Coming Out Through Queer Theatre

Blog, Monthly Blog

By Rena Bryson

The title kind of says it all, Queer Theatre changed my life. I used writing and creating Queer theatre as a vehicle for self-discovery, learning and reflection. But mostly as yet another excuse for placing myself in the centre of Queer culture as a “great ally”. This is a realisation I now have in hindsight, not something I was consciously doing. But it all began with Jungle Door, a play I began writing when I first moved to Galway, before Eva’s Echo existed.

The Orginal Jungle Door Team

I was 23, fresh out of college, working a horrible retail job, and couldn’t find accommodation (Yes the Galway Housing crisis has been this bad for this long!). So naturally, I was evaluating everything about my life, about myself and so the characters of Jungle Door were created. Louise, clutched on to the simpler college days while secretly struggling as part of the hidden homeless. While the newly engaged Michelle connects with her ex Louise, as she revaluates what she wants for the future.

With each production, the characters developed and changed. Michelle’s relationship with her own sexuality began to be explored deeper, as she feels unaccepted by both Queer community and heteronormative society. Being too straight for the gays and too gay for the straights. This is where it all got a bit too real.

So I’m going to out myself here, literally. But although I play Louise I have always related and connected with the character Michelle. It was really important to me to include a Queer character that is hyper-feminine. As when I was young even though I was attracted to girls I convinced myself I could not be because I was so feminine. At this point in time, I don’t think the concept of bisexuality had reached rural Ireland and my only understanding of lesbians was women who were hyper-masculine. And when the concept of bisexuality did reach us in my teen years it was consistently through a male gaze. If Katy Perry kissed a girl and she liked it, then surely this is just something everyone does? Although in hindsight this culture of girls getting with each other for male approval was horribly damaging, at the time it was an excellent cover story.

Teenage me looking as straight as humanly possible.

But it wasn’t all pop songs and casual bi-erasure, at this time there was a deep shame and fear around being gay. Gay used to be used as slang for something you didn’t like. “Why would you listen to that band? They’re gay.” I had several romantic interactions with girls, but these were away from male eyes. Meaning there was no excuse to hide behind. And the fear of being found out was heart-stopping, especially because as a teen I didn’t have an attraction to boys. Apologies to any long-lost exes who come across this, at least it might explain a lot! Despite all of this I was still deeply in denial.

When I got to college I slowly became slightly more open, many of my friends would make comments. All of which I would laugh off, but feel briefly accepted by. For the first time, I had friends who were out and proud, I admired that a lot more than I’m sure they knew. Eventually, I began coming out without coming out, in safe spaces. I would describe sexuality as a spectrum, and say I didn’t believe in labels. Which was true because labels scared the shit out of me. I was also somewhat still under that Katy Perry ideology that every woman likes kissing girls, so we’re all a little gay? I realise now this is not true, but I was moving on to slightly healthier coping mechanisms. And even kissing women in public settings, without the excuse of a gross male audience. Despite all of this I was still deeply in denial.

Vlogger. 2019. Queer Theatre written and performed by moi. Photo: Catriona Bonner

What validated this denial was discovering an attraction to men. Something that I’m ashamed to say gave me a huge sense of relief. I’m totally aware of the privilege of being a feminine bi-sexual cis woman. I was more aware than ever at that moment, and that still makes me feel gross. But I feel it’s important to address that while bi-erasure is an issue, the privilege of appearing heteronormative is a thing. These are all of the wonderful issues I attempt to dissect in Jungle Door, rather than as I probably should, with a therapist.

Me with aforementioned straight man / love of my life. Plus Tiger!

This brings us to adult me, creating Queer Theatre, and still carrying the stance that sexuality is a spectrum and I don’t like labels. My coming out at this time was delayed for a new reason. I had found the love of my life, and he really is the best. I was certain by this point that this is the relationship I’ll be in forever (I was right, we’re getting married next year) and it’s with a straight man, so what’s the point in coming out? I felt as though I’d be taking up a spot, a spot I wasn’t gay enough to deserve.

It took a lot of time, literally years, to overcome this final hurdle. And what helped me do that was Queer theatre. I realised that people did care about Michelle’s story, about her struggles and that people could identify with it. It’s also made me realise how important Queer Theatre is, especially for those contemplating their sexuality.

Jungle Door. Photo credit : Catriona Bonner

I’m hoping that Jungle Door can inspire audiences to learn and empathise, as well as help Queer audiences see themselves in art. In art that is not solely about the character’s sexuality, but explores the lives of authentic Queer characters.

We are currently fundraising to bring this amazing show, backed by an even more amazing team to Edinburgh. Please support us (every little helps!) through the button below.

Table Quiz at The Secret Garden

News

Join us for a night of fun and trivia at The Secret Garden on November 5th!


