We asked Connel and Sarah, the team behind The Pride Plays at the Traverse to tell us the story behind the work.
Connel: The stories we have to tell have always had a huge significance in shaping who we are as individuals and as a community. As a country that is showing its commitment towards LGBTQI+ inclusion and empowerment it only makes sense that LGBTQI+ people deserve more spaces to be heard having been silenced for so long. However, theatre, like most industries, still suffers a lack of representation of the truly diverse culture we have around us today. There are certain ‘normalities’ that have been established and it can often be hard for new voices that sit outside those ‘normalities’ to break into the industry. This is something we want to challenge with Pride Plays and has been part of our ethos from the outset.
Sarah: Because being seen is important. If you don’t see or hear people like you in the media, in the film or in the theatre you consume, it translates to believing that you must somehow be unimportant. The significance of who is telling the stories we listen to, also, can not understated. It alters how we see and relate to the world around us. Stories are told through the perspective of the people who tell them - and that perspective is influenced by individuals’ experiences of the world. For too long LGBTQI+ voices have not been given the platform to tell the stories they want to tell and I think, in 2019, we should (have to) be demanding better.
Sarah: Not really. There were so many different themes in the work we received and I’m delighted about that. I know from talking and working with LGBTQI+ playwrights that they tend to get pigeonholed (by their commissioners) into making work that is about gay relationships, transitioning and issues that the LGBTQI+ community face. And, of course, when writing specifically about issues affecting the LGBTQI+ community, LGBTQI+ writers will be able to write about the issues from a more personal perspective. They may also write stories that address issues that have not been tackled yet – again, from stemming from a personal awareness and understanding. And, that’s great! It means that we (the audience) get to see stories that have never been seen before and LGBTQI+ audiences can identify with the stories being told. However, I think it’s time we appreciate that LGBTQI+ writers also have the same capability (as cis, heterosexual people) to write about a multitude of topics, that they may not have direct experience of. Many (cis, heterosexual) established writers choose to write stories that are not their own personal experiences. They do it because they are talented, empathetic and can do their research. And we really wanted to make sure that LGBTQI+ writers could be afforded the same space to do so.
Connel: I suppose for me, the one recurring theme throughout the plays is the connection between relationships and identity and how these influence one another. These relationships are not limited to those with other people but include the relationship we have with ourselves. However, what’s most exciting to me is that each play offers something completely different. Part of our aim was to cultivate a diverse range of stories which I believe we have achieved.
Connel: It is always exciting to find something new, something that challenges what you are used to. The best part of this experience for me has been seeing how keen people are to participate and support one another. The response to our initial call for plays brought in so many responses it showed that there really is a need for events such as this in Scottish Theatre. Choosing the 6 plays was no easy feat and that is testament to the amount of talented creatives there are in Scotland with powerful stories to tell.
Sarah: It’s always great to start to read a new play that you get swept away in. That part has been brilliant. However, there is also a level of anger that these writers and their work are not being seen. What this has clearly shown is that the lack of visibility of the LGBTQI+ community in playwriting in Scotland, is not because the talent doesn’t exist. The play and writers are there - but, it’s clear that, so are many barriers that we need to break down.
Sarah: Firstly, the plays are cracking! You’ll have a brilliant time. Secondly, it’s the first time anything like this has been done in Scotland. It’s breaking new ground. Come and share this space with us all. Thirdly, if we want to see better representation in theatre in Scotland, we need to demonstrate that there is an appetite for this work.
Connel: LGBT History Month offers an opportunity not only to remember our history but also to shape it for future generations. By supporting the work of LGBTQI+ playwrights we can work together towards creating a more diversified theatre industry that reflects the voices in our community that often go unheard. However, this is only possible with the support of audiences showing that they want to hear these voices. By attending Pride Plays, not only will you be witness to some truly exciting and engaging new writing, you will be able to contribute to a move towards a more inclusive theatre industry in Scotland.