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Monday, February 20, 2012

Avenue Q & yay

“Love is a human experience, not a political statement.”
Actress Anne Hathaway


I live in a pretty cool community. On windy days I can hear the roar of Lake Michigan from my backyard. I feel safe walking the streets, even at night. I can walk to the grocery story and drug store and the barber shop. I have neighbors who are white and black and Jewish, as well as Middle Eastern and European immigrants. There are college students and octogenarians and large families and single parents.

But I felt a singular burst of community pride while watching our local high school’s production of Avenue Q.

Yeah, that Avenue Q. Except that while the high school version retains “It Sucks to Be Me,” it replaces “The Internet Is for Porn” with “My Social Life Is Online.” (“Make friends quick, just point and click” instead of “grab your dick and double click.”)

Avenue Q spoofs Sesame Street, focusing not on young kids who are about to enter school, but on young adults who’ve just left school and have to make it on their own. So there are plots about finding work and getting dates.

And, for one character, coming out of the closet.

Man, I can hear the hue and cry that would ensue in some neighborhoods over a character in a high school play telling another character it would be OK if he were gay. Especially since there are presidential candidates climbing the polls by insisting that being gay is so not OK that it’s just fine if this country continues to treat homosexuals as though they don’t qualify for the equal rights the Constitution guarantees all human beings.

It makes me proud that I live in a place where decision-makers are not afraid to choose this kind of material for a high school play. It makes me proud that those same decision-makers honor students who participate in the National Day of Silence to protest unequal treatment of homosexuals by not forcing them to speak. And it makes me proud to stand on the town’s main street on the Fourth of July and watch the high school chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society march under their homemade anti-war banners alongside drum corps and Little League teams.

That's what I call America at its best.

It really makes me proud, though, to live in a place where, when the gay character in Avenue Q finally comes out of the closet, the audience cheers.

Not just the homosexuals. Everyone.

It also gives me hope that some day, someone will read Avenue Q and have to ask why the gay subplot was such a big part of this production. It’s a fun play, but it would make me proud if I could see the day where people—even presidential candidates—would be appalled at the idea that there ever was a need to perform it.

5 comments:

LJCohen said...

Yeah--I live in a similar community outside of Boston, and have had the same experience of pride of place with our HS productions as well. In fact, our HS principal is lesbian and she and her wife and their 2 kids are accepted in the community along with every other family. It's a place I am pleased to raise my kids.

Dave said...

More good signs...

Peggy Williams said...

I live in a community where it is acceptable for the principal of the elementary school where I work to be gay (not the current but a former one), as well two of the teachers (who are still there). It's not hidden. It's also not made a big deal of. It just is. Just as the fact that I am married to a guy just is. It will be something when Avenue Q is performed as a nostalgic nod to the past. Thanks for a great post, Dave!

Melissa said...

amen to that! i love "avenue q." i wonder if the high schools that perform "rent" have the same reverence for homosexuality. it would be nice to see.

Dave Thome said...

It just so happens that the high school I'm talking about, Shorewood High School, worked with the creators of Rent to workshop the high school version of that play. There's a very accepting attitude at the school, so that gay kids and straight kids hang out together because the share interests and values, and who they date isn't a dividing factor. That never happened when I was in high school, but I think it's becoming more common all over the country.