Where you’ll have the chance to win amazing prizes, meet the coolest of people, enjoy delicious treats and of course support the arts! But what if I don’t have enough friends to fill a table you ask? Do not fear, this table quiz can be enjoyed by all. Meaning you can rock up to the quiz and be assigned a group of team mates, who will inevitably become your new best friends because it will be such an amazing night. Please arrive at 7.15, we can’t wait to see you there!


Support from the community is essential in order to continue to produce high-quality productions and we are very grateful for the continued support we have received from Galway since the company was founded. The funds raised will go directly to developing our upcoming production Jungle Door and sharing the play with new audiences. Tables of four will play to win on the night.

Book Now

Ticket for the Table Quiz

€10.00

Dose on the Pride Player

News

We are so proud to have Dose featured on Dublin LGBTQ Pride’s Pride Player in collaboration with Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.

Rena Bryson’s new short drama Dose takes place the night before Oisín and Patrick’s wedding. Tensions rise as the couple face the consequences of their families merging, leading Oisín to reveal a dark secret he’s been hiding from his fiancé.

The piece was directed by Hazel Doolan and stars Conor O’ Dwyer and Killian Glynn.

Watch it & all the other amazing plays now at https://dublinpride.ie/pride-player/

Goodbye, Bright Eyes

Blog, Monthly Blog

By Hazel Doolan

‘I can’t breathe’ 

‘Stop!’

‘He’s not moving!’ 

These words still ring through my ears since I, like many others, discovered the horrific last moments of George Flyod. How could this have happened? Why was this allowed in this day and age? Who are these people in uniform? From the outside looking in, I naively believed the world progressed in equality and acceptance. Seeing the election of Obama at the bright eyed age of seventeen, I had thought that the U.S. had come so far. The events of the last few weeks have proven that premature. 

Of course, Ireland also has so much to answer for when it comes to racism and direct provision. Céad Míle Fáilte? 5 out of 6 acts of racism are unreported. This week, a secondary school is undergoing an investigation of racism complaints made by past pupils. Imagine that. There are approximately 6,000 people living in direct provision, 30% are children. They have an allowance of  €38.80 a week. They have no right to work, no access to higher education and live up to 2 years in direct provision. You could get a Masters in that length of time.   

Ireland is no stranger to oppression and tragedies (not at all similar) throughout history from the troubles to the maltreatment from the Church. My grandfather was forced to flee Omagh Co. Tyrone during the early 1900’s troubles. My grandmother and her siblings were almost taken away as the priest believed her father and uncle couldn’t raise them. It does make me wonder have we moved past it or is it hidden from us now? This made me reflect on our own canon of oppression. Irish theatre and arts have explored historic brutalities, whether rebels or women. Christ Deliver Us! by Thomas Kilroy echoes the power of the Catholic Church over the young, especially young girls. Winnie is stripped of her innocence by Michael’s sexual advances later leading to her tragic death while birthing by the river. This is not ancient history here, but sometimes feels further than we should let it feel. It is saddening to think of those young girls in their last moments who couldn’t ask for help and or were sent away. This would’ve been the world our grandmothers grew up in and I can’t help but worry if our granddaughters will grow up in a similar world if we do nothing to sustain the hard earned rights to agency. The same applies to Steve McQueen’s Hunger (commendable performance by Michael Fassbender). Bobby Sands was treated like a criminal prisoner rather than a political prisoner. This resonates with the ill treatment of U.S. protesters who are being painted as ‘thugs’ to criminalise them and ignore their argument.            

My co-founder Rena Bryson explores the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ communities in both Jungle Door and Vlogger. Through Jungle Door, the question of how equal are bi sexual people are to their gay or lesbian counter parts. For example, it is suggested that Michelle is not fully accepted in the LGBTQ+ community as she’s bi sexual and is marrying a straight man. The same is true for Mia from Vlogger who is labelled as a ‘lipstick lesbian’ which can be often ridiculed. She is also often harassed with inappropriate messages about her sexuality and appearance from her YouTube audience again making an objectified mockery of her.   

Although Uniform is yet to be performed, I do hope that it sparks a fire in at least one person to use their voice for the greater good. That was the objective of the play, to give a voice to numerous women of various backgrounds. I had an interesting conversation recently where the following question was posed to me: what if my own writing was performed by a woman of a different background? How would that translate and what would that actor bring into the play? I guess time will tell if it ever comes about but I would love to see a woman of colour feature or star in one of my works. In writing Uniform, I was inspired by the Faces of Eve and the Hecate Sisters tropes to branch my own understanding of femininity in the modern world and the masks we must wear. To work with someone of a different background, religion, country or creed may reveal to me many more women that I didn’t know about or couldn’t see before. 

Like so many, I’m looking for recommendations on any plays, books, films relative to these times. If anyone knows any I’d love to hear them. Also, we’re always looking for new artists of all backgrounds to work with so please get in touch and apply when we have our next casting call or script call. I also want to pass my sympathies onto anyone affected by these current times. Finally, if you can please donate to these worthy causes.  

#blacklivesmatter

https://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/Appeal/donate-to-support