At AHS Performing Arts, people of all identities are supported by the performers and the characters they play.
For this year’s highly anticipated Fall play Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood, students were able to experience a story that traversed beyond a genderbent plot and fight choreography to a significant topic at AHS: LGBTQ+ representation.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the acceptance that is shown to people of all genders, sexualities, and identities is present in the performing arts here at American High School, and this year was no exception.
“I have been directing plays here at AHS for 15 years…and have had many, many LGBTQ actors,” stated Mr. River, the director of the play as well as an English and Drama teacher. “I am proud to say Theatre 70 is a safe and comfortable place for those students as artists and people.”
Whether it is on a stage in the spotlight or inside the words of a script, members of the LGBTQ+ community are able to see themselves in the actors and actresses and in the representative characters that add to the story, regardless of the time period or location.
“I like to think the theatre world in general is the same–even in Shakespeare’s time,” expressed Mr. River. “Adam Szymkowicz, [the creator of Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood], knows this, and has written a play that is funny, adventurous, and celebrates both the LGBTQ community and empowers women in a time when it couldn’t be more important.”
People involved in the LGBTQ+ community are especially supportive of this inclusion that is gradually gaining more and more attention every year. A couple of positive changes are better than no changes.
“I think it’s really cool how our school is opening up and being more open-minded about those kind of things,” said AJ Laxa (11), president of the LGBTQ+ club. “I’m sure back then this wouldn’t have been acceptable. It would’ve just been specific gender roles based on people’s gender, but now they’re broadening their topics, which is good.”
In the play’s storyline, there is a nonbinary character who goes by the name Much and throughout the play, they manage to figure out and establish their identity. Although this incorporation is important, it is just as important to correctly and accurately depict being nonbinary, especially with a binary actor or actress.
“It’s definitely been interesting because, personally, I’m a female. The character starts out in the play as a male, so it was a little difficult,” explained Megha Jain (12), who played Much in the play. “I’ve always been a little more masculine, but to portray myself as a masculine character, and then throughout the play to kind of step back and even out that barrier, it was definitely hard to…find that balance between masculine and feminine. I wasn’t playing a man but I wasn’t myself as a woman either.”
It may have been just a character in a story, but it was also a step towards representing the LGBTQ+ community to the audience.
“It’s definitely a very important issue that everyone needs to be made aware of: that there are people who struggle with their identity and who maybe don’t know who they are even in terms of something we take for granted, like gender, and that there are people who question their identity,” said Jain. “Things change at any age.”
Besides Much, there was the portrayal of the complicated yet loving relationship between two of the Merry “Men,” Will Scarlet (Antara Baruah) and Alanna Dale (Richa Marathe), that touched the hearts of those among the audience.
“We loved it. It wasn’t a ‘gay love story’ but just a love story,” commented Annalise Crenshaw, an attendee of the play who is in a lesbian relationship herself. “At the same time, it didn’t shy away from discussing how it was harder for gay couples.”
After going through all of the ups and downs of love with her wife, Crenshaw knows how it feels to be looked over by some and stresses how much of an effect the play had on her.
“In every milestone my wife and I had…there were many people in our life who did not see our milestones [to be] as important as it would be for a straight couple,” she described. “So seeing a normal goofy, awkward love story for a gay couple [was] a big deal for us!”
By adding onto people’s knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community, it will no longer be seen as something strange and unfamiliar. It won’t be seen as a “unique quirk” of someone, but rather as a part of who that person is.
“I think it’ll help our school and make people feel more comfortable about LGBT-related topics because sometimes a part of the LGBT community is shunned,” explained Laxa. “I feel like this will [overcome] that.”
Another benefit of inclusion is that parents, specifically, in the audience of the play will be more understanding of what their child identifies as and more comfortable with discussing said topics.
“Parents who watch the play will definitely be opened up to more possibilities. I know some of my friends have more conservative parents and they’re afraid to tell their parents how they feel about themselves,” shared Jain. “I feel like if parents see this, they’ll [realize],‘It’s okay. It’s not a bad thing.’”
Regarding future plays, it is not yet known what the stories will be about and what the characters will be like—the important thing is that inclusive plays encourage the audience to accept all sexualities and identities. Speaking for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole on the subject of LGBTQ-representative plays, AJ Laxa cheerfully advised:
“If the opportunity comes, I feel like that’s a good thing to take.”
Caption: Much(left) and Tommy of No Consequence(right) stand side by side and keep watch as a part of Robin Hood’s group. “Much, being one of Robin’s Merry Men, isn’t a teenager,” said Megha Jain(12). “They’re an adult, and to be at any age to come to terms with your identity and tell your family–tell the people you care about–and get that acceptance from them is really important.”
PC: AHS Performing Arts