New Queer Theatre Vows Entertainment First, Social Justice Second
This past weekend, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo premiered their first show. A ten minute long Star Wars parody followed by the play I Ain’t Afraid of No Xenu.
The show continues on weekends through May 17th. All performances will be held at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative at 8 p.m.
Laura Henderson is the founder and executive producer of the new Queer Theatre Kalamazoo. “Queer” in this case means any type of sexuality outside heterosexual.
Before coming out as a lesbian, Henderson acted in eLLe Kalamazoo, a series of skits based on the TV drama The L Word.
“I found through doing eLLe that I met proud, out lesbians who were confident. And that was…they were just normal," she says. "It’s not ‘Hey, I’m a lesbian’ or ‘I’m uncomfortable about it.’ It was just something that was a part of them.”
And Henderson says the more her family came to see the skits, the more comfortable they were with her sexuality too.
“That’s what we want to do for the community, just give you a space to kind of be introduced to this. To find good quality entertainment that just happens to have gay characters,” she says. “That just happens to talk about anything that you don’t normally get in life.”
In fact, the two plays for this month’s show don’t have much to do with sexuality. John Thierwechter says he wrote the scripts long before the theatre was getting started.
The play I Ain’t Afraid of No Xenu pokes fun at Scientology and two of the religion’s popular members, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Though the names have been changed to 'Tom Fruise' and 'John Refolting'
"A couple of years now there’s been a lot of rumors about both of those two guys being homosexual. Now, the Church of Scientology doesn’t accept ‘the homosexual lifestyle’ or whatever is in their book or credo,” says Thierwechter.
“These two guys are giving millions and millions of dollars to the church. If they decided to come out, is the church going to kick them out and suddenly lose that revenue aspect? And that’s really what a lot of I Ain’t Afraid of No Xenu is all about. ‘Ok, well, we’ve got these rules, but now these guys want to leave so maybe we can change the rule.’”
The play also talks about the religion’s colorful founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Laura Henderson says she hopes the audience walks away with a laugh and a new sense of normal.
“Being gay or lesbian or bisexual or anything queer to those individuals is normal. Just as you wouldn’t question…if you are heterosexual you wouldn’t say ‘Oh by the way, my name is John. I’m straight also.’ And people don’t ask that about you. It’s just ok, that’s part of who you are and that’s pretty much assumed that that’s ok," she says.
"And everyone in their own right should be confident about who they are and feel like ‘You know what? I’m perfectly normal, no matter what that is.’”