A very IndyFringe response to RFRA 

The IndyFringe play "I'm Not Gay" is a slice of what RFRA means to the arts community.

click to enlarge MICHELLE CRAIG
  • Michelle Craig

Editors note: This year we decided to do something a little different with our Fringe coverage. These features are all stories from behind the scenes at IndyFringe. We will still be reviewing every single Fringe show, and those reviews will be available online immediately after each show wraps up. Tag #NUVOarts in your posts and we will include yours as well. 

I
feel lucky, being a new Hoosier and all. Indianapolis is a fine, fine city. Amanda Grube feels lucky. Matthew Barron feels lucky. IndyFringe is lucky. We're all just damn lucky because we understand that this is, in fact, a fine and great city. And it's time we acknowledge it, show our gratitude, and speak to each other with respect, despite all of our differences – although the smart among us celebrate that, too.

Indianapolis will see the release of I'm Not Gay, writer Matthew Barron's submission to the Fringe Festival and humanity. "This latest piece was begun over a year ago, during last year's Fringe, and during the height of the anti-gay marriage amendment. And by now, here I thought my work would be out of date — so, really I should thank the Indiana Legislature for keeping my work current," says Barron.

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Amanda Grube is the director of I'm Not Gay, and although she's not new to Fringe, this is her first year as a director. "I got really lucky when Matt called and asked me if I wanted to direct his newest piece," she says. "Although I know what we now have is not what he originally envisioned, he did tell me he was pleased, that he loved it. He really allowed us to explore the characters, and I'm so grateful for that. I think it really helped us to move the piece to another level. Matthew and I go way back, he's quite talented, quite versatile. And I am so proud of his work here, so proud of the human elements he wrote into this story. I think it's a really good show – that it will open dialogue between all sorts of different people."

To give you the skinny, the play "is the romantic story of an anti-gay Indiana senator, his loving wife ... and his boyfriend. A political scandal causes the senator to question his identity. He insists over and over, 'I'm not gay.' His career hangs in the balance as he tries to define his sexuality," according to the Fringe website at least. Grube further indicates that "there are comedic elements in the play, but this is a serious, humanistic story. I'm looking forward to the audience's reaction."

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"I think we all know someone like the senator," say both Grube and Barron. "Someone who doesn't want to be, and tries hard not to be, a hypocrite. Everyone wants to be the hero of his or her own story – the protagonist, but that's not always possible. I think this play could also reach individuals who might be struggling with identity, with denial, with the past, with the present, with the future."

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The play attempts to "imagine and explore what could happen if we didn't have labels," Grube says. Perhaps this is something even RFRA supporters might be able to understand.

"As Hoosiers, we saw how shocked many people all over were — when our governor signed RFRA into law. And this show is very powerful in and of itself, but also as a reaction to that," Grube says. "And with the Supreme Court's recent decision to allow all people the right to marry, I feel our play is not only timely and relevant, but a celebration of that, too."

click to enlarge Russell Watson and Kerra Wagner in "I'm Not Gay' rehearsal. The play tells the story of a political scandal. - SUBMITTED
  • Russell Watson and Kerra Wagner in "I'm Not Gay' rehearsal. The play tells the story of a political scandal.
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Grube continues, "RFRA, I don't think, represents our state as a whole. My own parents are very staunch Republicans and were pissed with the passing of this bill. It made no sense to them. It was explained to me, and others initially, as it played out in the media that our religious freedoms were under a threat of some sort, and I didn't see it. I don't think many people I talked to saw that aspect at all.

"Our intention with this play is not to anger people, but to make them think critically, and to open spirited, respectful dialogue, as opposed to hostile, one-sided debates. There are some people, however, who may be angry. But you have to remember, when RFRA first came into focus in the media, I think many of us in the theater community and beyond felt threatened, and not supported, by the very people who were elected to be our voice. I'm happy now with the Supreme Court's recent all-inclusive marriage ruling but we still have a long way to go in order to be heard. What I really hope happens when people come to see our show is that they're with us in creating a safe environment to be honest with each other, and to be heard," says Grube.

click to enlarge Aaron Cleveland and Kerra Wagner in "I'm Not Gay' - SUBMITTED
  • Aaron Cleveland and Kerra Wagner in "I'm Not Gay'
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Barron agrees and adds, "Voters have short attention spans — that's what really worries me now. Fall election is far away and voters may forget the anger they have now. It's hard, and not necessarily a good thing, to hold onto a high level of anger. But I want voters to remember that ripple of betrayal felt in the art community and elsewhere and vote accordingly. I don't want how we felt shoved under the carpet or misdirected by a jobs report for the state, which has nothing to do with RFRA itself. The art community will always survive, and there's a little of that in my play, too, but it doesn't mean that I'm not still worried.

"With this play, I was really impressed with the cast," Barron says. "They had a sense of movement and connection right from the beginning. And if I've done my job right, the audience should forget that this is just a gay political scandal cliché, and then forget they're even supposed to hate the senator. This play is open to interpretation, as all of us are, as well, as individuals."


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