UBC’s Brave New Play Rites has been uniting its creative writing students and its theatre students in a festival of original one-act plays for 24 years. In 2010, this annual tradition continues with the presentation of twelve fifteen-minute shows, four of which have queer themes.
Among the four shows with queer themes is Mahjub by gay creative writing student, Adam Douba. Mahjub tells the story of two brothers growing up in Lebanon, the older brother gay but hiding the fact from his parents and the younger brother questioning his own sexuality.
For Douba, who is also Arab, the story of Mahjub comes from both a very personal space and from various stories he has heard and read about gay men in Lebanon afraid to come out for fear of persecution.
“I questioned my own sexuality for a long time,” said Douba. “I came out last summer to my brother and mother but only came out to my Dad about three months ago. I didn’t know how my father would react because he had always expressed hatred and disgust towards gays but I wanted to be authentic with him. I shared a lot of the fear the main character [in Mahjub] does”.
Fortunately for Douba his coming out to his father wasn’t as bad as he had imagined. In fact, a story his father told him about a friend who his father believes was killed because he was gay formed part of the story in Mahjub.
But while Douba tells us Mahjub is about the shared trauma of the gay men in the story, he also wants audiences to look at it from the persecutors perspective as well.
“The persecutors were most interesting to me during the research process,” explained Douba. “I found that the persecutors themselves expressed some interest in homosexual tendencies. This is as much an exploration of the persecutor’s minds.”
The second of the queer quartet is December Roses by Miranda Martini. Martini’s play, which she describes as “a light-hearted comedy with serious undertones”, tells the story of two men in the gay porn industry, one who is “ostensibly straight” and the other gay, who explore the boundaries of their burgeoning friendship.
As a straight woman, writing with the gay porn industry as a backdrop does appear to be a new area of exploration for Martini who is usually more at home with prose than playwriting.
“I am very interested by the porn industry,” said Martini. “The development of an onscreen persona, the conflict with the private and public self, the whole notion of gay-for-pay, are all themes that I found interesting and the more research I did the more intrigued I became. The show has raised a few eyebrows since it is not close to my usual field, but the response I have gotten so far has been quite positive.”
And while the subject of gay porn might come across as a bit titillating, Martini hopes the audience thinks about matters of the mind, not just of the flesh.
“I would like the audience to go away thinking about what it is like to have a sexual identity and what it says about people and how the definition of our sexual self keeps us in boxes.”
Also playing among these twelve one-acts is Fight the Cold with Ceramics and Glitter by Taylor Basso and Postmarks by Jay Torrence.
In Fight the Cold with Ceramics and Glitter, two friends and former lovers who discuss how much it sucks when one’s birthday falls near a major religious holiday. Postmarks is a coming of age story between a boy and his president set in the recent violent aftermath of an American small town post office.
Brave New Play Rites 2010
Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre, UBC
7-11 April 2010
Ranging from quirky romances to serious dramatic fare, Brave New Play Rites features a festival of new plays written and directed by students in UBC’s Creative Writing and Theatre Programs. Included this year are four shows with a GLBTQ focus. Tickets are available by calling 604-822-2678. Visit http://www.bravenew.ca for more information.