On Dec. 4 I heard a reading of Suzannah Weiss‘s The Gay Agenda on the UMD campus.
The work is intended as a web series. When I was a student, creative writing students held ambitions to be seen by a dozen people in a one-act play on campus. Today, new media gives everyone with a talent for words an opportunity to be seen by thousands. As a result, talented young people can be alive with an ambition that I never saw as a student.
The Gay Agenda ripples with that ambition. “The year is 1969. There is a blue sky with clouds. Wouldn’t it Be Nice by The Beach Boys plays softly on the radio. DANNY, an ambitious femme lesbian, and STEVE, her best friend, a handsome, candid gay man, are lying in the grass looking at the clouds. There are people dressed in colorful beads and bell bottoms roaming about the court yard.”
Weiss does more than transplant a contemporary gay storyline into a last-century setting. (1969 was the year of Stonewall riots, an important event for gay rights.) Weiss has done her homework, grounding the play in then-current events. Over the radio, the characters hear newscasters address lesbian and gay issues in the context of the broader issues of gender and racial equality:
N.O.W., the National organization for Women, is excluding LGBT topics in their protests for the fear that lesbians will ruin their chances for equality. Betty Friedan, the president of N.O.W. and author of The Feminine Mystique , went as far to call lesbians “the lavender menace”.
The characters endure prejudice and discrimination, but they do so while remaining likeable and lively people. At times the dialogue crackled with the kind of cleverness you’d find in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
If you get a chance to ask Suzannah about her script, please do. It’s got energy to spare and I hope she gets to share it soon.
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