis Theater (Kent campus)
•Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Kent State Trumbull campus
•Sept. 18 at Kent State East Liverpool campus, time to be arranged