To be honest, I am not sure… That’s why I am sitting here, quite honestly uncomfortably, pondering the question.
An article on HowlRound sparked this thought process. The Binary Theatre Company in November put on a performance of “The Jester’s Cap” which is a a play aimed at younger audiences, around middle school age. One non-cited internet source tells readers, “Diana is a court jester who wishes she could be a knight, but an ancient rule forbids women that privilege. When Peter, a squire from a neighboring kingdom, enters the court needing assistance with defeating a mysterious force in a forbidden cave, Diana realizes this could be her opportunity. The two set off on a quest, each with their own ideas about what their travels will bring – but neither of them is ready for the secrets that lie on the journey ahead. All is not as it seems in the Kingdom of Solaria, and it is up to these unlikely heroes to make it right.” What they forgot to mention, and what Alice Stanley from HowlRound chooses to fill us in on, is that there is an underlying relationship between Diana and the Princess. This is a rarity amongst Children’s Theatre.
When the playwright was approached, Pennyway stated, “Ultimately this isn’t a play about sexuality; it’s a play about heroes, which happens to have two homosexual characters in it.” Which I applaud, truly, I do. But Stanley poses the question, what do parents do if their child asks about the relationship between the two girls? It is not as if the slight flirtations between the girls are the driving force behind this children’s play. The girls encounter each other at the beginning and at the end… and never engage in any clear act which indicates the sexual preference… For example, “The guard sheepishly explains Princess Amelia is “playing lions” with the court jester Diana. When the doting father demands to know what the young women are stalking, the guard eventually gulps, “each other.” An awkward confusion falls over the guard and the king. The audience is keyed into the subtext.” But, what will the children pick up on? What questions will the parents face? Is this a chance for parents to create a sense of normalcy with their children concerning homosexuality? Is theatre a vehicle in which this topic can be driven into the conversation between parents and children in heterosexual homes? I absolutely think so. It should be without question that a children’s story can be a normal children’s story, regardless of the character’s sexual preferences. It will still be a children’s play, with content friendly for children. The fact that two of the characters are gay should only praise the fact that our society is beginning to change.
Pennway offers to his viewers that, “I don’t want audiences to be uneasy; I want them to realize just how easy it is to be comfortable with change. So if no one says anything about the fact that my hero is a lesbian, I’m kind of okay with that.” Bravo Pennway, Bravo.